PM Willie Gray

William Gray (1883-1962) was born in Glasgow on September 9, 1883.  In 1891 Willie had his first piping tuition from Colin Thomson, a pupil of the Camerons.  His next teacher was Alexander Hutcheon and following that he went to John MacDougall Gillies.  In 1903 William Gray joined the Govan Burgh Police and became a member of the band under Pipe Major Hutcheon. In 1906 the first World Pipe Band Championships was held at the Cowal Gathering. The winners were the HLI under Pipe Major John MacDougall Gillies and the Govan Police were in second place. According to the Piping and Dancing magazine Willie won a March competition in 1906 and at that time was a member of the Govan Police pipe band. He would probably have been playing in that first Cowal World Championship band contest. The Govan Police were the runners-up again in both the 1907 and the 1908 competitions

In 1908 Willie won the confined piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering and at the 1909 Gathering he won the Gold Medal and was second in the March competition. In 1908 he was listed as William Gray, Govan but in 1909 was listed as William Gray, Govan Police. In 1910 he was again second in the march and in 1913 he won the Open Piobaireachd.

On the 25th June 1916 Willie enlisted with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders where he became the Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion. After the war Willie  returned to the Glasgow Police. He was appointed as the Pipe Major of the band in June 1919. The solo competitions had started again and Willie had a successful year at the major events, winning the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting and the Open Piobaireachd and the March at the Argyllshire Gathering. In 1921 he won the Open Piobaireachd for the third time at the Argyllshire Gathering.

In January 1920 Willie Gray was one of the founder members of the SPA and a member of the committee from the first year. He continued to be an active member throughout his life, as a committee member, treasurer or vice-president.

In 1920 Willie took the Glasgow Police to Cowal for the first time and they won the World Championship. They went to Cowal again in 1922 and were placed second to William Fergussonís City of Glasgow Pipe Band.

Willie was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, equivalent to Chief Inspector nowadays, on 11th December 1928. On 28th February 1933 he retired from the police and nominated John MacDonald as his successor.

After retiring Willie went to live in Islay.  He was involved with Duncan MacRae and at times acted as the piping expert for the firm. He went on to act in a similar fashion for Grainger and Campbell. He used to spend time in Graingerís workshop and was involved in the adjustment of chanters and assembling of pipes. At his home in Cardross he made reeds and chanters as a hobby.

Willie Gray died in 1962. He was seventy-eight years old.
These pictures of Willie Gray's full silver MacRae bagpipe are courtesy of Cameron Bell.

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