Treasure Trove – McCorkindale pipers

Yesterday I spent hours trawling through Trove again as much has been updated since I last spent a lot of time there. I decided to hunt for my grandmother’s brother(s) who were excellent bagpipe players. I’d found a couple of articles the old-fashioned way by winding through hours of microfilm but Trove turned up much more.

Peter McCorkindale later Pipe-Major Brisbane Caledonian Society

Peter McCorkindale and his older brother Duncan emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland to Sydney in 1900 on board the Ormuz (first found on Findmypast). The family story goes that they were sent away to stop them from marrying cousins -something that didn’t work at all, because they married in Australia! Unbeknown to me, they already had relations in Australia -an uncle who had lived in England for some years before emigrating. I really only found this out by searching for more information on Duncan’s wife, Ida McCorquodale. (yes, different spellings, same family!)

But back to Trove. What I found was the diverse involvement of these brothers in bagpiping events in quite diverse places. In 1906 Duncan & Peter are found competing in the Goulburn Highland gathering in NSW where they took out the 1st (Duncan) and 2nd (Peter) prizes in pibrochs, Marches (1st -Duncan & 3rd -Peter); strathspeys and reels (1st-Duncan).

By the mid-1920s Duncan has moved to Canberra where he was Supervisor of the Joiner’s Section at the Kingston Power House during the construction and establishment of our national capital. Images of him are on the National Archives of Australia webpages ( A3560, 587). During his few years there he was obviously an early participant in the Canberra Burns Club when he judged the piping events at the first Highland Gathering there on 21 February 1925. (Found on Trove from Federal Capital Pioneer  February 1925 page 5). He was again judge of the piping events in 1927 (The Canberra Times 3 March 1927, page 3). A year later he was killed in a tragic car accident in Sydney (clipping from my grandmother’s files & also at Trove from The Advertiser 23 November 1928 page 15).

Meanwhile Peter had moved to Queensland on the arrival of his mother and other siblings as well as his wife-to-be. He once again was competing in various local events in Queensland. In 1914 and 1915 he competed in the Dalby Caledonian Society events with some success but many years ago I found a reference to a 1917 performance at Dalby when he won 6 firsts in piping and dance and 3 second places. He plainly was not as good a dancer as piper but his rivals must have resoundingly wished him back in Glasgow (available through Trove but the scan has given poor results due to the print -I need to go back in and correct them). Mr R Kennedy seems to have been his biggest rival throughout this time. (The Brisbane Courier 28 May 1914, 4 June 1915, 9 June 1917).

Peter was featured on the wireless (radio, to the youngsters among us) programme for 5 January 1927, playing a range of bagpipe melodies. (Cairns Post 5 January 1927, page 4).

McCorkindale pipers-I assume Peter is the one in the middle and the others are either brothers, or friends/colleagues. Jam Session in Brisbane.

By the 1930s Peter was heading towards his sixties, and was then Pipe Major for the Brisbane Caledonian Society and his name appears more regularly in the newspaper searches:

1. An Easter party for the children of the Engineers, Tunnelers, Signals & Railways Units Association of the AIF (The Courier Mail 6 April 1936)

2. A visit with the band to Rosemount Hospital to entertain the Digger (soldiers) patients with bagpipes, marching and national dancing  (The Courier-Mail 2 May 1939)

3. Led the Band at the Annual Ball for the Brisbane Caledonian Society and Burns Club (The Courier-Mail 26 August 1939)

4. A concert for the Manly-Lota sub-branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League (The Courier-Mail, 18 Sept 1939); a concert to aid the Queensland Bush Children’s Health Scheme (The Courier-Mail 17 Nov 1939); a Christmas concert for the Presbyterian Home for Aged Men (The Courier-Mail 12 Dec 1939); supporting the Wynnum ambulance centre (The Courier-Mail 10 Feb 1940 page 9)

5. Concerts to support the War effort at Wynnum and Bardon (The Courier-Mail 8 May 1940, page 14 and 9 Sept 1940, page 10)

In 1941 the Brisbane Caledonian Society Band received its third win at the 69th gathering of the Warwick Caledonian Society. Was Peter still Pipe Major? We don’t know but he did win “Best dressed bandsman” – a bit of a come-down perhaps from his glory days. (The Courier-Mail 27 Dec 1941 page 7)

No doubt there are other references in the papers to his piping expertise but the OCR isn’t always perfect and some of these may require more inventive searching. Strangely enough, despite Duncan & Peter’s piping successes, my father always said that their brother Malcolm was the better player but he was more nervous in performances.

When Peter died in 1945, the Brisbane Caledonian Society & Burns Club band members were invited to attend and wear full dress. It would have been quite spectacular I think, and very moving.

I hope I’ve given you some sense of how these Scottish immigrants contributed to their new communities and just how many family history “pearls” are contained within the Trove treasure box. The photos here came from my father’s cousin many years ago.

5 thoughts on “Treasure Trove – McCorkindale pipers

  1. Thanks for posting this fascinating article about Peter McCorkindale. My great-great-grandfather Andrew Dryden was also a Pipe-Major in Brisbane, at an earlier time than your Peter.. he died in 1926. I’d love to find a photo of him in full dress kilt like the one that you have. Regards, Rachel


    1. hi Rachel, my Peter was playing then so it’s quite likely that Andrew was Pipe Major before Peter. I was at John Oxley last week and was told they are doing a display on Qld bands in April or so…worth keeping an eye out for, for both of us. Cheers



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