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Rector's Assembly Address

Leavers' Assembly // Friday 15 March 2019

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Tuhia ki te rangi
Tuhia ki te whenua
Tuhia ki te ngākau ō ngā tangata
Ko te mea nui, Ko te Ātua
Ko te Ātua, Ko te āroha
Tihei mauriora.
Tena koutou tena koutou
Tena koutou katoa.

A very warm welcome to you all to our Founders’ Day assembly when we remember those whose vision for our College over 100 years ago laid the Foundation for the vibrant, inclusive school we enjoy today.

A special welcome to Mr Bryan Pearson Board Chair, Mr Rob Bruce-Barron, Mr Richard Hawke, Ben Murray, leaver of 2013 and Mr Jonathan Wells, President of the Old Collegians’ Association. It is interesting to note that three of these gentlemen Mr Hawke, Mr Wells and Ben Murray are all previous Pipe Majors of the St Andrew’s Pipe Band, and of course this is very relevant in the year when we are celebrating our Pipe Band centenary. Over 400 pipers, drummers and supporters, present and past, are gathering this weekend to reminisce and honour 100 years of this part of our College fabric and culture that has contributed so much to who we are as a community.

On Founders’ Day weekend it is also a tradition that a year group of Old Collegians gather to share memories and friendships that have continued over 60 years.

This year 47 gentlemen who began their 3rd form year (year 9) in 1959 are gathering for their reunion and a number of them are with us at this morning’s assembly. 

Most students of St Andrew’s College, by the time they finish their schooling, have come to recognize the importance of the pipe band and to admire the commitment, discipline, musicality and talent of those who learn the pipes and drums and who perform and compete at so many occasions throughout each year.

Today St Andrew’s College has over 130 students learning the pipes and drums and they join an impressive number of many Old Collegians who have been a part of the St Andrew’s College pipe band family.

The story of how the StAC pipe band developed into the best College pipe band in the nation and then became Juvenile World Champions is one that follows the history of our college. Unsurprisingly it is a story of some dedicated, selfless, passionate and determined people who have felt enormous pride in being part of the pipe band community.

The first Rector of the College Sidney Dickenson wrote in 1919, “There is a strong desire amongst the boys to have a pipe band and little difficulty would be experienced in getting a number of boys to have lessons at once”.

By 1923 the status of the band was confirmed and in 1924 the band received their first kilts – the Fergusson tartan – chosen as a restrained, serviceable pattern which honoured their then Governor General Sir Charles Ferguson.

The following poem written by James Little Head Prefect of 1928 tells something about the band in these early years;

There’s a shriek, a ghostly murmur
Like a sail lost in despair
And a weird, wild, wistful wailing
Cuts, the stillness of the air
A mournful, throbbing whisper
Like a death cry at the height
Then a sound like an angel singing
And the pipes are tuned just right.

Throughout the next years there were many challenges faced by the band, including lack of instruments and uniforms and the hard-economic times prior to the outbreak of WWII.

During the war years, many military types of activity were taken over by the band with marching, dress and discipline exacted to a high standard under the watchful eye of GAM Hilson.

After the war the band took on a new focus – competing in the New Zealand Pipe band championships and this period heralded a new band room and a complete set of 36 new uniforms costing 750 pounds – equivalent to $24,000 today.

Throughout the next five decades the band continued to flourish, establishing themselves as highly competitive against some of the top adult bands in the country.

There were also garden parties, College commitments and community events and the band was often asked to perform at ceremonial occasions such as the visit of Royalty in 1966 and 1970.

1969 saw the 50th jubilee weekend and the opening of the Askin Band Room named in memory of Richard Askin, who was pipe major in 1964.

1979 was the Band’s Diamond Jubilee and this time there had been several top achievements of individuals and the band including Pipe Majors Paddy Hilson, Greg Reynolds and Richard Hawke and staff flourishers David Solomon and Bruce Forrester.

Over the years there has been a remarkable pattern of dedicated instructors and band masters, who have throughout the decades seamlessly handed over their duties to those waiting in the wings.

Pipe band leaders include the outstanding service of GAM Hilson, Bill Johnstone and Gordon Ogilvie. 

More recently, Barry Shaw joined the ranks as Bandmaster in 1991 – a position he held for a decade followed by Chris Stevens and there continued to be excellent success in competitions during their years. By this time numbers of students involved in the various bands were close to 100.

But it is in the last decade that the St Andrew’s College Pipe Band has achieved international acclaim. 

In 2005 – Richard Hawke, who had been pipe major in 1980, was appointed as Pipe Band Director and the band began to consistently win Grade 3 and Juvenile titles at the National championships.

In 2007 – the year that St Andrew’s celebrated their 90th birthday, the pipe band made its 1st ever trip to Scotland to compete in the World Pipe Band championships taking out a remarkable 3rd place.

The last decade has seen continued success with the 2009 band winning the New Zealand Grade 2 championship for the first time – the only school band to ever get anywhere near this standard of performance.

Over the next 10 years the StAC pipe band has won the grade 2 New Zealand championship six times and many pipers and drummers have successfully competed in solo competitions.

Of course, the band has continued to give regular performances at annual StAC Attack concerts, Founders’ Day, ANZAC Day, A & P Show, Ceilidh, assemblies, Athletics day and the show case at the annual Prize giving.

The band has returned to Scotland four more times, in 2018 securing a most creditable 2nd place. Pipe Major 2018 Louis Newman said “The atmosphere at the Worlds is electric.

To have the opportunity to be surrounded by so many of the bands and players we idolize on video clips from the other side of the world is a truly remarkable sensation”.

But of course, it was in 2013 – two years after the devastating Christchurch earthquake, that the band made New Zealand history.

Despite losing their home of 42 years, the Askin Pipe Band Room, the Pipe Band continued to practice and had their eyes firmly focused on the World Championships of 2013. Winning the Juvenile World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow was a hugely significant achievement for the individuals involved, for the College and all New Zealand Pipe Bands. Pipe Major Ben Murray said “I felt a lot of pride… it was very affirming and humbling to lead the band but it was absolutely insane to win the worlds”. It was the first win of a New Zealand pipe band at any level and the Pipe Band returned home as deserved heroes.

The Pipe Band was rewarded with a new Askin Pipe Band facility completed in 2014. Now, in 2019 we have another band with some new members and several who were in the silver medal world champion band from 2018.

Noah Clarke is the Pipe Major and Monte Stamm, an import from NSW Australia, is Drum Sergeant. The Band feels privileged to be the StAC pipe band in the centenary year and is looking forward to competing at the New Zealand championships in Dunedin in two weeks’ time.

But of course, none of this would be possible without the amazing support of Pipe Band parents, family supporters and staff – I acknowledge and thank all the staff, tutors and volunteers who have supported the Band over 100 years. The Pipe Band today is a centre of High Performance with sustained outstanding results over the last decade – quite remarkable when one considers the turnover of students who graduate from our College at the end of each year. The commitment and professionalism of the staff involved is exceptional. (get Richard up) And of course spearheading the Pipe Band organisation is Pipe Band Director Richard Hawke. Richard’s own piping talent is well known. He is considered one of the world’s greatest competitive solo pipers winning many prestigious international titles.

He has also won over 20 New Zealand solo piping championships. In 2011 Richard received a New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Pipe Bands after a career in piping spanning over 30 years. 

Richard has also been recognized with an Independent Schools of New Zealand Honours Award for services to Piping.

Ably supported by Head of Pipe Band Drumming James Laughlin, a world champion in his own right and top piper Graeme Bryce as Pipe Band Manager and tutor and drummer Jamie McEwan as tutor, Richard and the team have continued to inspire and develop the youngest band members who step up as seniors to become the leaders and truly exceptional pipers and drummers.

St Andrew’s College is so very fortunate to have a leader and musician of Richard’s calibre as Pipe Band Director.

His recognition of service to not only the StAC band but also as Pipe Major of the Canterbury Caledonian Band for many years and his service to the world of piping, is quite remarkable.

Richard and his wife Julie are a great partnership with Julie running her Julie Hawke school of Highland Dancing at St Andrew’s and their three sons Jamie, Harry and Angus all taking their turns as Pipe Majors of the StAC band over the last 12 years.

It gives me great honour to recognize Richard this morning with this special taonga which symbolises our appreciation and gratitude for all he has done for St Andrew’s College.

The Maori whakatauki feels appropriate for this occasion,
“Tohaina ō
painga Ki te ao”
Share your gifts with the world.

There is no doubt that this is exactly what Richard Hawke has done in his own humble way. On this, our pipe band centenary we honour his contribution bringing together our land and people of Aotearoa and the Scottish Foundations of our College.

And so, we complete our recognition of the Building of our StAC Band over 100 years. Who would have thought that the plea from a few boys in 1919 to have a pipe band at St Andrew’s College, would have produced this connected, passionate and loyal pipe band community. It is truly something to celebrate!

Please stand as we sing together today’s fitting hymn “Scotland the Brave”.


Christine Leighton

Leavers' Assembly // Friday 15 March 2019