Scottish people arrived in Australia aboard the First Fleet convict ships, and as free settlers. In 1826, Captain Patrick Logan explored Bremer’s Creek and discovered the Limestone Hills of the present day City of Ipswich. A new Australian musical culture was born that came to be associated with Caledonian societies that formed in South-East Queensland in the 1870’s. When expatriate Scots gathered they entertained themselves with the songs and dances they knew from the home country. The first Burn’s Night was held in Brisbane on January 25 1859 and this tradition still carries on today.
Arthur Macalister hosted the first Scottish Highland gathering of the Caledonian Society of Ipswich at his home in Woodend Ipswich in 1873. When Macalister was a young man he qualified as a solicitor in Australia, and then set up a practice in Ipswich before turning to politics. He was the Premier of Queensland before and after this event.
The Scottish concerts seemed to test the water and raise people’s level of interest to the point where the formation of the Ipswich Caledonian Pipe Band seemed inevitable. The establishment of the band was a landmark event for Ipswich because the band became a cultural icon and ambassador for the city. The band was formed under Pipe Major James Mustard and Drum Major Ben Ford.
In 1922 a fracture developed between the Caledonian Society and the band which resulted in the band reforming separate to the Society as the Scottish Thistle Pipe Band led by Pipe Major Alick Anderson and then by champion Pipe Major Angus Macpherson and won many competitions under his lead including at Warwick, Tenterfield and Kempsey.
The band went into recess during the Great Depression however reformed in 1934 with a new, younger line up and resumed competition, winning several prizes at the Ipswich Highland Gathering that year.
The band’s numbers were reduced once again with the outbreak of World War Two when many members enlisted to serve, however many returned upon its completion and the band began competing again winning both A and B grades in Maryborough in 1950 and following that up with successes in Bundaberg, Lismore, Kyogle, Glen Innes, Tenterfield, Maclean, Brisbane and Wooroolin. The band was then upgraded to A Grade in 1954 after winning their B Grade competitions in 1953 and 1954.
In 1962 the band opened its permanent hall in Limestone Park which has been upgraded several times since and is still in use today. The hall serves as a place to practice as well as holding social events and can be hired out for private use by the public.
The band has had many opportunities to perform and compete overseas, travelling to New Zealand for the New Zealand Pipe Band Championships as well as the Interceltique Festival de Lorient, France in 2006 and the Moscow International Tattoo, Russia in 2007.
In 2017 the band launched the Greater Ipswich College of Piping and for young people that may wish to learn the Bagpipes or Drums, ultimately become part of their band and taking advantage of some exciting opportunities. The College currently contains approximately 20 student, many of who are already capable of carrying a tune with the band.
In 2019 the band celebrated its 110th year and voted to change the name of the band to the City of Ipswich Pipe Band.