(1952 - )
Born on May 15, 1952, John Walsh was first introduced to the bagpipes in 1965 with the City of Bradford Pipe Band in England, his home town. Encouraged to take up music by his mother, a banjo player, John saw an advertisement in the local paper and decided to learn pipe band drumming. He went to practice only to be told that they didn’t have any drum sticks. He was given a practice chanter and a Logan’s Tutor and told to come back in six weeks. Over the next six weeks, John taught himself the scale and eventually learned the bagpipes.
Although known mainly a band player, John won some significant solo prizes, including the Strathspey & Reel event at The Argyllshire Gathering in Oban, Scotland. Through the years, John has played with numerous top quality pipe bands including the British Caledonian Airways Pipe Band and the Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band.
John moved to Toronto in 1980, having visited the city with the Shotts and Dykehead during one of the band’s trips to the Canadian National Exhibition to play in the Scottish World Festival Tattoo. He joined the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band in Toronto and he was a very influential pipe sergeant when in 1987 the band became the first non-Scottish band to win the Grade 1 World Pipe Band Championship. In 1991, John recorded his first CD, ‘Time to Spare’, available from Lismor Recordings.
An electronics engineer by trade, in 1989 after he left the 78th Fraser Highlanders, John started experimenting with pipemaking. He turned is attention to the ‘shuttle pipe,’ an instrument with a drone design similar to the French musette. He made his first set in Toronto, and became a full-time pipemaker in 1994. Since then he has expanded his product line to include smallpipes and, more recently, Great Highland Bagpipes. He enjoys world-wide trade of his instruments from his home in Antigonish, Nova Scotia – his wife Jean’s home town – where he and Jean operate a busy pipemaking and retail operation.
He is a member of the Ontario Judging Panel and was responsible for implementing a recognized Judging Test in the Maritime Provinces which is currently being used for new judges and upgrading existing judges.John was Pipe Major for three years of the former Halifax Regional Police Pipes and Drums the only Grade 1 pipe band in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. He rejoined the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band in the spring of 2001 and played for 3 seasons.
In December of 2004, he joined House of Edgar Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band, commuting internationally, and was with the band when they won the world championships in 2005. His tunes have featured in the repertoires of soloists and top-flight bands for many years, with his new material finding favour in Shotts and Dykehead’s current repertoire.
-with notes from the John Walsh Bagpipes website, and ‘John Walsh, Foremost Bagpiper’, in ‘Celtic Heritage’, June/July 1995, by Scott Williams.