Living the pipe dream
WHEN Sergeant Ian Stewart moved to Perth from Glasgow with his family 11 years ago as part of an international police officer recruitment campaign, the last thing he expected was to become officer in charge of the awardwinning Maylands-based WA Police Pipe Band.
“I’d worked in frontline services, traffic, intelligence and crash before I was approached by management three-anda-half years ago to see if I was interested in taking over the band,” Stewart said.
“I think probably because of the accent I stood out in the boss’s mind as the ideal fit for it.
“I had zero background in pipe bands, other than hearing them every now and again in Scotland.
“I love music but I’m not a musician; they won’t even give me a triangle.”
Stewart said the new policing post was a massive learning curve that took him out of his comfort zone while he learnt not only how a pipe band worked but also how to manage a police department.
He is responsible for organising the 220 to 240 policing and community engagements per year the band plays at, either performing the drum major role during a parade or ceremony and MC at a concert.
The band consists of two sworn police officers and 13 unsworn staff who are civilian employees of WA Police; nationalities include Scottish, Australian, South African and Northern Irish.
“Most of the people in the band are either current or former world piper pipers or drummers, so the quality we’re attracting is second to none,” Stewart said.
“At the beginning of October we retained the title of Grade 1 Premier Pipe Band of Australia for the third time in a row at the National Pipe Band Championships in Sydney.”
The success will continue as WA Police Pipe Band presents its 50th anniversary concert at Winthrop Hall, UWA, on Friday, December 2.
“We’re taking a bit of a tour through the 50 years, so there will be a few tracks that are pretty famous around the world and tunes people will recognise,” Stewart said.
“But the idea is to showcase how the band has transformed over the past 50 years, so there will be a story as such and it will be a contemporary-style concert; it won’t just be bagpipes and drums.”
The program will include performances by Victoria Murray on accordion, Fiona Davidson on fiddle, Scottish Highland Dance Academy, Scotch College Pipe and Drums, Presbyterian Ladies College Pipes and Drums and Churchlands SHS String Ensemble.
“A lot of people in WA will probably have never seen bagpipes and drums played in the way that we’re going to be playing them on the night,” Stewart said.
“It won’t all be just military style, which you might think it would be.
“Hopefully there will be a lot of toetapping and a lot of head-bopping and clapping on the night.”
WA Police Pipe Band drummer Gary Potter, piper and supervisor Chris Macauley and pipe major James Murray.