Pipe Major: Robert Rankin
Phone: +27 82 897 8571
The East London Caledonian Society Pipe Band is the second oldest Caledonian Society Pipe Band in South Africa, Pietermaritzburg Caledonian Society Pipe Band being one year older.
Our parent body, The East London Caledonian Society, is the oldest extant Caledonian Society in Southern Africa, founded in 1876. We also have a long association with the Buffalo Volunteer Rifles (formerly Kaffrarian Rifles) which regiment was also founded in 1876.
The idea of an East London Caledonian Society Pipe Band was first proposed in 1899. In 1903 Colonel Cumming volunteered to form a Scottish Company in the Kaffrarian Rifles if 100 volunteers came forward and the Regiment would supply all equipment for the Band. 100 volunteers did come forward and two pipers were kitted out.
From this small beginning grew East London’s first Pipe Band, the Kaffrarian Rifles Pipe Band, which was disbanded shortly before the outbreak of World War 1.
In 1920 the Chief of the East London Caledonian Society, James Forbes, and his twin brother, John, collected the musicians and formed the East London Caledonian Society Pipe Band.
In the 94 years since then, the only recess in our activities was during World War 2 when the members were away on active service; having first led the Kaffrarian Rifles to East London Station when they departed for active service in North Africa.
The Band has a long history of service to the City and in 1923 led the parade at the unveiling of the Cenotaph in Oxford Street. The Band has also served as the Pipe Band for SAS Port Rex and we still have the R.N.V.R. Drum Major’s mace and sash which the Band “forgot to sign back” when the Royal Navy handed over to the South African Navy.
The East London Caledonian Society Pipe Band is unique in being the only Caledonian Society Pipe Band that is a full member (corporate) of its parent Society and in being the “unofficial official” Pipe Band to a Regiment. The historical ties run deep and the Band’s official tartan, MacKenzie, is the regimental tartan of the Kaffrarian Rifles / Buffalo Volunteer Rifles. Both affiliations are based on nothing stronger than a gentlemen’s agreement.
The Band and individual members have competed across the country and have had the honour of being judged the best Caledonian Society Pipe Band at the Royal Scottish Gathering. Members, including the Pipe Major Robert Rankin, have competed in Scotland as members of the S.A. Scots and paraded at the Edinburgh Tattoo by invitation of Cape Town Highlanders.
We are looking forward to our centenary in 2020 and invite you to celebrate the occasion with us.