It is our greatest honor to award Scottish American of the Year 2018 to Robert Calder and James Sinclair (posthumous). On Saturday, August 18th, they will be inducted into the illustrious ranks of past awardees – Angus MacLeod (2015), Bruce H. Barclay (2016), and Robert I. Praties (2017). Be sure to join us for the Scottish American of the Year Ceremony at this year’s 34th Annual Buffalo Niagara Scottish Festival. Ceremony will be held at 11:00 am at the Bandstand.
The son of Robert and Edina Calder, Robert Ferguson Courtenay Calder was born June 17th, 1941 in an air aid shelter in Glasgow Scotland during the blitzkrieg bombings of Britain. Calder grew up in Penilee, Scotland and came to Buffalo, NY in 1960. He has been a fixture in Piping, Drumming and Scottish Cultural events ever since.
Bob joined the Caledonian Pipe Band in 1961 as a tenor drummer, and moved on to play the bagpipes in 1965, ultimately being elected Pipe Major of the Caledonian Pipe Band in 1975. He played 50 years with the Caledonian Pipes and Drums. Throughout the years, he has tutored many students and offered guidance to the band. Some of his highlights include playing in front of the Queen at Fort Niagara, playing in the Rothesay Games in Scotland, and the NYC Tartan Day Parade.
Bob married Jean Cook on March 26th, 1965. They had three children – Robert, Karen, and James. Bob’s sons and two brothers, Hamish and Alexander, were/are also active in teaching and playing in both Buffalo pipe bands as well as champion Canadian pipe bands.
Bob’s commitment to the Scottish Cultural events in and around Buffalo, extending all the way back to Scotland, are well documented and well known.
Bob Calder and The Calder Family, both immediate and extended, have truly made a big impact and difference in preserving the rich Scottish heritage and culture we all learn from and enjoy today here in Western New York and southern Ontario.
We honor Bob today for sharing his rich heritage and his dedication to preserving, expanding and teaching the Arts and Culture of Scotland, and what it is to be a Scottish American of distinction!
Congratulations, Bob Calder, Scottish American of the Year 2018!
Known by everyone as Jimmy, he was born and raised in Leuchars Fife, Scotland in 1922. In 1948 he and his then wife Penny immigrated to Buffalo. Using his skills as a stone mason and bricklayer, he built a home in the Town of Tonawanda.
As a young man he served in the Black Watch during World War II, during this time the pipes would be played for reveille, lunch, dinner, and lights out and this is when he got the “bug” to play the pipes.
However, it was not until 1961 when he heard the Caledonian Pipe Band in the Kenmore Memorial Day Parade that he began his piping career, taking lessons from the then Pipe Major Angus MacLeod (recipient in 2015) and soon became a playing member of the band, and becoming Pipe Major himself in 1967 leading the band into the early 70’s and remaining a member until he was unable to play due to health reasons in 1999.
It was during this time that he taught the numerous students who came to the band how to play the pipes, and would challenge the younger players to a new tune every Tuesday night. He fell in love with the pipes, and would take them everywhere including job sites, where he and fellow bricklayer Jim Gowrie would entertain their fellow workers with a lunchtime “concert”.
In 1967 Tom and Margaret Donaldson opened the British Shop, and had a parade of students in the shop on Thursday and Friday nights, and all day Saturday, as well as doing bagpipe maintenance for the shop’s many customers.
His piping legacy lives on, not only through the many students in Western New York, but with his family, son and daughter, Peter and Susan, and his grandson, Garth, who are all accomplished pipers.
As anyone who knew Jimmy, they will testify to his love of life, piping, and a good time; he fittingly passed away on St Patrick’s Day 2002, one of his favorite outings as a piper.