Major Gordon MacDonald Rowan has been described as a world authority on military pipes and drums and as such has been awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2022.
Major Rowan, 50, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (SCOTS), whose career as an infantry piper has spanned almost 35 years, became Director Army Bagpipe Music at the Army School of Bagpipe and Drumming in Edinburgh in 2017. During his tenure, Major Rowan has supervised the training of over 500 pipers and drummers from 17 British Military Pipes and Drums bands, and there is also interest to train at the school from students from as far as Singapore and Canada.
“When the Commanding Officer called me in and told me of the award I was bowled over. This is something you don’t expect and that is not why we do this. We do it to preserve the music, we do it to preserve the traditions of our Scottish regiments and all those regiments that have pipes and drums. We select the best to come to the Army school to train as pipers and drummers of the future.
“The school trains people to play pipes from scratch right up to the All Arms Pipe Major’s Course which is 28 weeks long and the same for the drumming. Playing pipes and drums is a secondary role for soldiers, they may be infantrymen, tank crew or signallers. It can take almost two years to become a Pipe Major.”
Major Rowan’s prowess and experience has enabled him to galvanise every aspect of this unique field of military music providing training teams to deploy across the world from the Middle East to the South Pacific.
His citation says: “He is regarded by organisations across the world as the authority for military piping and protocol. He has sustained and developed a global centre of excellence that enhances the Army’s reputation at home and abroad.”
Apart from his position with the school, he has played a critical role in State Ceremonial events and will be playing a significant part in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant being responsible for the selection and assurance of piping to Her Majesty but Major Gordon is no stranger to the Queen, having met her last year when he played the bagpipes at a barbecue held at Balmoral.
“To receive the award in this Platinum Jubilee year is something spectacular, it’s still a shock. When you give your life to the preservation of music, it is a privilege to be recognised for it.”
Born on the Isle of Tiree he was taught to play the bagpipes as a young boy by Islander and war veteran Alasdair Sinclair and music is a real family affair as his wife Mairi plays keyboard and sings, whilst sons Kyle, 20, and Alan, 22, also play pipes.
“When I left the Island to join the Army, I never expected be in the honourable position of Director of Army Bagpipe Music. You give your whole career to get to the top and to receive this award is something I will cherish.”
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