A piper killed in a crash involving a tractor has been credited for taking his band from “strength to strength” and earning them respect in the community.
John Channon died after his car collided with a tractor on the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road, near Auldearn, on January 12.
The 78-year-old, from Dyke, was chairman of Forres and District Pipe Band and today members have paid tribute – describing him as a friend and the “father” of the band.
The retired wind commander, who was made an MBE for his service in 1980, first began playing the pipes while at the RAF Apprentice School at Halton.
He played for a while in the Kinloss Band, but because of the often unusual locations of his service life, he was mainly a solo piper.
After retiring in 2009, Mr Channon joined the Forres and District Pipe Band as a piper, going on to become secretary and later chairman.
Major General Seymour Monro, the Lord Lieutenant of Moray, paid tribute on the band’s Facebook page and said members were “desperately shocked and sad” at his tragic death.
Mr Monro, the pipe band’s president, wrote: “We will all be mourning his death as our chairman, but also as our leader, father of our band family, and as a friend.
‘He led the band from strength to strength’
“John had a distinguished career in the RAF, becoming a wing commander and having been made an MBE.
“He loved playing the pipes and joined the Forres and District Pipe Band, becoming its secretary in 2012.
“[The pipe band] was not in good health and John set himself the task of improving things all round. He became the chairman in 2015 and the band has gone from strength to strength under his leadership.”
Under Mr Channon’s leadership, the band has performed at numerous Highland Games and the renowned European Pipe Band Championships.
They also performed at The Highland Military Tattoo for four years in a row.
Mr Monro added: “We have won prizes. We have supported community events and commemorations and been to special occasions for individuals.
“John himself was often the solo piper on some of these occasions. We are now a respected organisation within our community.”
Nurturing young talent
Mr Channon was also the chieftain of Forres Highland Games in 2019 – an honour Mr Monro said was an “indication of the esteem in which John was held in the local community”.
The father-of-two, who was predeceased by wife Louise, was also credited for developing young talent not just in the band, but across Moray.
Mr Monro praised the tutoring systems Mr Channon had helped to develop, adding: “John encouraged the young to come to taster sessions and to enroll. He knew that the young are the seed corn for the future.
“He also realised that piping and drumming and the camaraderie of the band were a wonderful way for young people to broaden their experiences and skills.”
Even when the pandemic struck and put a halt to in-person get togethers, Mr Channon remained dedicated to the band – organising quiz nights and virtual practice sessions with other members of the committee and band leaders.
‘We will miss him dreadfully’
Mr Monro added: “What other band got through Covid so well? Very few I suspect. And this was recognised with a Lord Lieutenant’s Letter of Commendation – the only one for a band in Moray. We have emerged in a much better condition than most.
“But above all we will remember John for his wonderful personality. He was a friend to us all. He was a mentor to many, especially those younger amongst us. He was indeed the father of our family.
“Quite simply, without John’s vision, actions, strong guidance and sheer hard work over these past years, there would be no Forres and District Pipe Band.
“We owe him more than we can yet fully contemplate. We will miss him dreadfully.
We pray for him and his family as we remember him and thank him for what he has done for us, our band and for Forres.
“We owe it to his legacy to continue as an ever improving pipe band and as a happy family organisation.”
Mr Channon’s funeral will be held at Tom Ross and Sons Chapel, Forres on Thursday January 27 at 1pm. Donations, in lieu of flowers, can be made to the Forres and District Pipe Band.
The service will also be available on live stream, call 01309 673435 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org