John Wilson Memorial Trophy

John Wilson Memorial Trophy

The John Wilson Memorial Trophy is awarded each February to the winner of a B Division Amateur Strathspey & Reel Piping competition. It is awarded in memory of the Toronto area Piper, Composer & Instructor John Wilson, a native of Scotland who had a profound influence on the local Piping and Drumming scene.

The following is an excerpt from a biography of John Wilson by Jim McGillivray at pipetunes.ca. You can read the full biography here.

Shortly after arriving in Toronto, John began offering Saturday piping classes at Fort York Armoury. These lessons, along with private teaching in his home, would dramatically change the face of piping in Ontario over the next 25 years. Reay MacKay, Bill Gilmour, Bill Livingstone, Bob Worrall, Gail Brown, Michael Grey and many others – all owed much of their piping success to the rigorous teaching of John Wilson in Toronto. His exacting standards as a teacher and judge raised the level of technique and instruments in Ontario to unparalleled heights. It was without doubt due to the influence of John Wilson that Ontario pipers earned reputations in Scotland in the 1970s and 1980s for impeccable technique, flawless performances and strong, steady pipes.

John Wilson cut a larger-than-life figure through all his days. His quick wit and unrelenting determination to say and stand up for what he thought did not endear him to all, but certainly earned him respect and a reputation for integrity given to few others. His frequent articles and letters the Piper and Dancer Bulletin throughout his time in Canada pointed out shortcomings in the piping community besides preserving a cross-section of the piping world at the time. His 1978 book, “A Professional Piper in Peace and War”, is an engaging, forthright and often humourous autobiography that remains an important record of the Scottish piping scene during the early part of the 20th century.

His extensive legacy of tunes belong with the best in pipe music: the slow airs “Loch Rannoch,” and “Leaving Lochboisdale”, his reel “Tom Kettles”, and his six-part setting of “Loch Carron”, his now classic four-part setting of “The Irish Washerwoman”, the hornpipes “Bobbie Cuthbertson” and “St. Valery”, and a string of great old-style jigs like “Sandy Thomson”, “Angus MacPherson”, “John Grieve”, “Before Kirkmichael Games”, and many more.

John Wilson (1906-1979)