Harvey Ritch, 1927-2014
The southeastern United States lost one of the legendary and groundbreaking characters of its comparatively short pipe band history on Sunday, June 8, 2014, with the passing of Harvey Ritch, 86, of Linville, North Carolina. Ritch died after continuing decline in his health over the past few years. He was under hospice care at the time of his passing.
Harvey Ritch began his piping career as a member of the Charlotte (North Carolina) Caledonian Pipe Band under the instruction of the late P-M Jack Smith (ex-H.L.I. and piper for Sir Harry Lauder’s traveling American shows) in the mid-1960s. He was recruited to the group because he was known to been enthusiastic after hearing pipe music in the movie “Gunga Din” as well as the circulated rumour that he owned an LP album of bagpipe music.
Harvey’s growing interest in the bagpipes, and all things Scottish, led to his resignation from a quite lucrative career in print media advertising to pursue his new passion as a retailer of Scottish goods – prominently including piping and drumming supplies (the first storefront Scottish retailer in the South). He was also passionate about passing along his interest in piping, particularly to young people. This led to his formation of a new pipe band, one that focused on competitive success based on other North American standards of play, in Charlotte around 1970.
The Charlotte Scottish Pipe Band, which rose from Grade 4 to Grade 2 under his leadership and that of Pipe-Major Al McMullin, who had relocated to North Carolina and led the band for a couple of years. A number of top players in the Eastern United States, including several of those from the blossoming piping community of the Carolinas which bore the fruit of Harvey’s teaching from that era, passed through the band’s ranks during that band’s relatively short history. The drum corps of that band, in cooperation with a pipe section from the Wilmington, Delaware, area went on to win . . .
I first met Harvey forty five years ago at the Grandfather Mountain Games. He truly was the straw that stirred the drink for Southern piping and drumming. His enthusiasm and passion for GOOD music could not be overstated. Although he knew his playing limitations, that never stopped him from seeking out good tuition and advice from anyone who would give him their attention. If one studies the growth of piping in the traditional South, you will find it started with Harvey Ritch. As Bill so eloquently stated, a true legend who will be sorely missed but never forgotten.