The question of having a Pipe Band was brought to the Legion Branch membership in the year 1969. Comrade Sydney (Bus) Featherstone was given the go-ahead by the general body in January 1969, as such a band was thought necessary to accompany our Colour Guard in their many parades. Bus Featherstone was appointed Pipe Major and Art Culp was appointed Drum Major.
Bus Featherstone Art Culp
In May 1969 the first students joined the Band. Although all of the original Band members have retired or passed on, the band is very proud to have the longest serving active member within its ranks, Lead Tip – Sergeant John Kirkwood, who has been a Drummer with the band since 1985.
In 1971 due to poor health, Pipe Major Featherstone had to step down. The position of Pipe Major went to Hugh McLean Jr. under who’s direction the band went on to their first “glories” for the Band and RCL Branch 163.
Hugh McLean left the Band in 1976, but shortly thereafter the Pipe Band once again had a new Pipe Major, Bob Morrow, who served in that capacity until 1977. The reigns were then handed over to Pipe Major, Norm Stronach who led the band until 1980. From 1980 until 1982, the band was under the direction of Pipe Major Ian Drummond.
In 1982 Piper Major John McCaffrey took the reigns of the band and under his leadership the Band continued to win various awards in Ontario and trophies in the U.S.A.
In 1997 Gary Woods took over the reigns of Piper Major, stepping down in 2003.
Since the year 2003, Pipe Major Bob Spolnik has directed the band, and under his leadership the Band has continued to excel and grow to its current size of 26 members (13 Pipers, 9 Drummers, 2 Student Pipers, and 2 Student Drummers).
The Pipe Band has had the privilege of playing with the Canadian Massed Bands at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland during both the August, 2001 and 2007 performances. This was quite a thrill for those who were able to attend.
In May 2008, the Band was invited by the American Legion, Post 202 to march in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania “141st Annual Memorial Day Parade”. This is the oldest Memorial Day Parade in the United States. In addition the Band also provided performances at the Legion Post and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 15. Of particular note was the opportunity to perform at a special service honouring returning Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Our rendition of the “American Set” as well as the many other tunes played were very warmly received by the throngs of people lining the parade route, as well as those in attendance at the Legion Post and VFW. The entire Gettysburg trip was a memorable event which will remain with us for many years.
Dating back to the year 2000, the Band has maintained an affiliation with John Monture (President) and the Six Nations Veteran’s Association (SNVA), in Ohsweken. The Band continues to perform at various parades, ceremonies and functions hosted by the SNVA throughout the year. In addition, since 2007 the Band has had a close affiliation with the City of Toronto, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Honour Guard; which is under the direction of Honour Guard Commander, Michael O’Halloran. The RCL, Branch 163 Pipes & Drums have on several occasions served as the duty band at various Toronto EMS graduation ceremonies and Canadian Citizenship ceremonies. In addition, we had the pleasure of having the Toronto EMS Honour Guard accompany us on the aforementioned trip to Gettysburg for the 2008 Memorial Day Parade.
In the year 2009 the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 163 Pipes & Drums proudly celebrated its 40th Anniversary.
Pipe Major Timeline
Sydney (Bus) Featherstone (Founding Pipe Major) – 1969 to 1971
Hugh McLean – 1971 to 1976
Bob Morrow – 1976 to 1977
Norm Stronach – 1977 to 1980
Ian Drummond – 1980 to 1982
John McCaffrey – 1982 to 1997
Gary Woods – 1997 to 2003
Bob Spolnik – 2003 to present
Drum Major Timeline
Art Culp – 1969 to 1992
Bill Hagen – 1992 to 1998
Jim Smith – 1998 to present