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Obituary: Walter Anderson of Aberdeen piped aid convoy into Romania

Walter Anderson.
Walter Anderson.

When Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal regime collapsed, Walter Anderson piped a vital aid convoy into Romania, donated by the people of Scotland.

He then spent time playing the pipes at the dictator’s vast palace in Bucharest to bring a little optimism and hope to a people crushed by decades of communism.

Walter, Aberdeen raised and rooted in Fife, was in some ways following in the footsteps of his father, the famous Pipe Major Cherry Anderson.

Second World War

Across North Africa through the Tripoli and El Alamein campaigns, Pipe Major Anderson led the Gordon Highlanders.

On the battlefield he composed pipe tunes before leading the Gordons on a triumphant march through Mussolini’s heartland in Italy.

His son Walter, who has died aged 87, inherited his father’s love of the pipes and less than a year before he died was still piping regularly.

Commitment

Burntisland High Street heard him play in September for Merchant Navy Day and earlier in the year he piped out more than 80 primary seven leavers at Burntisland Primary, where his younger daughter, Julie, is headteacher.

Although most of his career was spent running Fife’s child guidance service, now known as Fife Council psychological services, retirement allowed him to devote more time to his second career in music.

He was signed by Douglas Gillespie of The Entertainer’s Agency and was contracted to play at major events including the wedding of supermodel Kirsty Hume and Donovan Leitch – featuring in Hello Magazine during the process.

A photo of Mr Anderson which hangs in Kelvingrove art gallery, Glasgow.
A photo of Mr Anderson which hangs in Kelvingrove art gallery, Glasgow.

Douglas said of Walter at the time: “Our clients love him, and he is a shining example to everyone of things that are really important – good manners, a sense of duty, a pride in his work and a genuine interest in other people.

“We also recognise the incredible support of his wife Lilian who has supported Walter in everything he has done for us.”

Walter played at events around Scotland and the wider world, in Germany at events run by Mercedes, in London for private company dinners and at Scottish castles for visiting dignitaries, often giving the full address to the haggis, after piping it in.

Stars

He also rubbed shoulders with stars including Pavarotti, William Shatner and many famous footballers during his time piping at Cameron House, Loch Lomond. He had a lovely chat with Prince Charles and Camilla and performed for Michael Portillo at one of many Burn’s Suppers.

Over the decades, Walter tutored countless young pipers individually and throughout his many happy years when he was pipe major of Burntisland and District Pipe Band.

Influential

Many of his former pupils gave him great pleasure, keeping in touch and popping back in for a tune throughout their lives and right up until his last week.

During the Thursday lockdown NHS claps, he turned out each week to play the pipes for his neighbours, with his good friend Kenny Reid, and also piped at Burntisland War Memorial each Remembrance Day when restrictions were still in place.

Beginnings

Walter was born in Boddam, near Peterhead, to Walter (Cherry) Anderson and his wife Isabella. He was the older brother to Kathleen and Sheila, and the family were exceptionally close, with Kathleen and Sheila also piping and taking up highland dancing.

He grew up in Aberdeen and attended Ashley Road Primary School before winning a foundation scholarship to Robert Gordon’s College.

His classmate, David Sands, also won a scholarship and for the next 80 years, the pair remained the closest of friends even though David now lives in Tasmania.

Walter studied at Aberdeen University between 1952 and 1957, graduating MA and MEd before starting a teaching career at Abbotswell Primary in Aberdeen.

Marriage

In 1959, while playing the pipes at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Walter met his future wife, Lilian Brockie, a building society advisor and Scottish country dancer who appeared regularly at shows throughout Scotland and on television with the Clan Hay Country Dance Team.

The couple married at King’s College, Aberdeen, in 1962 and had two daughters, Elaine, a retired manager with Marks and Spencer, and headteacher Julie.

Mr and Mrs Anderson on their wedding day.
Mr and Mrs Anderson on their wedding day.

Walter happily played pipes at many events for both of his daughters’ work places. He performed at functions, store openings and special events for Marks and Spencer and gave talks and performances for many children in a variety of Julie’s schools throughout the years.

In 1963 Walter undertook a diploma in educational psychology before joining the child guidance service where he was assigned to the Easterhouse area in Glasgow.

Move to Fife

Five years later he was appointed headteacher of Nerston, a local authority residential special school between Glasgow and East Kilbride before moving to Burntisland and taking up the post of depute principal educational psychologist for Fife.

He was promoted to principal educational psychologist in 1977 and retired from Fife Council in 1989, the same year his daughter Julie began work as a teacher with the authority.

In a busy retirement, piping at over 500 events and tutoring pipers, Walter also continued serving as an active member of Burntisland and Kinghorn Rotary Club where he had been the founding member and first president back in 1982.

Mr and Mrs Anderson with their granddaughter Alice.
Mr and Mrs Anderson with their granddaughter Alice.

His retirement also saw him take up grandparenting duties, with his wife Lilian, for their only grandchild, Alice.

He was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club and received a Paul Harris Sapphire award last year.

Walter was also a manager, elder and past session clerk of Erskine Church, Burntisland.

Honoured

In 2015 he was honoured with the Burntisland Community Award for his service to the local community, the positive impact he had in the town and the way he effected change in a modest and unassuming way.

His daughter Julie said: “My father touched the lives of many people and took great pride in everything he did. He was a real gentleman and will be missed by so many.”

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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