August 18, 2015

Ed Neigh: a personal piping recollection

band practice in Guelph. So most times he picked me up for the 35-minute ride to and from practice. Sometimes there might be another band member or two, but often, for years, it was just him and me. Ed was always full of ideas and often fleshed out his thoughts with monologues that I would soak up like a sponge. His in-laws were Glasgow folk and they dutifully recorded the BBC Radio piping broadcasts twice weekly and sent the cassette tapes to Ed. We listened to them hungrily in the car on the way to and from band practice.

1973. Ed and Jim McGillivray’s late mother, Grace, checking out pipes for her son.

These programs consisted of the best pipe bands and solo pipers of the day – Glasgow Police, Edinburgh City Police, Shotts & Dykehead, Muirhead & Sons, Red Hackle, Dysart & Dundonald, Hugh MacCallum, John Burgess, Iain Morrison, Donald Morrison, Iain MacFadyen, R.U. Brown, Donald MacLeod, Donald MacPherson – as well as interviews and presentations by the great piping thinkers of the time. By then Ed was already a pioneer of competitive forays to Scotland – he lived there for a year in the late ’60s – so he regaled me with stories of these bands and players, happily offering his opinions on their strengths and weaknesses, brilliance and flaws. For me, these band practice drives with Ed were like the University of Piping. By the time I began traveling to Scotland to compete I knew the scene inside and out and knew exactly how the great players and pipe bands played.

And of course I was one of just a handful of band members to experience the thrill of driving with Ed while he played practice chanter and steered the car with his knees. And not just a bar or two here and there: entire tunes, steering through curves and twists, pausing just long enough to change gears as required.

A 1972 photo showing luminaries of the Ontario pipe band scene (L-R): P-M George Campbell (City of Toronto); P-M Dave Martin (Detroit St. Andrew’s); P-M John Goodenow; Geoff Neigh and P-M Ed Neigh.

This is all to illustrate that what came out Ed’s mind was very much a product of what he constantly put into it. There was no shortage of raw material. Shortly after I came under his tutelage, he convinced my parents to send me along with him and his brother, Geoff – also a great friend and personal influence – to the two-week summer schools held in southwestern Ontario by the great John MacFadyen, who had recently retired after a run of several years as the foremost piobaireachd player in Scotland. Bill Livingstone was also a regular at these schools, as were the leading players in the Detroit area, including John Goodenow and David Martin. These schools, which I attended for five years, were seminal in all of our piping careers and absolutely mind expanding for me. My times there with Ed and Geoff remain my . . .



  1. Jim, this is undoubtedly one of the finest articles you have ever written. Although the circumstances for your remembrance are sad, I feel those of us who did not know Ed nearly as well as you gained an insight into his musical genius as a player, teacher, friend and mentor. Thank you for sharing. Because of you his memory will live for many years to come.

  2. Hi Jim, My condolences to you.
    As one who was “as a father” to you, that speaks deeply to the wonderful relationship you and Ed had.
    He touched many in our piping world… solo and band.
    Wonderful, fitting tribute with the players forming a band after the service.
    Great vintage pictures also… Wouldn’t you love to have all that hair back.
    Cheers my friend,

  3. Terrific, heartfelt, and moving. Quite a worthy tribute, thanks for this! I am also going to miss Ed at workshops and competitions. I could never quite believe that a piper of his caliber would be willing to travel to Texas for our rinky-dink games and piping workshops, but he did, and I learned so much from him and like Jim was always hanging on his coattails to absorb every scrap of wisdom or insight he freely offered.



Forgotten Password?