The Lord Selkirk RFM Pipe Band is a well-known Canadian Grade 4 youth band with a distinguished history introducing generation after generation of young pipers and drummers to Scotland’s musical heritage. Established in 1957, the band has had a few name changes over the years, including the Lord Selkirk District Boy Scout Pipe Band, the Lord Selkirk Boy Scout Pipe Band, The Lord Selkirk Boys Pipe Band and finally The Lord Selkirk RFM Pipe Band. The most recent name change honours the founding father of the band, Pipe Major Robert Fraser. The pipe band, wearing the Ancient Douglas Tartan, fields a performance band and a competition band, all under the same banner.
While the band has mastered an extensive traditional repertoire, many other tunes are either composed or arranged by Pipe Major Robert Fraser and other celebrated Canadian pipers such as Bob Worrall, seven-time winner of the North American Professional Championship.
The Lord Selkirk RFM Pipe Band competes across Western Canada and plays in concerts and cultural events such as Folklorama, North America’s largest cultural festival. The band has travelled overseas to Scotland on a semi-regular basis ever 3-4 years since 1996.
Performance highlights over the years include playing for the British Royal Family. During the band’s Scotland trip in 2000, they were selected to meet Prince Charles from over 10,000 pipers and drummers in the Marie Curie Cancer Care 10,000 Piper March. The band also performed for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in Churchill, Manitoba in 1970. The current Lord Selkirk has hosted LSRFMPB on numerous occasions, both in Scotland at his estate at Lennoxlove and during his trips to Manitoba, most recently in the fall of 2013 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Selkirk Settlers arrival in Manitoba.
The band was started by Pipe Major Robert Fraser of Arbroath, Scotland (1922-2012) who came to Canada in 1957. When Mr. Fraser arrived in Winnipeg, the Manitoba Scout Council asked him to start a Boy Scout pipe band. According to Mr. Fraser, the band had humble beginnings and instructors whittled dummy chanters out of wood, drawing the finger holes in pen. The Cameron Highlanders loaned them a set of pipes in the 1960s and a donation from the Kiwanis finally enabled the band to buy bagpipes.
A professional printer by trade, Mr. Fraser served in the Royal Air Force and studied and taught piping from an early age. He was involved with The Boys Brigade in Scotland and was a member of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. In addition to starting the Lord Selkirk band, Mr. Fraser was also the founder and Pipe Major of the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg Pipe Band and the Pipe Major of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.
Mr. Fraser’s first piping instructor would not accept payment for teaching, and Mr. Fraser carried on that tradition gaving free instruction to thousands of Manitoba boys over the last 50 plus years. Mr. Fraser always insisted no boy should be left behind because of his family’s financial situation. All boys have their uniforms, instrument and travel expenses provided. Many have gone on to become accomplished pipers and drummers, teachers and judges in their own rite. A dedicated staff of alumni pipers and drummers volunteer their time each week to teach and practice with the boys.
The Lord Selkirk RFM Pipe Band is now in its 57th year. At the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2007, pipers and drummers from all over North America attended. Many credit Mr. Fraser’s personal example of musicianship and excellence in teaching, as well as his generosity and kindness with the band’s longevity and success.
Mrs. Frances Fraser
Mrs. Fraser was born in Manchester, England. She served in the W.R.A.F. during the war, where she met and married Mr. Bob Fraser. In 1957, Frances and Bob, along with their three children, moved to Canada, settling in Winnipeg. For thirty years Mrs. Fraser was the organizational backbone of the band. The behind-the-scenes contributions Mrs. Fraser made to the Pipe Band are immeasurable. She kept all the records and minutes of the Ladies Auxiliary meetings, helped with fundraising, supervised and cared for the boys on all the trips and opened her home for meetings and lessons on Monday nights. She was by Mr. Fraser’s side at every band trip and function.
Once, to prove that Mr. Fraser wasn’t the only piper in the family, Mrs. Fraser organized a Ladies Pipe Band complete with kilts made of garbage bags and coloured tape in the Douglas tartan pattern! Mrs. Fraser was an accomplished artist, and would often donate one of her paintings to be raffled off as a contribution to the band. Each October the Ladies Auxiliary held a Tea under her direction at the Fransiscan Friar on Edmonton Street, which was also a successful fundraiser.
Current Operation of the Band
The band currently has a parent committee that supports the instructors in the day to day administration of the band. The parent committee elects an executive board that handles individual portfolios including travel and performance, equipment and uniforms as well as fundraising.