June 11, 2014

Harvey Ritch, 1927-2014

the World Grade 3 Drum Corps Championship in 1973. Many of the Charlotte Scottish members went on to contribute as members of some of the EUSPBA’s upper-graded bands of the 1970s and ’80s after Ritch departed Charlotte, North Carolina for a venture in the North Carolina mountains under the sponsorship and request of Mrs. Agnes MacRae Morton – founder of the now world-famous Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

It was a small nucleus of members of this Charlotte Scottish Pipe Band, as well as new students which he taught from the North Carolina and Tennessee High Country that served as the beginning of his longest lasting pipe band legacy – the Grandfather Mountain Highlanders Pipe Band in 1974. After his relocation to Linville, North Carolina, where he operated a Scottish imports store within the shadow of Grandfather Mountain, Ritch attracted a variety of young people from all walks of life and instilled within them his love and passion for the Scottish pipes and pipe bands. The Grandfather Mountain Highlanders, which he founded and sponsored until only recently, has enjoyed a 40-plus year history as one of the South’s most consistent and viable pipe bands.

Harvey Ritch was the product of a varied teaching background, having had tuition and advice not only from his first instructor, P-M Jack Smith, but also sparing little expense to seek out luminaries of the 1960s and 1970s which he introduced to the Southern piping scene. His influences included a long friendship and workshop collaborations with P-M William Gilmour, a long friendship and some tuition from the late John MacFadyen, many years of collaboration and friendship with P-M Sandy Jones, among many more. His shop was for a number of years the top retail outlet for Dunbar-Eller Bagpipes, and was well known for his in-shop demonstrations of the virtual indestructability of Delrin practice chanters, which he sold by the hundreds to serious students of piping and tourists alike.

A man who perhaps “did not suffer fools well,” Ritch was known for a rapier sharp and sometimes stinging wit, as well as his sometimes blunt interactions with customers of his shop who he felt did not share his respect and regard for Scottish traditions and wares. He was the inspiration for a series of skits on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980’s titled “All Things Scottish,” which depicted a curmudgeonly Scottish import store owner based on Ritch himself. Up until his last year operating his business, customers would occasionally (and quite purposefully) pique Ritch simply for the humour of witnessing his reactions to questions about “special sale prices” and “free items” which they might take advantage of at his store. One famed Scottish piper, when asking Ritch what might be had for “free” at his business was told: “Son, take a deep breath . . .” Though the resemblance was occasionally more accurate than a humorous account may imply, Harvey will be known better as one of the South’s greatest promoters of quality piping and drumming and pipe band music from its formative years in this region until quite recently. A decline in health forced the closing of his business, Everything Scottish, Ltd. of Linville, North Carolina, earlier this year. The business had been in decline for a number of months due to Ritch’s absence due to health issues.

Harvey Ritch’s piping students number in the hundreds, and those he influenced in other ways can only be measured exponentially. He set a good musical example for many young pipe bandsmen and women, some of whom have gone on to become teachers, pipe-majors, drum-sergeants, band managers, successful solo competitors, as well as respected judges among the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. His legacy will long be felt among the piping and drumming communities of the Southeastern United States and beyond.

– Submitted by Bill Caudill


  1. 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.
    Al McMullin



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