Queen's Birthday honour a high note for bagpiper

Bagpipe major and tutor Donald Blair has spent years training young Warrnambool players and has been awarded a Queen's Birthday honour. Picture: Rob Gunstone
Bagpipe major and tutor Donald Blair has spent years training young Warrnambool players and has been awarded a Queen's Birthday honour. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Leading the Anzac Day march and playing at festivals and events across the region for decades has earnt Panmure’s Donald Blair a Queen’s Birthday honour.

Mr Blair has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to the community and to pipe bands. “It’s a great honour. I’m gobsmacked,” he said. 

“I’ve got several other awards, but nothing like this.”

It has been a big year for Mr Blair – he turned 80 and was one of 12 inagural inductees into the Pipe Bands Australia Hall of Fame. 

During the seven decades that Mr Blair has played the bagpipes he has volunteered countless hours playing at events and teaching students.

He took on the role as pipe major for the Warrnambool and District Pipe Band in 1982, and he still spends up to 30 hours a week teaching about 30 students how to play in either individual lessons or at band practice.

His reputation as a bagpipe tutor brought families from across the state for lessons.

Playing pipes is a tradition he has also passed on to his children and grandchildren with 11 familiy members taking up the instrument. 

Mr Blair said he had received a lot of support for his music from both his wife Gillian and late wife Rhonda, who passed away from cancer at 45. 

“She wanted to live. I thought if I could put something into somebody’s life while I’m here I think it’s a very worthwhile thing to do,” he said. 

“If someboy’s got music in their life, that they can just drift away playing it and enjoy it, I think you’ve given someone something special.”