September 04, 2019

McLaren ready to rev up Glasgow Police

Alisdair McLaren as a member of Field Marshal Montgomery.

The Grade 1 Glasgow Police Pipe Band have elevated Alisdair McLaren from the pipe-sergeant position to pipe-major, following incumbent Ian MacPherson having to move away from the Glasgow area after several years in what he described as a “caretaker” role.

A native of Perth, Australia, McLaren joined the band as pipe-sergeant in the fall of 2017 after being a member of Grade 1 Field Marshal Montgomery and running the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland for several years. Before moving to Scotland, he was a member of the Grade 1 Western Australia Police Pipe Band.

“I am honoured to be appointed to the position of pipe-major of the Glasgow Police Pipe Band,” McLaren said in a statement. “As a young piper growing up in Perth, Australia, the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, as it was known then, were one of the top bands which inspired me throughout my musical development. To now have the opportunity to lead such an important and iconic band is a great responsibility and privilege.”

The band over the last decade has seen numerous leadership changes. Current lead-drummer David Henderson joined the band in the role after the 2016 season. Before MacPherson, the band had seen various pipe-majors, including Donald Mackay, Duncan Nicholson and Don Bradford.

McLaren is not the first non-native Scot to be a Glasgow Police pipe-major. Northern Ireland-born Harry MacAleer ran the band for several years in the 1990s, succeeding legendary pipe-major Iain MacLellan.

MacPherson’s tenure with the group started in the 1980s. In the same statement he said, “It was an honour to serve as pipe-major after my retirement from the Police in 2012. I am indebted to Duncan Nicholson and [band manager] Niall West in working so hard to avoid the band folding during a most difficult phase several years ago. In that regard, many thanks are due to the Scottish Police Federation who recognize the worth of our historic band and now provide significant financial and administrative support. I feel that, as pipe-major, I was in a bit of a ‘caretaker’ role recently, whilst trying to build for the future.”

Under MacPherson, the band maintained its Grade 1 status, and in the last year climbed the rankings at the major championships, although not making a prize list.

The band was nearly rendered defunct when the Scottish police services amalgamated, with budgets closely reviewed and many costs deemed extraneous cut. It has been an important international ambassador for Glasgow and Scotland for more than 100 years.

Glasgow Police continued their legendary success since its greatest pipe-major, Iain MacLellan, retired in 1993, rising to take multiple championships under James Wark and later Donald Mackay. Mackay resigned in the middle of the 2008 season, Don Bradford taking over the top spot. Bradford successfully maintained the standard of the band for the remainder of the year.

In addition to MacLellan, Bradford and Mackay, the list of current and former members of the band is a virtual who’s who of pipe band and solo piping personalities, including Angus J. MacLellan, Ronnie Lawrie, John MacDonald, Angus Lawrie, Eric Ward, John Wilson, Alex Connell and Willie Grey.

McLaren is the latest ex-Field Marshal Montgomery piper to become pipe-major of a Grade 1 band. Ryan Canning led Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia for six years, guiding the band to their 2015 World Championship victory. Emmett Conway is also a former member of Field Marshal Montgomery, and is the current pipe-major of Shotts.


Related articles

No less great, now just Glasgow Police
October 6, 2016


Glasgow Police to start rebuilding with Henderson
September 29, 2016


Strathclyde Police Pipe Band now “Greater Glasgow Police Scotland Pipe Band”
February 28, 2013


Duncan Nicholson appointed Strathclyde Police P-M after multiple meetings
November 30, 2010


Strathclyde P-M resigns; end of band ‘likely’
October 31, 2009


Strathclyde Police Pipe Band: “it’s over”
October 31, 2009


Strathclyde Police force to pull plug on competition band: sources
February 28, 2009



  1. One can only wish Alistair McLaren all the luck in the world. He has a huge task to lift this great band back to where it once was, but here’s hoping. It would be a fantastic story. Good luck!



Forgotten Password?