R. U. Brown Piobaireachd Society of S.A

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History of the Society

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Robert U Brown in uniform of Sovereign's Piper. Painted by piper Victor Herman.

The R U Brown Piobaireachd Society of South Australia Inc. was formed to honour the memory of the late Pipe Major Robert Urquhart Brown, MBE, of Balmoral, Scotland who visited Australia in 1972.

Brown was born on 1st May 1906 and began piping under William Fraser at the age of 10. He was employed as a piper and ghillie at the Balmoral Estate and in 1928 was sent along with Bob Nicol to John MacDonald, MBE (Inverness) for lessons up until 1939. During the war years, he was Pipe Major of the 5th/7th Battalion Gordon Highlanders.

Known for his fluidity of style Brown won the Gold Medal for Piobaireachd at the Northern Meeting-Inverness in 1928 and at the Argyllshire Gathering-Oban in 1931.

Unfortunately, on his way to Australia, Bob suffered from thrombosis in the leg which proved to be troublesome but initially seemed to respond to treatment. However, after judging in Hobart, Tasmania at the Australian Championships, he was forced to abandon his tour and return to Scotland where he died a few days after arriving at his home.

During his stay with us here in Adelaide, Bob repeatedly expressed a wish that we should regularly come together and play, not in the spirit of a competition, but just to listen and enjoy all types and levels of pipe music. Shortly after his death, all who had attended his tutorials were called together. The first meeting of attendees at the tutorials decided to fulfil Bob Brown’s wish and so a Society was formed bearing his name. Ewen Masson, OAM (also Chief of the Australian Pipe Band Association) was unanimously elected President and Hamish Mackenzie the position of Principal of Piping. It was with Hamish that Bob stayed during his time in Adelaide, as they had known each other back in Scotland where Hamish and his father, Donald Iain Mackenzie (Gold Medallist- Inverness 1912, Oban 1936) had also been taught by John MacDonald of Inverness.

Browns’ teaching can be heard on the Masters of Piobaireachd collection of CD’s. These include some of his tutorials held here in Adelaide in 1972 and are an invaluable reference source.

Each month pipers gather to perform and socialise, or to attend tutorial evenings. In addition to a number of local competitions, a major competition /recitals and tutorials are held in May of each year where internationally renowned competitors vie for the R U Brown Gold Medal for Piobaireachd Playing. This is now regarded as one of the premier piping events in the Sothern Hemisphere.