He won the World Pipe Band Championship in 1962 as Pipe Major of the 227 (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (TA) Pipe Band. But it was as Pipe Major of the Red Hackle Pipes and Drums, a band that won every championship except the World’s, that John Weatherston made his musical mark.
He came from humble beginnings in Glasgow and began piping in the Boys Brigade. He served in World War II with the 5th/6th HLI. He was the youngest Pipe Major in the British Army at the time. He later joined the Glasgow Shepherds under Pipe Major Archie McPhedran, playing alongside Donald MacPherson, a lifelong friend.
Two years after winning the World Championship with the 227 Argylls he was persuaded to take over the Red Hackle Pipes and Drums. The Red Hackle became one of the major prize-winning bands during the early 1970s.
However, it was the band’s various recordings that earned the band world-wide musical fame in the pipe band world. Weatherston borrowed instrumentation such as brass bands and organ commonly used in military pipe bands but virtually never used in recordings by competition pipe bands. “Red Hackle In Concert,” released in 1973, gave pipe bands a new take on studio work that has lasted to this day.
In 1950, he partnered with the great Robert Hardie to form R.G. Hardie & Company, the most successful bagpipe maker of its time. He took over complete control of the business after Hardie died in 1990.
John Weatherston died of cancer on March 2, 2003 at the age of 85.
JM, November 2017
-With notes from Piping Times, August 2003 and pipesdrums.com