Pipes and Drams
by Anna Starling (2006)
in consultation with members of the Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band and Invergordon Social Club
A tribute to the famous Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band, Anna Starling (nee Smith) based this mural on the layout of their first album’s cover. Although the mural depicts former Invergordon Castle in the background instead.
We were lucky to meet and talk with Kit Reynolds, one of the original band drummers, and Alisdair Macpherson whose father is the famous Drum Major Sandy Macpherson who is leading the band in the mural. You can hear them talking on our Invergordon Mural Trail App.
The tartan the Pipe Band wears is the Red Gordon and in order to use this tartan, permission had to be granted by the Marquess of Huntly.
The Pipe Band start to appear on the mural
Before photos and painting in progress
Here you can see the blank wall for the Pipes and Drams mural before any work started to take place. At the time this wall was the side of Noreen and Kelly’s shop which is included in The Way We Were mural.
Look out for the scaffolding for the Gather Round mural just across the street. During the summers of 2006 and 2007 there was often more than one artist painting a mural at a time. Everyone enjoyed watching the images appearing on the walls and seeing daily progress.
Pipes and Drams mural appearing on the wall
“The main focus of the mural is the Drum Major in the middle of the foreground. This was a deliberate compositional technique to draw the viewer’s eye into the painting. The Drum Major is based on a real piper Sandy MacPherson. I was given photos by his son to get the facial likeness as true as possible. I wanted the mural to appear as if the pipers are marching towards the viewer and that the Drum Major is about to step out onto the street.
It was very important for me to get the intricate details of the uniforms. One of the original drummers of the band Kit Reynolds leant me his tartan tunic so I could copy it exactly. The Invergordon Museum was also kind enough to loan me the mannequin dressed in the uniform of the Drum Major. This was an enormous help to get precision in the detail, particularly the silver mace which had delicate engravings on it.”
Anna Starling, 2006
“Anna spoke to some of the existing members and their families, finding out that some of them were left handed! She paid a visit to the Dornoch Pipe Band practice session in the Invergordon Social Club and even borrowed one of the museum exhibits for authenticity.
Anna added the long gone Invergordon castle to the background of her mural as the location was facing Castle road.
When creating this mural Anna was amazed at Invergordon hospitality with presents of soup and cake on a continual basis.
Considering Anna had previously only worked indoors on small scale bedroom murals she really came up to the mark in fulfilling this brief.”
Marion Rhind, Invergordon Off the Wall
The Dornoch Pipe Band let Anna and team watch them rehearse at the Invergordon Social Club, so that she could see how they hold their pipes and drums and how they walk. This helped her to get the detail for the final mural.
Pipes and Drams – artist’s interpretation
This mural was an exciting opportunity to pay tribute to a significant part of Invergordon’s history, that of the world famous Distillery Pipe Band. The band was formed in 1963 and won many European championships and indeed some of the members received prestigious international prizes and medals. This Invergordon band was the youngest of Scotland’s top grade bands and was placed in the prize list of every major championship during 1965.
I worked with the Invergordon Social and Recreational club and spent time chatting to members of the original Pipe Band to hear their stories and gather a sense of the history of the band. With such an impressive tale to tell I wanted to create a mural that was really eye catching and had a feeling of grandeur that I felt would express this bands incredible achievements.
The committee members overseeing this mural wanted me, as the artist, to pay close attention to detail and particularly to capture the tartan. I had been given the album cover from the band which showed the pipers on a gently slanting hill in front of a castle. I was struck at how vivid the elaborate uniforms of the pipers were against the vibrant green lawn. It was from this album cover that I was inspired to paint the pipers with the Invergordon Castle as a backdrop. This gave a sense of the grandeur I was looking for but also served as another reference to the history of the town as the castle no longer exists.
My vision for this mural was to create a piece of artwork that would really stand out from a distance in its vibrancy of colour, but would also work close up so that the viewer’s eye was drawn to the detail. I hope I have achieved what I set out to; I am certainly honoured by the amount of people who get their photo taken next to the Drum Major, it is a huge compliment!
Anna Starling (2006)
The Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band marching along the High Street
The History of the Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band
The band started in 1963, when the Distillery Production Manager, Will MacDonald, was given the go-ahead by Managing Director F.G. Thompson to form the pipe band. At the turn of the year 1964-1965, Pipe Major Donald Shaw Ramsay was appointed to lead the young band. He had significant experience as the youngest Pipe Major in the British Army, leading the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band and the City of San Francisco Pipe Band.
During 1964, the Pipe Band played before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, and in 1966 played before Her Majesty the Queen Mother.