Oldest piper is king of the Castle with special award

George Kerr has been piping since 1951
George Kerr has been piping since 1951
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A 90-YEAR-OLD thought to be the oldest marching piper in the world is to be recognised with a special award at Edinburgh Castle today.

At the invitation of Major Steven Small, director of army bagpipe music for Scotland, former RAF engineer George Kerr will tune up with massed pipe bands before the start of the Tattoo and will also receive a presentation in recognition of six decades of dedication to his chosen instrument.

The father of six, who now lives in Peterborough, was born in the Capital’s Beaverbank Place in August 1921 and went on to attend Canonmills primary and junior schools, and then Bellevue Secondary Modern.

After leaving school aged 14, he took a job as typewriter and adding-machine mechanic for Edinburgh-based supplier Leishman and Hughes.

“Everything had to be carried up three flights of stairs,” he said. “Two hundred machines would arrive at the company’s premises.

“I used to have to get a crate up and held in front of me, and across a wide pavement, through the shop, down a flight of stairs, across the front cellar, through another cellar and then stacked up high.

“It was a man’s work for a boy of 14 and paid ten shillings a week but I developed to such an extent that I thought nothing of it physically.”

Mr Kerr was called up for service with the RAF as an instrument repairer in 1941 and met his wife, Mona, who he married in 1943.

He returned to Edinburgh shortly after being demobbed from the RAF in 1946 but took the road south after struggling to find decent housing and found work with Perkins Engines of Peterborough. It was at this time that Mr Kerr was able to explore his long-held passion for the pipes.

“I’d always wanted to play since I was a member of the Boys’ Brigade,” he said, “but my parents wouldn’t allow it as they really wanted me to learn the piano accordion.Our garden in Peterborough was a mess and it was while I was working on it one day that I heard the pipes loud and clear. I was 30 and still passionate about the pipes.

“I found out it was the local pipe band practising outdoors. I found out where they practised and went along. That was in 1951. Since then, I have been, and still am, a member.”

Mr Kerr said the pipes had taken him to shows and competitions all over Europe, from the Czech Republic to southern Italy, but he said coming to his home city to perform was extra special.

“It means everything to me,” he said. “Although I left, I still have a passion for Edinburgh.”

Janette Tait, 57, Mr Kerr’s niece, said: “I think the reason he’s lasted so long with the pipes is because of his determination.

“We are very determined in our family and he has an inquisitive mind, which has kept him going.”