Bagpipes that travelled from England to South Africa and found a home in Lochaber

David Bentley at a Warrington Pipe Band display about 60 years ago. Photograph: David Bentley

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A set of bagpipes donated to Lochaber Schools’ Pipe Band has had a long journey across multiple countries before they found themselves here.

The pipes belonged to David Bentley who bought them when he lived in Warrington in the 1950s and began playing the bagpipes.

His interest in the instrument came out of trying to help a health issue and getting in touch with his roots.

David explained: ‘As a youngster I had very bad asthma and in my early teens decided that I needed to strengthen my lungs. As my father’s family were from Paisley, it was easy to decide on playing the pipes.

‘I joined the Warrington Pipe Band in 1954 when I was about 15/16 years old. After an initial period learning the chanter and understanding the music, I decided to buy my own pipes. These were purchased second hand from an elderly piper living in Warrington.’

John MacDonald presents the historical bagpipes to Margaret MacMaster of Lochaber Schools’ Pipe band. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

Mr Bentley played with other bands such as the Liverpool Scottish Pipe Band when the pipes would be transported on the back of a motorbike for some of their bigger duties.

He also had some experience with the Scouts, saying: ‘In 1957 I piped in a sub-camp of Scouts at the Jubilee Jamboree held in Sutton Park near Birmingham.

‘I moved to Wales about 1962 and while still attached to the Scout movement I was greatly honoured to be piper to Sir Charles Maclean – who was Chief Scout at that time – during his visits to the principality.’

The Chief Scout was the 27th Chief of Clan Maclean and Mr Bentley would play the pipes at events when Sir Charles was in the North of Wales.

The bagpipes in their original box need some restoration but should play well. Red triangles were to give more visibility in the dark when the pipes were on the back of a motorbike. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

When David went to work in South Africa, the pipes went with him and he last played them to welcome in the new year of 1987.

Later that year he returned to the UK and now lives in Derbyshire with his wife.

The couple are passionate about Scottish country dancing and have recently returned from a trip to Tenerife where they were dancing with others.

The Warrington Pipe Band would regularly do displays in the town as well as competing in competitions. Mr Bentley played the donated pipes during this time. Photograph: David Bentley

These trips are where Mr Bentley met John MacDonald who told him that the Lochaber Schools’ Pipe Band always needed new equipment and – after a move of house that led to a clear out – David gave the pipes to John.

After some refurbishment, the pipes will find a home with one of the dozens of pupils receiving piping tuition from instructors like Margaret MacMaster who accepted the pipes on behalf of the school.