George was born in Newmill, Banffshire, Scotland in August of 1919 and was one of the very early members of the Strathisla Pipe Band to take piping instruction in 1930. This band is still very active and coming up on its 100th birthday.
When WW2 broke out, he dutifully accepted the King’s Shilling and served with the Gordon Highlanders not as a piper - as you might suspect, but instead as a medic.
Three years after the war, he decided to immigrate to Canada. A seasoned soldier, he joined the Canadian Army Reserve and enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a piper in the Regimental Pipes & Drums of the Calgary Highlanders and later, rebadged to the artillery and rose to the appointment of Pipe Major with the 19th Medium Regt RCA Regimental Pipe Band.
When the regiment was struck from the Canadian Order of Battle during a government re-organization in 1968, George, Jim McWilliams and Roger Yule transitioned the band to a civilian role. As they wore the McBain tartan, they decided to call the new band the Clan McBain Pipe Band and arranged for the purchase of all the uniforms and equipment from the Department of Nation Defence for a dollar. Three of the world’s top drummers, Eck Brown, Hammy Hamilton and Curley Brown (no relation) from the Bowhill Collieries PB in Fife were lured to Canada to bolster the Clan McBain’s drum corps and the band became a competitive force to be reckoned with!
While serving with the Clan McBain PB, George was in a serious car accident. Just prior to this, he had purchased a 'Home Package' from Beaver Lumber and was about to build a new house - but was incapacitated by the unfortunate turn of events. Piper Davey Kehoe, a member of the band was a fledgling architect at the time and rallied the pipe band to step up and build a new house in Midnapore while the pipe major was convalescing!
Much of George's time was devoted to providing private tuition to a number of aspiring local pipers. He eventually left Clan McBain and turned his hand to the instruction and mentoring the North Hill Lions Pipe Band. This eventually morphed into a co-ed youth pipe band and renamed the Glengarry Highlanders Pipe Band of which George served as the chief instructor for many years.
George's direct involvement in their musical growth resulted in a ‘lift' of piping prowess in the Calgary area and spawned a number of noteworthy players who did extremely well in individual competition during the 1970s and beyond.
In civilian life, for a man who quit school at the age of 14, George educated himself and rose to a demanding management career in the Cardiology Diagnostics Department at the Calgary General Hospital. As time went on, he hired a few of his best students to work in the medical field - knowing how bright and dedicated they were.
Upon retirement, George and his wife Betty moved to the rural serenity of Vermilion, Alberta. There were no active pipe bands in the area until George arrived - within a few years, he taught several pipers and literally ‘fathered’ two more pipe bands - the Wainwright Legion Pipe Band and the Lakeland Pipes & Drums in Vermilion, Alberta.
George was a very humble man who shunned attention. In many cases, when people came to him for private tuition (provided they were serious players and sincerely interested) he was known to ’tailor’ the cost of his tuition to better fit the student family's means. In many cases, the lesson price was "$1 until we are done” a privilege reserved for students in whom he truly believed. It is estimated that George Reid was responsible for ‘starting’ several hundred students over his piping career.
He served as the Pipe Major of at least 6 bands in Western Canada and was in demand as a piping judge for many of the major contests in Western Canada.
George Reid passed on New Year’s day, 2008 at the age of 89 years leaving a long shadow and a remarkable legacy. He was known and respected by hundreds of members of the Alberta piping community.