December 27, 2019

Tom Brown awarded MBE for services to pipe band drumming

Tom Brown (left) with Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia at the 1985 World Pipe Band Championships. The late Neil Cranston is to his immediate right.

Pipe band drumming great Tom Brown of Whitburn, Scotland, has been made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II officially recognizing his lifetime of service to the art and his community in the monarch’s annual New Year’s Honours.

Born in 1940, Brown has, since 1977, been one of the masterminds behind the success of the Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia organization, tirelessly teaching dozens, possibly even hundreds, of drummers, enabling the group to sustain bands at the top levels of every grade along the years.

After he left competition in 1994, Tom Brown’s son, Gordon, took over as lead-drummer of the Grade 1 band, a role he still holds. The elder Brown’s retirement was short-lived when he was convinced a year later to take the L-D position with the organization’s Grade 2 band, while he continued to teach all four Boghall bands three nights a week.

Along with then Pipe-Major Robert Martin, Tom Brown built the Boghall community teaching program, much emulated around the world by some of the world’s other successful pipe band organizations. In competition, he would lead the Boghall corps to four World Drum Corps Championships.

True to his team attitude, in Brown’s pipes|drums Interview of May 1999 he said that he would gladly have traded his four World Drumming titles for one World Pipe Band Championship, which Boghall narrowly missed during his time with the band.

He was introduced to the art at age nine by an uncle, a drummer with brass bands, who gave his nephew his first drumsticks. He got his first lessons from Jack McLeish of the now defunct, but still famous, Whitrig Pipe Band. Whitrig would later become the even more famous Polkemmet Colliery under the leadership of Johnny Barnes, from which would come such notables as Jim Kilpatrick and Robert Mathieson.

After meeting up with the legendary Alex Duthart, Brown joined Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia in 1969 onward. Brown credited Duthart for making him the drummer he became.

Tom Brown was an early proponent of teaching drummers to read and write scores. In his interview, he said that his best advice to young drummers is “to concentrate on good rudimental playing and control. If you can control the rudiments, it’s the best way to play the tunes well. I’m a great believer in playing the basic rudiments. I tell them that I don’t want speed, because it’s not essential in the beginning. All I want them to do is to control what they do within the given speed or given beat.”

Brown joins a select few pipers and pipe band drummers previously awarded the MBE, including Jim Kilpatrick, P-M Michael Gray, P-M Angus MacDonald, John MacDonald, Captain John MacLellan, Donald MacLeod, Roddy MacLeod, Jimmy McIntosh, Sue McIntyre, Richard Parkes, Willie Ross and Stuart Samson.



Mervyn Herron awarded MBE, Gillean McNab OBE, for services to the pipe band community
December 28, 2018


Jeannie Campbell receives MBE for Services to Piping
June 13, 2014


Richard Parkes awarded MBE
June 30, 2004


Jim Kilpatrick awarded MBE
December 31, 2003


Roddy MacLeod, P-M Michael Gray Receive MBEs
June 30, 2003



  1. Well done Tom brown,
    Would be nice if Alex Duthart’s work with the pipe bands was recognised, he devoted his whole life to writing and playing in the pipe bands, just saying



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