Pipe Major Robert Fraser (1922 – 2012)
Pipe Major Fraser began playing the Great Highland Bagpipes at the age of 10, in the Arbroath Boys Brigade. He received free instruction from his tutors and was tasked with continuing on this philosophy as a way to keep this aspect of Scottish culture alive. He spent the rest of his life doing just that. On his arrival in Canada in 1957 he founded the Lord Selkirk Boy Scout Pipe Band and over the next 50 plus years continued to pass on his knowledge. Band practice was held every Saturday morning, while individual and group lessons were held at Mr. Fraser’s home almost every evening of the week. He never asked for payment. His reward was watching the generations of boys he taught turn into good citizens and members of the community, as well as musicians. That tradition of dedication and generosity continues with the band today, with no fees charged for lessons, equipment or uniforms.
Mr. Fraser actually started out as a drummer, thinking he would not be able to play the pipes because of injuries sustained in a fire as an infant that left both his hands and feet badly damaged, especially his right little finger, which he was unable to use. The doctors said he would never walk again, but he proved them wrong. Not only did he walk, he drummed, highland danced, and by the creativity of his pipe major, was able to learn the pipes by reversing the grip on the chanter. It was difficult at first, but he persevered. Mr. Fraser always encouraged the boys to learn highland dancing as well. as The dancing members of the LSBSPB have been a featured part of concerts and performances over the years.
In 2007 Mr. Fraser celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the LSBSPB (now known as the Lord Selkirk Robert Fraser Memorial Pipe Band) with his boys, both young and not so young. The LSBSPB spanned generations as well. Many fathers who learned to play the pipes or drums in the band returned with their sons years later to introduce them to Scottish culture and music. Some remained on as instructors and currently, all of the volunteer instructors are alumni.
Mr. Fraser served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War in many locations in the east including Tripoli, Cairo, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, from India to Jordan. Early on, he and his wife, Frances, lived on the Isle of Lewis where he played with the Lewis Pipe Band.
He was also Pipe-Major of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders and, after leaving the Cameron Highlanders in 1972, he formed the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg Pipe Band; a band whose membership was primarily alumni of the youth band. He served as their pipe-major until 2003.
Mr. Fraser was a successful printer by trade. It is the view of many, however, that his greatest contribution has been to the youth and culture of Manitoba and Canada. His nomination in 2010 for the CBC’s Champions of Change and advancement to the final 50 attests to this.
A humble, unassuming gentleman, Mr. Fraser will always be remembered for his lifetime commitment and dedication to the Lord Selkirk Boy Scout Pipe Band. He has shaped and influenced the lives of thousands of young men and their parents with patience, compassion, and kindness through instruction and example. Many of the graduates of the LSBSPB have gone on to successful careers in every walk of life and become exceptional citizens. As well, alumni of the LSBSPB can be found in pipe bands all around the country, in every grade up to and including the Grade 1 pipe bands Peel Police, Triumph Street and Simon Fraser University.
His legacy lives on in the Lord Selkirk RFM Pipe Band.