Commuting can drive you to extreme measures. In the early 1950s, Ken Monckton and his brother Bert had enough of travelling across Toronto for band practice. The drummers decided it would be much better if they could practice close to home, and got in touch with some of their friends from the Woodbine Heights Pipe Band.
A meeting held in Ken's backyard with a few of the old crew was all that was required to launch the band that would become known as the Scarborough Pipe Band. Kenny and Bert provided the seed money that would buy some kilts and equipment for the newly formed band.
Their first job saw three pipers and three drummers marching a group of Cubs and Scouts from Chestnut School to Birchmount Road and Eglinton Avenue and back to attend church one Sunday morning. They were paid the princely sum of $10.00 for that job, but it was a start.
The band found a practice hall in Agincourt and word soon got around that they were active and looking for members. The band grew, and with the support of family and friends, raised money for more kit and equipment. Jobs rolled in, the funds grew, and a band of about twelve pipers, seven drummers and a Pipe Major were outfitted. The band was recognized throughout Ontario and got jobs all over the province.
The band's old letterhead shows that it was officially established as the Scarborough Pipe Band in 1959. In 1965, the band became affiliated with the Scarborough Legion and started practicing in Legion's building and practice there every Wednesday night to this day.
The band was very busy during that period, but still made time to do some charity jobs for developmentally challenged children, seniors' homes and veteran's hospitals.
Over the years, the band has remained active and has travelled to Scotland (twice) and various places in the United States. Band trips were roaring successes and you can still hear all the high points at practice on Wednesday nights. Oddly enough, the stories can still bring a blush to some faces!! At present, the band plays about twenty jobs per year.
In addition to performing, the band holds several events each year. The Burns Dinner is the highlight and there is a great demand for tickets. It doesn't hurt to have several members ready to address the haggis and of course there are lots of pipers available to pipe it in. The annual family barbecue is always fun and other events are being planned.
The band welcomes members of all ages. We have young pipers and drummers at the learning stage and a few who learned to play a long time ago. The members have common goals: to produce a good strong sound and a quality performance, and to have some fun while doing it.
Make no mistake, this is a community band with a high standard. A couple of forays into the competitive arena each year keep the band sharp and make a fine excuse for a road trip!
Michael Moir, the Pipe Major, has assigned the band some very interesting music and the band is rising to the challenge. Tuition is readily offered to aspiring pipers, and the drum section is steadily growing under the active leadership of Drum Sergeant Jack Poolton.
If you're not amused by the banter and joking that goes on at practice on Wednesday nights, well, you're not easily amused and should have your pulse taken. New members are always made welcome whether they are just starting their chosen instrument or are established musicians looking for a group to play with.
If you're at a parade in the Toronto area, have a look (the band wears the MacLean of Duart tartan and cap badge), a listen and enjoy as the Scarborough Pipe Band takes delight in keeping alive our Scottish heritage.