John Davie Burgess, King of the Highland Pipers, died at age 71.

John Davie Burgess, King of the Highland Pipers, died at age 71.

John Burgess died on June 29, 2005 at the age of 71.

He was born in Aberdeen on 11 March 1934, and first learned to play the practice chanter at the age of four from his father John, who was also a piper.

The family moved to Edinburgh when the elder John took up a lecturing position at the Veterinary School. John D. was educated Edinburgh Academy, and tutored by Pipe major Willie Ross of the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming at Edinburgh Castle. He did not play in the school band, for fear that it would damage his technique.

In 1950 he became the youngest ever winner of the gold medals for piobaireachd at both the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban and the Northern Meeting in Inverness, at the age of 16. He initially intended to pursue piping as a hobby, and pursue a career training horses, but he went on a tour of Canada and the United States with Willie Ross in 1952. Burgess was persuaded by Brigadier Alistair MacLean at the Castle to join the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders as a piper, and spent three years there, reaching the rank of corporal. His choice of regiment did not please Ross, who wanted him to join the Scots Guards.

Burgess then joined the Edinburgh City Police, and became pipe major of that band in 1957.

Between 1962 and 1965, he was pipe major of the 4th/5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders TA Pipe Band. He then moved to Invergordon in 1966, and played with the Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band for two years, until it was disbanded in 1967.

Burgess became a teacher and judge after retiring from competitive playing in around 1979, teaching in schools around Easter Ross. He was awarded an MBE in 1988 for services to piping.

John achieved world-wide fame as a child prodigy on the bagpipes before maturing into one of the foremost exponents of Scotlands national instrument. John turned professional at the age of sixteen, he won the three major championships of the time (Argyllshire Gathering, Oban, and the northern Meeting) at his first attempt. From then on he won numerous titles and is regarded as one of the foremost exponents of the art of piping. A must have for any pipers cd collection is Johns CD King of the Highland Pipers


John D. Burgess made several recordings.

His track The Wandering Piper as was included by Topic Records in their 70th anniversary album Three Score and Ten.

Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band

Was a well-known and historically significant pipe band associated with the police force in Edinburgh, Scotland. The band had a rich tradition and was widely recognized for its musical excellence.


Around 1900, the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band was formed, led by Pipe Major Norman Graham.

When Graham died in 1910, Pipe Sergeant Hugh Calder took over the leadership of the band. It was under Calder that the band was to win its first major competition. In 1919 the band won the Argyle shield at the Cowal Games, equivalent to the World Pipe Band Championships as they are known today

John D. Burgess MBE was pipe major from 1957–1958.


The Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band achieved numerous successes in competitions, both in Scotland and internationally. They were known for their precision, musicality, and innovation in their performances.

World Pipe Band Champions:

  • 1919
  • 1950 - 1954
  • 1963
  • 1964
  • 1971
  • 1972
  • 1975

World Drum Corps Champions:

  • 1964
  • 1968


Unfortunately, like many traditional pipe bands associated with institutions, the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band faced challenges and was disbanded. The band disbanded in 2005 due to a restructuring of the Lothian and Borders Police force, which led to the dissolution of the Edinburgh City Police.


Despite its dissolution, the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band’s legacy continues to live on through recordings, performances, and the influence it had on subsequent generations of pipers and pipe bands.

It’s worth noting that Edinburgh is home to several other renowned pipe bands, including the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band, which emerged from the reorganization of the police forces.

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