Articles / Charlie McNeill

 Charlie McNeill Memorial

At the passing of one of Seattle's most dedicated piping supporters, it seems appropriate to include a remembrance and provide a little background on someone with whom those new to the Seattle piping and drumming community may not be familiar.

Charlie's piping career began with the Boys' Brigade in Glasgow. With the advent of World War II, he became a piper in the Highland Light Infantry. His brother, Jimmy, joined the Royal Navy and when Jimmy made the move to the United States, Charlie followed. Jimmy was the Pipe Major of the Seattle Pipe Band and after Jimmy passed away, Bill Guthrie assumed that position. When Bill stepped down from the role of Pipe Major, the band nearly fell apart.

As with so many other things, Charlie kept the band going and stepped into the Pipe Major position. The band wore the MacKenzie tartan and full dress uniforms, including a feather bonnet with a green plume (the green plume being the distinction of the Highland Light Infantry). Charlie also takes credit for bringing new life to the Tacoma Highland Games when it was in danger of failing, and subsequently turned it into one of the most friendly and enjoyable games held in the Northwest.

Charlie also revived the Seattle Piping Society when it was about to fold, and kept it going for many years. *The Seattle Piping Society went on to become our Washington Pipers' Association, continuing the tradition of an organized piping community in Seattle that Charlie helped to build and cared for so much. Last year, to honor his many contributions, the WPA presented Charlie with a plaque for his outstanding service.

In 1995 Charlie realized a lifelong dream with the founding of the Northwest Junior Pipe Band. This was the beginning of a viable and ever-improving group of junior musicians. The band completed a very successful 1999 season, performing and competing at several Scottish highland games in the Pacific Northwest. The Northwest Junior Pipe Band has since announced plans to compete at the World Pipe Band Championships in 2008.

Dedicated to the end, Charlie more recently stepped in to help rejuvenate the Shorecrest High School Pipe Band. His no-nonsense attitude and unflagging expectation of hard work had many students sitting up straight and taking note. He will be surely missed by these young students who knew him for only a short time.

Though Charlie has always kept a low profile and avoided drawing attention to himself, his humility, matched with an unforgiving teaching style and pure Glasgow piping, were all old-school. Charlie taught hundreds of pipers through the years and there isn't a piper or drummer in the Northwest who hasn't benefited in some way from his efforts.

Thank you, Charlie, for your devotion to the youth of Seattle, Scottish heritage, and our future. You were an outstanding individual.


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