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Final parade for Sutherland drummer (76) after 61 years playing in pipe bands

By Caroline McMorran

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A BONAR Bridge drummer who has been involved in pipe bands for 61 years, both as a player, tutor and manager, has performed in her last parade.

Former police officer Ruby MacDonald (76) hung up her drum sticks after taking part in a massed pipe bands at the Tattoo Metagama in Stornoway earlier this year.

Also playing at the event were her son Ross (47) and grandson Ryan (13).

Ruby MacDonald’s son Ross and grandson Ryan are carrying on the family tradition.
Ruby MacDonald’s son Ross and grandson Ryan are carrying on the family tradition.

“It was a wonderful final parade for me, playing alongside my family and 250 other pipers and drummers,” she said.

Ruby joined her father Alex Ross in 1962 as a drummer in the Ardgay-Bonar Pipe Band, aged just 15.

In 1969, aged 22, she joined the Ross and Sutherland Constabulary and was stationed in Dornoch, moving to Dingwall in 1972 to set up a Community Involvement Department there. All the while, she continued to play with the band.

She married her husband Norman, a native Gaelic speaker whom she met at police college, in 1974 and transferred to the Inverness Constabulary before its amalgamation into the Northern Constabulary.

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The couple moved to Barvas in Lewis in 1980 and Ruby joined Lewis Pipe Band as their drum sergeant and tutor – a position currently held by Ross.

In 1984 the family moved on to Benbecula where Ruby formed the Uist Pipe Band, which incorporated some very talented musicians. Ross was then aged just eight and joined the band as a side drummer.

Norman was posted back to Dornoch in 1987 and Ruby reconnected with the Ardgay-Bonar Pipe Band.

She also became a leading member of the Ross-Sutherland Music Group which took local musical groups across parts of Europe to showcase Scottish culture. And she also organised pipers and drummers to play for cruise ships docking at Invergordon.

In 1995 Ruby, along with other dedicated musicians, including Andrew Watt, Tain, became instrumental in the resurrection of the Tain Pipe Band, succeeding in attracting sponsorship from Harrods of London. She maintained a leading role with Tain Pipe Band until this year.

Ruby has served as a drumming instructor for the Sutherland Schools Pipe Band alongside George Stewart from Golspie, and at various times in her illustrious career, played in bands such as Dornoch, Dingwall RBLS, Inverness RBLS, Tayforth Officer Training Corps, either as a snare or bass drummer.

Ross and Ryan are carrying on the family tradition, playing both bagpipes and drums. Ross has played with a number of top pipe bands and competed at the highest level in competition, as well as taking part in the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh both as piper and drummer. Ross currently leads the drum corps in the Lewis Pipe Band and Ryan is now playing drums in competition with the Lewis & Harris Youth Pipe Band.

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