Although the Scots tradition reaches back to the earliest days of Warrnambool when the numerous Scots immigrants formed the Western Caledonian Society, which held Highland Games in the 1850’s, a pipe band was not formed in Warrnambool until January 1906. At this time, members of the Caledonian Society and Scots community in and around Warrnambool, determined that Scots music should play a prominent place at future holiday gatherings, and that highland music should be popularised. As a result the Warrnambool Pipe Band was formed in January 1906, with its purpose being to popularise Scottish music. There were twelve inaugural members in the Warrnambool Pipe Band when it was first established, and all of these were pipers.
Simon Fraser, the original Pipe Major, held the position from 1906 until 1910, and he was also the Pipe Tutor. The President of the band was the same as the President of the Caledonian Society. The most public appearance that the band made was in 1906 at the Easter Monday Gathering, which was a Highland Gathering held each year by the Caledonian Society.
The band’s tartan is now the Anderson Tartan, which was chosen as it was attractive, however the original tartan was the Gordon tartan and in 1946 the tartan was changed to the Cameron of Erracht.
The Band has had several changes of title, and the current title, Warrnambool and District Pipes and Drums Inc. as chosen to reflect the importance of the both pipes and drums and to indicate that members come from the surrounding district as well as from Warrnambool itself.
The Warrnambool Pipe Band was always mentioned in the Warrnambool Standard reports as having led the march from the Town hall to the Friendly Society’s Park from, 1906 to 1915, but from 1916 there is no mention of the band in the Warrnambool Standard, and lacking other evidence it can be assumed that First World War resulted in the band falling into recess by late 1916 or early 1917, most probably the former.
By 1935 Australia was beginning to climb out of the depression and it is assumed that about May 1935 the band was reformed.The reformation came about when members of the Caledonian Society called for a meeting of interested people, with the intention of forming a pipe band. They decided to reform the band as it was felt it would be a” wonderful asset” for Warrnambool and district. By 1940 the band was out of operation again due to the Second World War, and was not reformed again until 1946. At which time the Caledonian Pipe band was formed and in the early 1950’s a Ladies Pipe Band began.
In 1971 these bands affiliated and were called the Warrnambool Combined Pipe band and amalgamation was completed in 1973 with the band adopting the Anderson Tartan and being renamed the Warrnambool and District Pipe Band. The band’s name became the Warrnambool and District Pipes and Drums Inc. in 1984. The year that Warrnambool and District Pipes and Drums is thought to have joined the Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association was in 1946 and it has maintained continuous membership since then.
The years of greatest membership were 1988, 1989, and 1990 when there were ninety six members, and the year in which there was the lowest membership, which is known about, is 1906 when the band was formed and there were twelve members. The membership from the band is not generally drawn locally, as members are from all over the western district of Victoria, and beyond. The greatest distance regularly traveled by members to practice is more than 250 kms.
The types of engagements attended by the Warrnambool and District Pipes and Drums are concerts, street parades, band competitions, dinners, official functions, shows and fetes and pipers attend weddings and funerals. The regularity of these engagements varies according to the time of the year, and the types of engagements attended are fairly evenly spread, also depending on the time of the year.
Members of the band who are noted as long serving and, or, noteworthy are as follows. Allan Ingram who was brought out from Scotland by the band and was Pipe Major from, 1964 until 1982, Rex Johnstone who was Pipe Major and was in the band from 1946 until 1969, Basil Brodie who was the bass drummer for twenty eight years and Orrie Brodie, a piper for twenty eight years. Also noted are the Champion piper Jack Fraser who was with the band from 1906 until 1910. Simon Fraser who was the first Pipe Major and Pipe Tutor, and was an expert on the Piorbaireachd, and Eric Sheppard for his services as a piper in the band from 1946 until 1966. Ernest Scullion, 1983 All-Ireland Senior Solo Drumming Champion, 1984 Juvenile Solo Drumming World Champion and 1991 Senior Drumming Ulster Champion, is noted for improving the standard of the drum corps during his short period as Drum Tutor and Leading Drummer. In 2005 the band was fortunate to gain the services of Steven McWhirter, another Champion Drummer who in 2006 won the World Solo Drumming Championship.
Donald Blair has held the position of Pipe Major and Pipe Tutor since 1982. Under his direction both the band and individual pipers have competed successfully at many competitions. It was also under Donald’s direction that the band commenced its “Celtic Concert” which has been held annually in Warrnambool since 1992.
Today the band regularly competes with distinction in all parts of Victoria and interstate with many members also successfully competing in solo contests. The band success began in 1982 with a win in the Victorian Juvenile championships. In 1994 the band was placed 3rd in the juvenile championships. It then went on to win the grade 2 Australian Championship in 1992, Grade 4 Victorian and South Australian Championship in 1999 and 2nd in the grade 3 championship in 2000. In 2001 and 2004 the band went on to win both the Victorian and Australian championships for grade 3, and were successful at the New Zealand Pipe Band Championships in the same year.
WADPADI has also become a leader in the educational field of piping and drumming, and since 2001 has conducted its South West Coast Piper Drummer workshops in April featuring highly respected overseas tutors.
Recently, the band celebrated a centenary of the formation of a pipe band in Warrnambool.