George Montgomery

2010 Jun

George MontgomeryGeorge Montgomery was one of the best known pipers throughout the S.D.& G. Area. Throughout his piping years he played at just about every concert, fair, Orange Walk and parade as well as many weddings and funerals in the three United Counties.

In 1910, George was in Vancouver on a harvest excursion and while there, he met an old country Scotsman who taught him how to play the pipes. His name was Donald McIver. George went on to the Klondike and worked for the Yukon Gold Company. Shortly after he returned to Eastern Ontario, he joined the 154th Battalion at the outbreak of the war. He piped his regiment over Vimy Ridge and served on the front lines of Flanders Fields.

In 1932, George re-enlisted with the SD&G and in 1936, succeeded Johnny Alex Stewart as Pipe Major. As such, he played before King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace for the Lord Mayor’s Day. That same year, he travelled to Europe as a member of the Canadian Composite pipe band. On July 29th, he was a guest at Buckingham Palace for a reception held by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. Then, on August 4, he played the pipes at the unveiling of the war memorial at Vimy Ridge in France.

During the depression, his pipe band had to cancel planned trips to Scottish events in New York state and other local areas. They did however, attend Barriefield army camp every year to play for the soldiers. He was Pipe Major of the SD&G Pipe Band for 13 years and during that time, played at the Centennial Week in Williamstown and the Caledonia Games held in Williamstown.

George started teaching bagpipe lessons during the 1930s; his first pupil was Ray Firn of Cornwall. After the war ended George continued to teach for 40 years. Under his tutelage, people such as Sandy Boyd, Mac Acheson, Steve MacKinnon and Connie Kippen emerged. They began teaching students in Kirk Hill, Maxville, Alexandria and the Cornwall area and Glengarry had a new generation of pipers. George also taught the piping at C.C.V.S. and to the Junior Optimist Pipe Band.

George MontgomeryA loyal Legion supporter, George played with the Royal Canadian Legion Pipe Band, Branch 297 and he played to welcome former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker at the Cornwall Armouries in 1957. For many years, he was a regular piper for the dancers at the Dixon School of Dance Recitals. He would give generously of his time to travel from Cornwall to Williamstown to play for the dancers of Joan Decaire’s School; as well, he was a regular piper for the dancers during the early years of the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville. At one time, the Highland dancing Association awarded the dancer attaining the highest marks in five dances the Montgomery Trophy, named for George. His niece Evelyn McRae said that George kept his pipes in the back seat of his car and they went with him wherever he went.

Before he retired, George worked on the locks at the Cornwall canal for 29 years and at certain times you could hear him playing his pipes down by the water. An avid cribbage player, he could often be found having a game with someone who was shut in due to illness.

George was a composer as well and copies of some of his music can be found at the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame.

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