our story

The band, MacKenzie Caledonian, or The Mac Cals as they are informally referred to, is a long established organisation based in the City of Dundee.  The band comprises of an adult band who compete in Grade 2 and a juvenile band competing in Novice Juvenile B.  The Mini Macs act as a feeder band for the adult band and run a teaching and development programme preparing youngsters for their future piping and drumming endeavours. 


  - THE BEGINNING​ - 1918

In 1918, James MacKenzie founded the MacKenzie Pipe Band, giving soldiers home from the war an outlet for their piping and drumming skills. He had seen war service with the Canadian Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and so the band adopted the badge of the Sutherland Highlanders and wore the MacKenzie tartan kilt along with small plaids, tartan hose and buckled shoes. They also wore horsehair sporrans, dress jackets, waistcoats and high collar shirts. In the earliest years, they wore black balmorals with black cock feathers.

In their early years the band was honoured to play for Edward the Prince of Wales during his visit to the City and at the opening of the Caird Hall in 1923. The band competed locally, mainly in the North East, and with the formation of the Scottish Pipe Band Association in 1930 (Now the R.S.P.B.A.) and improved transport, they started attending competitions further afield. 

Pipe Major Mackenzie led the band until 1925, and was followed by Harry Rattray until 1933. The band then spent time competing in the new S.P.B.A Grade 1 and Grade 2 competitions under Pipe Majors James Merchant (1933-38) and Adam Fleming. Born in Glasgow, Pipe Major Fleming came to the MacKenzie Pipe Band after 15 years with the City of Dundee Prize Pipe Band. He was highly regarded for his coaching and tuition, and remained with the MacKenzie for almost 20 years. During the Second World War he saw service with the R.A.M.C. and was taken prisoner at St Valerie in France. One of his sons, Angus was a serving Piper with the Scots Guards whilst another, Alexander, was a bass drummer with the MacKenzie. 


The Mac Cals have been ever present at the top of the pipe band tree since their inception with the majority of the time spent in Grades 2 and 1.  The band spent the majority of the 70s and 80s in Grade 2 with varying degrees of success but unfortunately through loss of key personnel, the adult band all but disappeared in the late 80s and early 90s.  During that time the flag was very much carried on by the juvenile section. 


  - THE MINI MACS - 1975

The Novice Juvenile band came into being in 1975  thanks to the drive and enthusiasm of Pipe Major J.K. Grimmond and his Executive Committee.  Since then have won every title available to them in their grade, including the World Championships in 1998.  Several of the players in that band are still playing with the adult band today.  The last few years have been particularly notable in the juvenile bands’ development, winning prizes regularly and, under the leadership and tutelage of Pipe Major Anne Spalding, continually training youngsters from scratch to the very highest of standards.  

Happily the adult section staged a recovery and reappeared in Grade 3 under the leadership of Pipe Major Allan Low and Leading Drummer George Black. George’s retiral due to ill health ushered in a change in the drum corps with it taking on the appearance, broadly, that plays and competes with the band today. Continued hard work produced rewards the following year, 2008, with the Mac Cals winning four out of five majors including the World Championships in Grade 3.


After promotion to Grade 2 there was another leadership change with Allan swapping places with Neil Nicholson as Pipe Major/Pipe Sergeant. The pair continue to work away to keep the pipe corps competitive. The change in Leading Drummer was also a planned but very public affair, with Barham Brummage handing over to Calum Burns mid-performance at Pitlochry Highland Games. Half way through the competitive performance, Barham and Calum swapped places literally and positionally and thus the new era was ushered in.  A dramatic entrance calls for an equally dramatic departure and Calum achieved this by leading the drum corps to the front of the band to march off from his last competition with the pipe band, again at Pitlochry games, in 2016. 

  - BACK IN GRADE 2 - 2009




With the drum corps now led again by Barham, new members working hard in the mid section and a solid pipe corps, the Mac Cal Grade 2 band are working towards the new season and will continually strive to improve and make great music.

Outside the competition circle the Mac Cals do a number of fund raising engagements throughout the year to raise the much needed funds essential to both bands’ maintenance.  Over the last year or so MacKenzie Caledonian has appeared at The Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh Castle, Gleneagles Hotel, Balbirnie House Hotel and a number of other prominent venues.  The Bands annually perform in City Square Dundee as part of their fund raising programme as well as showcasing their talents to their home crowd.  A feature of this day is always our President, Jim Mills haranguing the crowds through a megaphone saying quite rightly: “This is MacKenzie Caledonian. This is your local band.”




 James MacKenzie (1918-25)

Harry Rattray (1925-33)

James Merchant (1933-38)

Adam Fleming (1938-1958)

Amalgamation with Broughty Caledonian Band in 1958.

Pipe majors from then onwards- no details of dates

Jim Grimmond

William Barrie

Willie Dickson

Jim Grimmond (again)

Ian McRobbie

Jimmy Bayne

Ian McRobbie

Allan Low

Neil Nicholson (2013-







Jock Milne

Ralph Milne

Jim Mills

Dave Lyall

Billy McCombie

Dave Clark

Billy McCombie

Dave Miller

Crawford Allan

Dave Miller

John Moneagle

Jim Mills (2004)

George Black (2005-2007)

Barham Brummage (2007-2012)

Calum Burns (2012-2016)

Barham Brummage (2016-     

The MacKenzie Caledonian Pipe Band is a registered charity SC037251

For their continued support we would like to thank Michelin Athletic Club, Dundee City Council Education Dept, Michelin Tyres plc, The Queen's Hotel, The Gannochy Trust, The Alexander Moncur Trust, parents, partners and players.

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Images and text copyright MacKenzie Caledonian Pipe Band © 2017