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Pupils from Gordonstoun pipe for the King at historic event

Three pipers and a pipe major from King Charles’ former school took on a prominent role at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh on Wednesday 5 July when the Scottish Crown Jewels were presented to the King.

The students from Gordonstoun in Moray performed during the final stage of the procession when the Scottish Honours arrived, along with Their Majesties, The Prince and Princess of Wales and other members of the royal family.

Gordonstoun students Elspeth Spencer-Jones, Patrick Blair and Hamish Martindale were accompanied on the trip by Pipe Major Scott Oliphant.

Two days before the Scottish Crown Jewels presentation to King Charles III, the pipers arrived at Edinburgh Castle to practice the pieces of music chosen by His Majesty. Those pieces were ‘Scotland the Brave’ and ‘Bonnie Lass o Fyvie’.

On the morning of the presentation of the Scottish Crown Jewels, the pipers made their way fromEdinburgh Castle to St Giles’ Cathedral on foot, via the only available route - straight down the RoyalMile. Crowds of spectators had already formed along the route and as the pipers passed, they applauded, cheered and thanked them.

Elspeth, Hamish and Patrick are three of Gordonstoun’s finest pipers, all of whom have put a lot of work and energy into their piping. It was a privilege for them to be chosen to represent their school, and for the school to be awarded the prime position of piping the King and Queen into St Giles’ Cathedral, which was a kind gesture of acknowledgement from the King and former Gordonstoun student.

As the King and Queen arrived at the top steps of St Giles’ Cathedral, the pipers played perfectly. A moment of tension came soon thereafter, when the pipers view of each other became blocked by the other dignitaries entering the Cathedral, making the physical cues for musical synchronisation challenging, but as a team that have worked so closely together and know each other so well, this didn’t impact their ability to perform immaculately.

Scott Oliphant, pipe major and teacher at Gordonstoun, said:

“I was looking at the King as I played, and quite unexpectedly, His Majesty turned to look at me and gave mea gentle nod of appreciation and acknowledgement. It is a moment I will never forget.”

Hamish Martindale, who won a music scholarship to attend Gordonstoun, said:

“I don't think I had fully processed the scale of the service that I was playing for until I was standing outside the cathedral with several regiments lined up waiting for the King. I still don't think that I had fully grasped it until the King stepped out of the car, about two metres in front of me.”

“I think that it's very significant that the King chose members of his old school to be at the Honours of Scotland as it shows his continued connection to the school.”

“I may never get to play at such an important occasion again in my lifetime and I know that I will certainly remember the opportunity that I've had for the rest of that life, and I feel privileged to have been able to play for an important and historic moment.”

Elspeth Spencer-Jones, a student at Gordonstoun, said:

“I think that it was of great significance for Gordonstoun, being the King’s former school, to pipe him into the cathedral. Much of the Scottish coronation was formed around the King’s ties with Scotland. Gordonstoun, being a place where the King spent his secondary schooling and teenage years, was therefore a significant part in the King’s history in Scotland.”

“ I have been asked many times if the King looked at me, and although I was focusing on playing everything right and following the cues from our pipe major, I noticed a sign of acknowledgement to the band from His Majesty as he slowed for a second after he reached the top of the stairs.”

“It was an unforgettable and once in a lifetime opportunity. I could probably say for all three of us that it was an honour to be chosen from the band to play, and although finishing my time at Gordonstoun this summer,I wish the band the best of luck for future one-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as this.”

Patrick Blair, a student at Gordonstoun, said:

'My interest in the pipes was sparked from a trip to Edinburgh castle when I was about seven or eight. I got a toy teddy bear with a set of pipes which played ‘Scotland the Brave’ every time you pressed the button inside and having aspired to play since then I decided to take up the instrument when I got the opportunity in primary school at the age of 10.”

“It was undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to play for his Majesty and I know that all three of us were immensely proud of the part we played and the opportunity that we were given.”

Commenting, Principal of Gordonstoun Lisa Kerr said:

“This was an extremely special moment for the students involved and I am proud that Gordonstoun was able to be part of an event involving its former pupil, and to know that the musicians of tomorrow performed at this historic event fills me with a great sense of pride. King Charles was a keen musician during his time at Gordonstoun and I believe he found great joy in performing, in particular on the cello, trumpet and taking part in school choir, so it seems fitting that some of our students were able to be part of the Honours ofScotland ceremony.”

“Today music is still a key part of the school's curriculum, currently teaching a total of 37 different instruments. Students from age 5 are given the opportunity to study the subject and many have gone on to study at university.”

It is widely acknowledged that during his time at Gordonstoun, the then Prince Charles was particularly fond of music, enjoying singing in the school choir and playing in the orchestra alongside fellow students. During his childhood he learned the piano, trumpet, and cello, and his lifelong support of the arts is echoed in the school's ethos today, which has a large musical offering for all ages.

Gordonstoun Pipe Band were the last band to be presented with the Braemar Shield for best band at Braemar Gathering by Queen Elizabeth II when she attended in 2019.

July 2023