Pipe Band Leader Don Patterson honoured with public plaque

On Saturday November 3 a crowd made up of the young and old came out to honour the late Don Patterson, who lead the Naracoorte Highland Pipe Band for forty years.

The event, an unveiling of a public plaque, featured speeches by Peter Grieve, whose family has a long history with the Caledonian Society, and Alan Schinckel, who plays the bass drum in the band.

Current Pipe Major Ed Coventry played a tune that he had composed, titled “Pipe Major Don Patterson.”

Peter Grieve welcomed those in attendance to a “small but important ceremony”, before passing the microphone to Alan Schinckel. 

Alan reflected on the incredible achievement Don had undertaken, being the Pipe Major for decades.

“The Pipe Major in the Naracoorte Highland Pipe band has complete control of the band and its functioning,” he said.

“He drives the direction of the Band - musically through practices and appearances and in general management. This is quite unusual, as most organisations have a President and Committee to make decisions. We still do - but basically the way the band operates is up to the Pipe Major. He has a huge influence on the image of the band.”

Erika Vickery was in attendance as a representative for the council, and also as a former friend of Don’s. 

“It is a lot of persistence, and a lot of dedication, to one organisation,” she said of Don’s commitment to the Pipe Band.

As well as having a lot of respect within the community, Don was well-respected overseas, with his playing at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo putting the Naracoorte Highland Pipe Band “on the map”.

At home, the Pipe Band is part of the fabric of the community, their stirring music being heard at Australia Day, ANZAC Day, at Christmas, and at other events. 

Don received the Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award from the District Council of Naracoorte in 1996, and Ms Vickery revealed that there had been discussions within local government whether or not to give him another award for his services.

“No, no, I don’t do it for all that – I just love it,” Don had told her of his work in piping and the community.

Once Ed Coventry’s tune was played for Don, a tartan blanket was drawn away to reveal a plaque in his honour, at a park bench near the War Memorial.

To mark the occasion, as well as the Naracoorte Highland Pipe Band paying their respects, there were also representatives from Mount Gambier, Horsham, Adelaide, and Warrnambool.

Tim McLeod, of Pipe Bands Victoria, and Craig Masson, of Pipe Bands South Australia, were two other high profile audience members.

Once the unveiling had concluded, everyone was invited back to the Town Hall for music, dancing, toasts, and an open bar. The ceilidh was not only to celebrate Don, but also mark 70 years of the Naracoorte Highland Pipe Band. At 6pm there would be a dinner at Billy Mac’s, and everyone was invited to join that as well.