Willie McErlean, the first Leading-Drummer to guide a Grade 1 drum section to a World Drumming Championship, died in Port Moody, British Columbia, on the morning of April 25, 2014, after a lengthy illness. He was 82.
McErlean is known for his accomplishment with the Triumph Street Pipe Band of Vancouver in 1979 in Nottingham, England. Under Pipe-Major Hal Senyk, McErlean’s corps took the historic first, while the band finished fifth overall. The feat was the first time that a non-Scottish band had won a major prize at the World’s, and at the time the highest overall finish by any non-Scottish Grade 1 pipe band.
After retiring from competition, McErlean dedicated much of his time to teaching and adjudicating, and was a celebrated personality for more than 60 years on the Pacific Northwest pipe band scene.
McErlean also was Leading-Drummer in the 1960s of the City of San Francisco Caledonian Pipe Band.
The British Columbia Pipers Association introduced the Willie McErlean Medal, presented to competitors in the organization’s annual winter Knockout competitions. In July 2013, the entire Grade 1 Simon Fraser University Pipe Band paid and played a surprise visit to McErlean’s home, arriving at his doorstep with a full concert and a rendition of “Salute to Willie McErlean,” a drum fanfare composed in his honour.
Willie McErlean positively and directly impacted hundreds of pipers and drummers over his life, and will be remembered to all who knew him as a man who possessed a rare combination of musical excellence, competitive drive and warm spirit. We extend our sympathies to Willie McErlean’s friends and family at this sad time.