Clan Gordon Pipe Band

— by Kim Davenport

The bagpipes are one of those instruments that may elicit a strong reaction – many people I’ve talked to either love or hate their bold, reedy sound. But there is no denying the significance of the ancient instrument to a wide variety of cultures, from Europe to northern Africa and western Asia. In the English-speaking world, the most familiar use for the instrument is in the Scottish Highland tradition.

One specific musical tradition involving bagpipes is the pipe band, an ensemble consisting of pipers and drummers. The pipe band tradition has military roots, with records of pipers in Scottish military regiments dating back to at least as early as the 1600s – but the distinctive sound, and tradition of marching with instruments, has also spread throughout all parts of the world touched by the British empire.

[If this hasn’t been quite enough history on the pipe band tradition for your tastes, check out the website of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.]

And that brings us to Tacoma, which you may not realize has its very own pipe band, and one with a long history, at that!

Clan Gordon Pipe Band in 1958. Image courtesy Tacoma Public Library

In 1955, a group of Americans and recent Scottish immigrants pooled their experience, and, with the sponsorship of Clan Gordon, formed the Clan Gordon Pipe Band. The first Pipe Major was Johnnie Montgomery, father of longtime member, Jack Montgomery. Even though Clan Gordon is no longer the group’s sponsor, they retain their original name. and are still quite active in the community.

The band marching in the June 28, 1969, Tacoma Centennial Parade. Image courtesy Tacoma Public Library.
The Clan Gordon Pipe Band was a staple in local parades; on January 9, 1971, they marched to a different venue, up the escalator in the 24-story Bank of Washington Plaza tower, which was being dedicated after nearly two years of construction. Image courtesy Tacoma Public Library.


Next month, members of the community are invited to join the band for their 57th Annual Tartan Ball, where they will join forces with the Keith Highlanders Pipe Band and the Puget Sound Firefighter’s Pipes & Drums for a night of music, dancing and socializing for the whole family.

In the meantime, have a listen!


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