Robert Blaikie was born in 1893 in Cambuslang, a community south east of Glasgow. He learned to play the pipes when he was in the Boy’s Brigade. As a teenager he served with the 6th Scottish Rifles. He and his older brother Jim, a drummer, emigrated to Canada, and found employment as railway carmen in Biggar, Saskatchewan in 1912. They were joined in 1913 by their mother, and little brother Archie. Their father had died in 1909 at the age of 41 as a result of a typhoid fever outbreak in Glasgow, where he worked as slater/plasterer, and served in the local volunteer fire brigade.
In the spring of 1914 his Scottish sweetheart Helen Boag followed him to Biggar, and they were married in June. August brought the beginning of the First World War, and in December Bob and his brother Jim signed up with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, a regiment raised in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. They played in the 1st CMR’s mounted pipes and drums.
After Camp Shorncliffe in southern England, they were deployed to France where they gave up their horses and became an infantry regiment. During the course of the war Bob was wounded in the leg, and on another occasion blinded for three weeks by an enemy gas attack. The hospital he was recovering in was bombed and he was found alive in the ruins.
Returning to Biggar in 1919, he was active in the the formation of what eventually became the Royal Canadian Legion. For many years he was the Pipe Major of the Biggar Pipe Band, a small band but very much a part of the town’s life. In 1939 Bob piped in the train as the King and Queen arrived in Biggar on their Royal Tour of Canada.
In 1961 Bob gave the practice chanter he had with him in the trenches to his 10 year old grandson Bill Blaikie in Winnipeg. Bill went on to play in the Lord Selkirk Boy Scout Pipe Band, and the Cameron Cadet Pipe Band, as did his younger brother Donald Blaikie. Bill joined the senior Cameron band in 1967, and was part of the Cameron contribution to the Canadian Army Pipe Band that played in the Edinburgh Tattoo of 1970. Later he was a founding member of the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg band, and even later played with the Air Command Pipes and Drums in Ottawa.
Bill’s daughter Jessica and son Daniel were pipers in the Transcona Pipe Band, and Daniel played for a few years with the Winnipeg Police Band.
Recently, Bill gave his 9 year old grandson Robert his first chanter lesson, playing the same chanter his grandfather Robert gave him over 60 years ago. Hopefully the tradition might continue.
|!st Canadian Mounted Division Pipe Band and Brandon, MB. 1915|
|At Camp Shorncliff, southern England, before departing for France.|
|!st Canadian Mounted in France. Bob in the back row with the "x" above his head.|
|In France. Bob Blaikie is kneeling beside the bass drum.|
|In front of the station in Biggar with his fellow railway carmen after piping for the King and Queen in 1939.
The sporran and the Cairngorm plaid broach he is wearing in this picture are still in the family.
|The Biggar Pipe Band playing in a local parade. Bob Blaikie at left.|
|Tuning his grandson Bill’s pipes in 1964 at his 50th wedding anniversary. Biggar Legion hall.|