The present band was formed in October 1993 by Donald Reid, the current Pipe Major following requests from several people to be taught piping. We arranged for an article in the local paper which asked for any interested people to contact us. Following a response from some half dozen people classes started in a local church hall.
In the early days there were no drummers and all that we were really doing was to learn the basics on the practice chanter using the College of Piping tutor.
Gradually we got to the stage where people were ready to try a few simple tunes on the bagpipes and the hunt was on to find some sets and at that time most came from a member of Corby Pipe Band.
By now we had one drummer and a rudimentary drum, but with no one to teach him!
1994 saw us mastering the art of blowing the bagpipes and extending the stamina. We were also starting to develop a drum section with those interested going to the leading tip of the Stevenage Pipe Band. We applied for and received 2 grants and with these we acquired a second hand set of drums from mid Argyll Pipe Band.
We also began to consider the type of uniform that we would wear. With cost being a prime factor, it initially consisted of a kilt and a white shirt with members supplying their own socks, sporran and Glengarry. We were able to acquire a number of ex army kilts and Black Watch remained the Bands tartan until the end of 2011. Our first President, Bruce Reid had also served in the Black Watch.
On the 29th September 1994 a meeting was held to adopt a constitution for the formal formation of Bedford Pipe Band. Interestingly it was about this time that we learnt that there had been an earlier Bedford Pipe Band, formed just after the Second World War by pipers returning from active service. One of the members then, Andy Butchart who was just a young boy then came along, and he is now our President!
In 1995 we had our first public performance at Bedford Museum when we fielded 10 pipers, but at this stage no drummers! Luckily however we shortly afterwards joined by the former leading drummer of Milton Keynes Pipe Band and under his leadership we soon had a drum section that could join the pipe corps for musical performances.
By 2000 our expertise and repertoire had grown to the extent that we were invited to take part in a parade in Edinburgh to raise funds for Marie Curie. The idea grew into a huge event with pipers and pipe bands coming from all over the world with eventually nearly 10,000 musicians taking part! We did not all play together but were formed into units of about 200 at a time – even so the parade took nearly 2 hours to pass along Princes Street.
A few years later we were invited to take part in a similar event – this time in Paris.
Just before the event the first Gulf War started with the result that all the army bands were pulled, leaving us the largest civilian band going. As a result we were now leading band, leading all the others under the Eifel tower and also playing at the British Embassy!
This was followed the next year by a trip to Spain to take part in a Festival in Alicante. Even though this was in the October it was still very hot – warmer than most British summers!
2005 saw us back in Edinburgh to take part in a massed piping event this time in Holyrood Park. The plan was to have 10,000 pipers taking part, and in the event we had nearly 8500! At the end of the event we formed one huge band and all played together – it would have been interesting to see how far the sound would have carried. We took advantage of the fact that we were close to Edinburgh to visit the Tattoo and watch someone else play bagpipes!
The following year in 2006, we were invited out by the Battle of the Somme pipe band based in Northern France to attend the 90th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of the Somme. We will never forget the atmosphere, standing by Lochnagar Crater at 7.30 in the morning of the 1st of July, 90 years to the minute, of hearing the sound of the pipes coming through the morning mist.
We attended a number of events over the next couple of days and it was very sobering to see the huge number of graves, all beautifully kept. Perhaps all politicians ought to visit the battlefields of Northern France at least once in their careers.
Bedford too has a particular connection with Scottish Soldiers who fought in the First World War. In 1914 and early 1915 Bedford was a transit and training camp for Scottish soldiers on the way to the front. Many of the men were billeted on local families in the town who welcomed them with open arms and many lasting ties were made with those who survived.
A few of us in the band wear the First World War uniforms of the pipers of the time which we use on special occasions.
A number of the soldiers unfortunately caught measles during their time in Bedford, and having no immunity succumbed to the disease before they got to the front. Every year, the Scots Society in Bedford holds a commemorative service, the week before Remembrance Sunday, to remember them.
In 2011 we made an important decision – to change the tartan that we wear! Our Black Watch, whilst very smart was a little drab, so with the kind permission of Struan Robertson, chief of the Clan Donnachaidh, we have made the change to Red Robertson.
This has been very well received, not only by members of the band, but also by the general public, and we look forward to the next 20 years!