The Killie Piper – Warren Graham, 2004-2022
Editor’s note: The world piping and drumming community was saddened by the passing of 17-year-old Warren Graham. He was a proud member of the Kilmarnock Pipe Band in Scotland, and a prominent local piper with a bright future who will be sorely missed.
The Kilmarnock Football Club revealed that they will be giving a minute’s clap before Saturday’s match in Warren’s memory. Kilmarnock Pipe Band member Connor McBlane will also play in tribute.
If you or anyone you know might be facing mental health challenges, please reach out for help. Contact local organizations directly, and friends, family and the worldwide community of pipers and drummers are there to help as they can.
Warren Graham’s best friend has started a GoFundMe page to help with the cost of the funeral. Any donations are gratefully received.
After confirming that the family was okay with it, we were grateful to Karen McCrindle Warren for the following tribute to young Warren Graham.
The Killie Piper
By Karen McCrindle Warren
Warren Graham was one of those special people you meet in life, who had no idea how much of an impact he had on everyone around him.
He started piping at Grange Academy, Kilmarnock under the tutelage of Graham Drummond, where he shot to fame on Scottish headline news as he marched home from school every day playing his pipes. The truth behind that story is that a neighbour had complained about him practicing his pipes at home to the point that he was no longer allowed to do so – but that never stopped him from seizing any opportunity to get his pipes out. As the story grew, he became “the Killie Piper,” people cheered him on as he passed them playing in the street and cars sounded their horns in support. 1-0 to Warren I’d say.
And so began Warren’s love of the bagpipes. His pipes went everywhere with him; family holidays, days out, independence marches, football games (he was an avid Killie supporter), and it was widely recognized that he was never happier than when he was playing his pipes.
He regularly played for Jim Todd, the Provost of East Ayrshire who commented, “My heart is hurting real bad. Warren is a beautiful soul. He had so much to give to the world, sadly not to be. The provost’s piper. And after the formal piping, he would lead us back playing ‘Thunderstruck.’ My heartfelt thoughts to all of the family.” There is also a wonderful clip of Warren on YouTube playing “Wonderwall” by Oasis on a packed train, with the whole carriage singing along with him. A magical moment to look back on.
During Warren’s time at Kilmarnock Pipe Band he grew from a tiny wee boy to a strapping young man, and his playing was improving all the time. He went with the band from Grade 4, to winning fourth place in the World Pipe Band Championships in Grade 3B, and he was eager to get out playing in Grade 3A after the COVID pandemic wiped out two years of pipe band competitions. Warren’s mum told us “The only time he was happy and confident was when he wore his KPB uniform.”
He sat his SCQF Level 5 exam in the band and had recently started as a trainee instructor with EPIC East Ayrshire Pipe Band Academy, with the goal of studying for SCQF Level 6 and the PDQB Tutor Certificate. He had shown brilliant potential as an instructor and was well loved by the students, for whom he served as a great inspiration – someone like them, who spoke like them (in broad Scots), from the same place, who was doing so well at a young age. We were immensely proud of Warren and delighted to have him join our team, following the path of formal qualifications to allow him to teach the instrument he loved, and ignite that passion in the next generation.
For all the hype surrounding him he had no ego, as it would have been natural to have developed. He was a most down to earth, honest, and hard-working young man, who would speak to anyone without judgment.
When he was not teaching, he could be found busking in Kilmarnock, Ayr, or Glasgow – he just loved playing his pipes and that was the sole focus of his life.
For all the hype surrounding him he had no ego, as it would have been natural to have developed. He was a most down to earth, honest, and hard-working young man, who would speak to anyone without judgment. He always came to band cheery, with a wicked sense of humour and particularly enjoyed roasting the pipe-major, which was seen as “his role” in the band. He was the favourite character of all band members, who had watched him grow and loved his banter – it was clear to us all that under the cheek was a heart of pure gold. Band was his happy place and he often went home buzzing with adrenaline desperate to get his pipes back out and play more.
He was very well supported by a tight-knit, loving family, and our condolences and love go out to them at this terrible time.
Pipe-Major Paul Warren said: “This tragedy surely reminds us that what we do is about much more than competition, it’s about the people we are fortunate to do it with, the people we share our time with, our highs and our lows, the people who start out as fellow band members and become our friends and extended family. It’s at times like this we realize we are all part of something bigger. Warren was central to our pipe band family, and it will never be the same without him.”
Showing support for Warren was the inspiration for our “Walk to the World’s” in 2020, where we raised money towards local mental health charity, “Beautiful Inside & Out,” and raised awareness for mental health. Warren has struggled greatly since the first lock down of the COVID pandemic, and never quite managed to find himself completely again after the difficulties he faced as a result of this, though he was making great efforts at turning his life around and finding happiness again.
Warren had a good support network, a hugely supportive family, an extended family in the pipe band, and close friends who were aware of his struggles and tried their best to help. But sometimes it’s just not enough. If he could only see the overwhelming outpouring of love for him on social media and realize what an impact he made in his life . . . would it have made a difference?
We implore anyone who is facing a similar struggle to fight as best they can to hold on, speak to anyone – family, friends, professionals, your dog or your cat(!) and see that there is so much love in the world and no matter who you are, a lot of that love is for you. Everyone has their struggles – but they are easier faced together.
We will never forget Warren and his loss will be felt forever.
Karen McCrindle Warren is co-pipe-sergeant of the Grade 3 Kilmarnock Pipe Band of Scotland, and a co-founder of the EPIC East Ayrshire Pipe Band Academy.