2023 marks the 87th anniversary of the Sutherland Pipe Band, making us one of the oldest pipe bands in the U.S. The “Boston Scottish Highlanders Pipe Band” was organized in April, 1936. Scottish emigrant, George Wallace, paid for the uniforms and equipment necessary to outfit over 20 pipers and drummers. Andrew McKillop was elected the first Pipe Major of the band and led until 1951.
Sponsorship by the Clan Sutherland Society helped the band flourish in the 1950’s and into the eighties. The band renamed itself the “Clan Sutherland Pipe Band.” The society had a large membership and some members with means. One patroness said she would buy the expensive uniforms if the band would wear her tartan, Who could refuse? We still wear that tartan on occasion.
This is a circa 1955 newspaper clipping sent to us by former band member Russell Johnson. Now living in Oregon, Russell was a member of the Clan Sutherland Band from 1953 to 1956.
Enclosed is the photo, most likely printed in the Boston Globe or Herald about 1955. I was seventeen at the time and the youngest member of the band. We had 12 pipers and 6 drummers at that time, (3 snare, 2 tenor, 1 bass) I left the band in 1956 when I entered the US Coast Guard. I later heard that the band was invited to play at the birthday bash for Michael Todd in New York.
As was often done in the 1950s, the society helped “import” pipers and drummers, helping them find work in the states. Many of our pipe majors came from good Scottish bands by that route. The Worcester Kiltie Band brought Dan Mooney who later led Sutherland.
David Hogg, Archibald MacLeod and John Rennie served as P/M at various times between 1951-1969. The band continued to grow in the 1950’s and 1960’s and gained widespread recognition. Archie reminisced that when Sutherland went to games, opposing bands got nervous.
The late Pipe Major, Hamilton (Hammy) Workman led the band to hard fought victories. In Scotland, in 1975 the band competed well at Cowal and Rothesay. In 1976, the Band was the first U.S. Pipe Band to win the Canadian National Championship in grade II.
Dan Mooney, Hammy’s Pipe Sergeant, took over in 1978. Dan had played with several world class Pipe Bands, both in the U.S. and Scotland and has brought his training in traditional pipe band methods. His band continued winning contests in grades IV, III and II.
Membership in the Clan Sutherland Society had declined by the 1980’s. In 1991 the band officially changed its name to the “Sutherland Pipe Band” and updated our status as a non-profit organization. Band members continued the traditional Burns Nights many years after the clan could no longer afford to.
We competed in Scotland in 1987 at the Bridge of Alan and at Maxville, Ontario in 1993 and 1995. In 1992 the Band elected Drum Sergeant, Jack Giunta. The new combination of talent propelled Sutherland to 3rd place Grade IV Champion Supreme in 1995.
We did well also in 1996 and capped that year with performances as guests of the Bermuda army unit. One spectator at Heritage Plantation that summer was so impressed, he offered to buy us the new Sutherland Kilts we now wear. He wanted to see the Sutherland band in the Sutherland tartan in honor of his mother, who was a Sutherland.
Dan Mooney was put on night shift so he handed the reigns to Pipe Sgt. Peter Henderson in 1997. (Peter played “Flowers of the Forest” on world news at the bicentennial of the battle at Concord MA, in 1975). When Dan’s work schedule improved he was re-elected pipe major in 1999. Dan retired as pipe major in 2010.
Frank Igoe was piper major through the mid 2010’s. Neil McCarthy is the current pipe major.