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Oct 14, 2012

Ways Done in the Past - All-Girl Bagpipe Band

Singapore All-Girl Bagpipe Band march-past City Hall at National Day Parade 1967.

Do we remember the ways done in the past in Singapore for the formation of the Singapore All-Girl Bagpipe Band?

The Straits Times of 9 February, 1967 with the headline "S'PORE TO HAVE ALL-GIRL BAGPIPE BAND",  the Republic is to have a 36-member all-girl bagpipe band..

Dr Goh Keng Swee, the Minister for Defence announced the formation of the band as the girl pipers would be the latest addition to the military band, harmonica band and choir formed by the People's Association.

It will consist of 20 bagpipers, 10 side drummers, four tenor drummers, one base drummer and one drum major.

Dr Goh said the band should be ready to perform by next National Day, August 9, marching at the head of the women's contingent of the People's Defence Force.

Miss Peggy Irish, pipe leader of the world-famous Dagenham Girl Pipers, who has been assigned the formidable job of getting a band of Singapore girl pipers ready for a National Day debut with this pledge: "I'll try hard to get it ready by then."

She said: "It's a big challenge. Time is very short, but if the girls are keen and ready to work hard. This is the first time I have been asked to train an entire band in such a short time, " she said.

When told about the recent controversy on the length of time required to train a band, and how some newspaper reader had insisted that eight months was ridiculous, she said.

"They probably are right.  But I'll try hard to get 40 girls ready for National Day.  The main thing is patience and being prepared to work very hard.  We'll have have to train daily". [The Straits Times,  10 Mar 1967].

The aspiring girls to play in Singapore's first all-girl bagpipe band had a taste of the difficult task ahead of them at their first practice session at the People's Association.

The girls' tutor, Pipe Major Peggy Iris, reacted with an encouraging smile and told them "Just keep blowing and you'll get it."

She hold two two-hour sessions a day for different batches of girls. The training is done early in the morning and late in the evening - when few people are around. [ Source: The Straits Times, 17 Mar  1967].

The Singapore Girl Pipers have proved that local girls are as good, if not better than, their counterparts in the West.

In less than six months they have accomplished what their instructor, Miss Peggy Iris told The Straits Times on August 5, 1967 described as "remarkable feat" - mastery of the bagpipe. They are ready now to face the public".

Looking back on the last six months, the British piper said that there had been "moments of doubt" when she felt that the girls were not going to make it.

"But I didn't tell them anything.  I only encouraged them to play on.  Their capacity for learning is truly remarkable".

National Day on 9 August, 1967

Girl pipers steal the limelight as Singapore celebrates National Day 1967, forty-five years ago.

Yes, confounding the critics, they have proved it can be done - these 36 Singapore girl pipers.

After less than five months' training, they made their debut on 9 August, 1967.

The girls and their two instructors, Pipe Major Peggy Iris and Miss Sheila Nobes, wearing their new uniform, put on a grand show in the National Day parade and march-past. (Source: The Straits Times,  10 Aug 1967).

"We Are Singapore" uploaded on YouTube by video credit of onlinesemiar.

"There was a time when people said
That Singapore won't make it, but we did..."

A newspaper reader said in The Straits Times, Saturday, 18 February, 1967:

As a proud Scot, I am very pleased at the honour Singapore is paying to my country, by forming a Pipe Band in Singapore, but there are few things I feel I must say:

Firstly, whether or not a girl's legs are shapely doesn't matter.  For marching she needs a pair of sturdy one, and for dancing she needs supple ones.

Anyway, people will be going to hear her piping, not her knees knocking.

Secondly, I object to Dr. Goh referring to the Highland dress as skirts.  The word 'kilt' is more appropriate.

Thirdly, I have no wish to dampen spirits, but it takes about three years to learn the chanter properly, and about three more years to learn the pipes.  Instead of trying to create a new record in piping.  I suggest that Singapore teaches its girls by the tried and proven method, that is, start them learning at about 9 years old.I don't think Singapore will make it by August, 1967.  Perhaps by 1970.

Fourthly, Slainthemath. And keep blawing'


Slainthemath - Gaelic for 'Good Luck'.

Thanks to Ms Ng Hui Ling, Librarian, Lee Kong Chian Reference Library through the National Library "Ask Reference Point Web Enquiry" for help on this blog research.

The archived photos on this blog for credit to the National Archives of Singapore with thanks and acknowledgement.



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