Emmanuel College, though not strictly a ‘Scottish College’, has many long established ties to Scotland through former (and current) principals, council members and students. For many of its 100 years in existence, Emmanuel College has enjoyed a ‘College Piper’. Since 1998, the Emmanuel College Council and the Emmanuel College Foundation have been instrumental in the formation and development of the University of Queensland Pipe Band. This support continues today and Professor Stewart Gill, Principal of Emmanuel College, is the patron of the band.
Prior to the official formation of the band, there was a long-standing interest in developing a pipe band within the college. The enthusiasm and energy for this project came primarily from former college principal, Angus Edmonds.
In 1998, interest in forming a pipe band culminated and Angus Edmonds invited Pipe Major Andrew McCabe to become a senior residential assistant at the college with the special task of forming and organising a pipe band. In February of the same year, Andrew McCabe set up a stall in the university’s Great Court during the University of Queensland’s Orientation Day. At the end of the day, 67 students had signed up as interested in joining or supporting the band.
The band originally formed as the Emmanuel College – University of Queensland Pipe Band and at its creation had eight pipers and five drummers. At this time there were five students learning the drums and 15 learning chanter. Emmanuel College was able to secure the support of two of the best tutors in Australia, Doug Thoresen and Doug Lawrie.
At this time, the Emmanuel College Foundation promised a donation of $2,000 towards equipment for the band. Additionally, the Western Australian Police Pipe Band donated 14 kilts of the Napier tartan.
The pipe band’s first official performance was at the Emmanuel College Bannockburn Dinner on 21 May 1998. This is an annual dinner rewarding members of the college for their services to the college and the community.
The band took part in Brisbane’s ANZAC Day March for the first time in 1999, proudly leading the ’N’ Class Destroyers Association. The association had requested that the band play for them after one of the members saw the band perform at Ormiston House.
Another reason for their interest is that one of the ’N’ Class destroyers was the HMAS Napier, and the band wears the Napier tartan.
The band first competed at the 2000 Maclean Highland Gathering, just two years after forming. They competed in Grade 4 and received the 3rd highest point score.
Between 2001 and 2004, the band grew and expanded its range. More regular events appeared on the band’s calendar—particularly more competitions such as the Ipswich and Redlands Highland Gatherings. During this time the Emmanuel College Council and Foundation provided an enormous amount of support for the band including a donation of $4,500. A donation of $3,000 from the Society of St Andrew of Scotland (Queensland) paid in part for 18 new kilts to be ordered.
Some memorable performances from this period include the University of Queensland’s ’90th Year of Lectures’ celebrations, the Society of St Andrew’s Ball, and the University of Queensland great court race.
In 2003, the Emmanuel College Pipe Band released an original CD, entitled The White and the Blue, featuring performances from the band, Celtic-rock group Celtic Fyre and the Emmanuel Singers. The CD was featured on national radio.
Currently, the band plays a large variety of performances, including:
In 2008 the name of the band changed to ‘The University of Queensland Pipe Band at Emmanuel College’ (or more simply the ‘UQ Pipe Band’). The name change reflects that the band, though heavily associated with Emmanuel College, is really a part of the wider University of Queensland and Brisbane communities.
From late 2009 the band changed focus and began preparing for its biggest year yet. Throughout 2010 the band competed in more competitions than ever before and for the first time competed at the Australian Pipe Band Championships in Grade 4. In late 2010 and 2011 many band members attended the Noosa Pipe Band Workshop to improve their performance ability.
The band competed at the 2012 Australian Pipe Band Championships in Ballarat, Victoria and won 4th place. In May 2012 the band won the Queensland Pipe Band Championships for the first time.
Retaining their title of Queensland champions, the band won the Grade 4 competition at the Queensland Pipe Band Championships at Ipswich in 2013.
On the back of a hard working contingent of members, the band embarked to Scotland in August 2013. This successful tour saw the band represent Queensland and Australia and coming home with four trophies, winning the Grade 4 events at both the Dundonald and the Perth Highland Games. They also competed at the World Pipe Band Championships at the Glasgow Green.
Pipe Bands Australia upgraded the band to Grade 3 for the 2014 Queensland competition season following their successes in recent years.