Scottish Americans who have contributed to the Western New York community will be honored at the 35th Annual Buffalo Niagara Scottish Festival. The event will be held Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 17 and 18.
They are Peter Brian Henderson, who will receive his honor as Scottish American of the Year at the festival. Thomas and Margaret Donaldson will be honored posthumously.
Peter Brian Henderson
Peter Brian Henderson embraced his uncle’s avid interest in genealogy. Pete followed other family members into bagpiping and has been teaching the instrument for more than four decades. His contribution will live on for generations.
The youngest of three sons of Alexander Henderson III and Jane Clara Henderson, Peter was born in 1956 and grew up in Cheektowaga.
It was a unique family setting: Alex’s older brother Harold (Scotty) and his wife Shirley (Jane’s older sister) lived next door. Uncle Scotty’s avid interest in genealogy would create a profound influence on the family as their interest in the Scottish heritage of the Henderson Clan emerged.
At Uncle Scotty’s urging, Pete’s younger cousin Scott Mark began learning the bagpipe in 1972. Soon after, Pete’s brother Bruce joined “D” Company Buffalo City Guard Gordon Highlanders. Peter followed in 1975, then Pete’s oldest brother Tom joined the Gordons in 1976. Scott became Pete’s first teacher!
Peter began his four-decades-plus teaching career with early students: cousin John Henderson and Cindy Surre. Some 44 years and 75-plus students later, Peter is still actively teaching the bagpipe with the Gordon Highlanders, the Buffalo Niagara Scotia Society Pipes and Drums, and the Alden Bagpipe Club.
Pete’s family states: “What Pete brings to teaching, to the bands, to the entire pipe and drum community, is not only his expertise, his unparalleled commitment, and unyielding patience, but a love of Scottish music that unites all listeners and transcends all cultures. He’s single-handedly responsible for hundreds of us simply loving to listen, loving to play. We are so happy Pete’s being honored for his unwavering dedication all these years. His contribution will live on for generations.”
Pete counts among his performance highlights: playing in Scotland with cousin Scott; two Canisius College presidential inaugurations; a SUNY Buffalo presidential inauguration; Desert Storm memorial events; 911 memorial ceremonies and sadly funerals; and his solo performance at the opening ceremony for the HSBC Arena.
Pete has served many tenures as Pipe Major of the Gordons – almost half of his 44 years have been as Pipe Major.
Peter would like to thank his family for encouraging him to keep doing what he loves – teaching and playing the bagpipe. He thanks his children Evan, Allison and Sarah, and, most importantly, his wife Susan, for their continuous love and support.
Thomas and Margaret Donaldson
Thomas was born in Scotland and Margaret was born in England. They immigrated with their children to the United States in 1961
Through Bethlehem Presbyterian Church, the Britannia Club and the McIver Pipe Band, they met other Scottish and English immigrants in the Buffalo area and made many good, lifelong friends.
Margaret met many women at the Britannia Club which greatly helped with her homesickness. One was Penny Sinclair and they became close friends. Penny introduced Tom and Margaret to her husband, Jimmy, who played the bagpipes.
Tom was interested in the pipes and began taking lessons from Jimmy Sinclair.
In 1965, Tom and Jimmy tossed around the idea of opening a shop that sold goods to cater to pipers and pipe bands. The British Shop got its start in the Sinclairs’ basement and Tom’s garage until a shop was opened in 1967 on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. They expanded the inventory to encompass all items from Britain.
Jimmy began giving pipe lessons at the shop. Tom then took lessons from Angus McLeod and not long after, the MacIver Pipe Band was formed.
Also in 1965, Penny and Angus ran a Scottish show at the Buffalo Historical Museum and asked Tom and Margaret if they would be interested in starting a Scottish Country Dance group. With Margaret’s love of dance and Tom’s love of Scottish music, the group was formed along with Robert and Mai Praties, Charlie Craig, Helen Idzik and two others. The Buffalo Scottish Country Dance Society, which is still very active today, was officially recognized by the Association of Scottish Games and Festivals, who gave it recognition to the Amherst Museum Scottish Festival starting with the 1988 event.
With the shop, they headed out to many Scottish Highland Games around the east coast making many lifelong friends. Tom and Margaret always wanted to start a highland games close to home. In 1985 they proposed the idea to the Amherst Museum (now Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village), where Margaret was very involved with the Quilting Guild. The first Amherst Scottish Highland Games opened in September 1985.
The effort everyone put into these beginning years was enormous. Tom and Margaret enjoyed the hard work and the commitment of their good friends and were proud that they started a successful event, still enjoyed so many years later.
Tom passed away December 13, 2000 and Margaret on January 7, 2015.
Through their children and grandchildren, the tradition lives on.