Victoria Edwards and RMC Band History

E3161 Victoria Edwards interviewed several ex-cadets and distilled their account of the early band at the Royal Military College.

e-veritas: What instrument(s) did you play?

3506 Ron Capern (RMC 1955): I became a tenor drummer in the 1955 RMC pipe band (having discovered I had no talent for playing even the chanter, much less the pipes).

3591 S/L (Ret’d) Donald Gregory (RMC 1957): I was one of the original pipers and became the second Cadet Wing Band Officer in my final year.

e-veritas: What challenges did the early band face?

3954 William I Hughes: Needless to say, the band was rather rough at the start, but it made a noise, kept us in step and slowly improved. At the time, it was said that part of the problem was the need to play for a marching pace of 120 paces/minute. Pipe bands, it seems, prefer 100-110 paces/minute. [Quick Time for Pipe Band: 110 paces per minute. Double Time: 180 paces per minute]

e-veritas: What tunes did the band play?

3591 Donald Gregory: Since most of the pipers had had no previous training the band played relatively simple tunes such as Scotland the Brave and The Brown Haired Maiden. A reason for the preference for simple tunes that we could actually play at 120 paces to the minute. Only when the band was playing and the cadet wing was not marching could we slow the beat to 100 – 110. There was always the problem of the pace and there were many loud comments from the RSM, Jack Coggins, to “pick up the pace please Mr. Cooke”.

e-veritas: Did the band have special uniforms or regalia?

3591 Donald Gregory: We, of course, did not have any special uniforms and certainly no kilts but it does my heart good to see the band on parade in their regalia whenever I am at the College. After Jock Anderson pried some money out of somebody, the band got a mace and sash for the drum major – the late 3669 James E. Doyle (RMC 1956).

e-veritas: Where did the band practice and who taught the band to play?

3591 Donald Gregory: The band used to practice in the engineering drawing lab in the evenings and 3527 Bruce Cooke did most of the teaching. In the third year of operation, the band would be visited every two weeks by the pipe major of the Airforce Pipe Band for “advanced” instruction.

e-veritas: I understand that the late 3527 LCdr.(Ret`d) Dr. William Bruce Hamel (Cookie) Cooke, CD (RMC 56) was a leader in the early RMC band.

3954 William I Hughes (RMC 1957): [Bruce Hamel] devoted a lot of time and personal talent to making the early pipe band a success. He tried hard, with mixed success, to have more cadets take up the practice chanter. He enrolled at RMC in 1952 as a Naval Cadet. “Cookie” had rooms in the north-centre flat of the Stone Frigate. He studied Mechanical Engineering, standing at the top of that group in both third and fourth years.

3506 Commander (Ret’d) Ron Capern (RMC 1956): 3527 LCdr.(Ret`d) Dr. William Bruce Hamel (Cookie) Cooke, CD (RMC 1956) was Navy and spent all 4 years at RMC. He was an ardent bagpiper and was appointed as `Cadet Wing Band Officer`; performing as the Band’s Pipe Major, in his final year. I am not even sure if there was such an official office at that time. This was the first time the appointment had been made. Bruce Hamel maintained proficiency with his bagpipes after graduating from RMC with first class honours in 1956. Bruce was often called upon to play his bagpipes for many community organizations and events. He served as the Pipe Major of the Wa Wa Shrine Pipes and Drums and the Regina Police Band.

In 1967, Bruce was posted to RMC to teach in the Mechanical Engineering Department. While at RMC, he also furthered his studies and received a PhD from Queen’s University in 1971. During his years in the navy, Bruce served aboard Antigonish, Ontario, Sussexvale, Bonaventure, Fraser, Margaree and in HMC Dockyards before being honourably released in 1971. In 1971, he accepted an associate professor position in industrial systems engineering at the University of Regina. He left the University of Regina to work for two years with Saskatchewan Power, but was asked to come back to the university, this time as dean of the department, in which office he served ten years until 1989. Although officially retired in 2000, Bruce continued to teach as Professor Emeritus until the week of his death on 11 February 2006, in Regina, SK at 70 years of age.

e-veritas: Lieutenant-Colonel (ret`d) John (Jock) MacMorran Anderson MC and Bar influenced the Pipes and Drums during his tour as the Protestant Padre at RMC.

(From Obit) Lieutenant-Colonel (ret`d) John (Jock) MacMorran Anderson MC and Bar served as the Protestant Chaplain at the Saint Martin Protestant Chapel at RMCC in Kingston from 1955-8. In 1942, he left to join the war effort. At 31 years of age, he was assigned as Protestant Chaplain to the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, 3rd Division. He landed at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He received two Military Crosses for courage and initiative in evacuating casualties under heavy enemy fire during the Second World War. His experiences as chaplain, counsellor, stretcher-bearer are recounted by 2357 BGen Denis and Shelagh Whitaker (RMC 1933) in `Victory at Falaise` and `Tug of War`.

After RMC, he was posted to London in 1958. He was later posted to Ortona Barracks in Oakville where he remained until his retirement in 1967. He purchased `Worn Doorstep` a historic landmark, in 1966 and renovated it extensively as a family home. After leaving the military, he worked for a few years as a probation officer and also became very involved with a local church. His wife died in 1995 after suffering from Alzheimer‘s disease. He died in January 2004 at `Worn Doorstep` in Oakville, Ont., less than three weeks shy of his 91st birthday.

Well done to all those who have been in the RMC band at one time or another over the years!


One Comment

  • Larry Gilchrist

    September 23, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    I don’t know how I missed this three yrs ago, but I did. I was one of the original members of the band, and played the bass drum. In the photo in the Museum of the band’s first public parade (Easter parade (?) in Kingston, Apr.(?)1953) Those are my hands and feet visible around the bass drum. I have a copy of that photo. I was only in the band during its first year (1952-53) as I did not return to RMC. In the article it is noted that Bruce Cooke was the only member who had been in a pipe band before. That is not quite accurate – he was the only piper who had been in a pipe band before. I had played as a drummer in the Parry Sound Lions Club Pipe Band while I was still in High School. My other previous band experiences had been with the Parry Sound Legion Bugle Band back in the 1940’s and as bass drummer with the Central Command Cadet Bugle Band at Camp Ipperwash in the summer of 1951.I have a photo of Don Gregory and another piper practicing in the Fort at an unknown date, which photo I believe I have sent previously to the Band web site.