September 22, 2014

Piping and drumming community bands together for a friend in need

Bill “Gillette” Sawyer

The southern Ontario – and possibly even the world – piping and drumming community is banding together to assist piper Bill “Gillette” Sawyer, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor earlier in the year.

Sawyer was a long-time piper with the Grade 1 Clan MacFarlane Pipe Band under Pipe-Major Ken Eller in the 1970s and ’80s. Before his illness was discovered, he participated in the Clan MacFarlane Reunited historical pipe band interview that pipes|drums published in four parts.

On October 4th supporters are gathering in Niagara Fall, Ontario, at 4 pm for a $25/person fundraiser at the Niagara Falls Legion. Twisted Pillar and McPherson’s Rant, two local bands, will perform at the BBQ and beverages event, with all proceeds going towards Sawyer’s expenses for palliative care. As a self-employed trucker, Sawyer does not have employment insurance or extended health insurance.

The fundraising efforts, which include a Facebook group page and donations via PayPal, are being coordinated by Eller and Peter MacKenzie, who also played with “Gillette” in Clan MacFarlane.

“A few friends unable to make the event have sent heartfelt letters filled with memories and best wishes, which Bill has cherished,” said Sawyer’s sister Sue Gagnon. “He is so appreciative of the outpouring of generosity and would like to thank everyone for their kindness and best wishes.”

“On the Bus with Bill Sawyer” refers to the many years that Sawyer drove the bus for the Niagara Regional Police Pipe Band, and recognizes the nearly 40 years of contribution he made to the pipe band community.

“It recognized the years Bill Sawyer reached out to so many players involved, with selfless intentions of making them better players and better people,” Eller said. “Former associates have come forward and, to the person, have told stories of how Bill encouraged them along the way, and in many cases, if it had not been for his kind and generous support, they would not be active today. I am amazed at the lives he has touched. For me personally, his friendship was never more appreciated than when my father, past treasurer of the Clan, was in his final years. It was Bill who regularly visited and shared my dad’s remaining days so well. Now it is our turn to step to the plate for Bill and for all of us that have shared Bill’s great friendship over the years, we are thankful to assist in his time of need.”

The Clan MacFarlane band had a tradition of earned nicknames for its members. Bill Sawyer earned “Gillette” because he liked to keep his hair razor-short.

Those who would like to make a donation via PayPal can do so using Eller’s email address:, and any amount is appreciated.

pipes|drums Magazine has made a donation to the cause.




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