Funeral held for former bagpiper to queen of England
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A Concord man who once served as the queen of England’s personal piper was remembered by loved ones Wednesday for his mischievous sense of humor, distinguished military career and love of Scottish music.
The service for Pipe Major Gordon Webster at St. Paul’s Church began in a fitting way — with a soaring rendition of “Highland Cathedral,” a traditional melody for the bagpipe, by New Hampshire Pipes & Drums, a pipe band he helped found. Among the pipers was Campbell Webster, Gordon Webster’s son, who plays professionally.
Gordon Webster was born in Bathgate, Scotland, and served in the Scots Guards, part of the British Army, for 24 years, according to his obituary. He was selected to be Piper to the Sovereign — Queen Elizabeth II’s personal piper — near the end of his military career and stayed in that role until 1998, when he moved to New Hampshire.
He made the move with his wife, Lezlie Webster, a fellow piper whom he had met at the New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain. Alongside Lezlie, Webster founded the New Hampshire School of Scottish Arts and its offshoot, New Hampshire Pipes & Drums, a nonprofit that fields parade and competition bagpipe bands.
Both of Webster and Lezlie’s children grew up to be musicians: Campbell plays the bagpipes, Marielle the fiddle.
His life’s dedication to Scottish music was foreshadowed early. Webster’s father loved Scottish pipe and country bands, Lezlie said, and would often have the family join in on a “Gay Gordon” — a traditional dance.
“And that’s where the name Gordon came from,” she said.
Webster’s career in the Scots Guards gave him purpose and camaraderie, she said, and had him traveling across Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe and North America.
The queen, whom he played for every morning while he was her piper, was “the best boss he ever had,” Lezlie recalled Webster saying.
Capt. David Rennie, who also served in the Scots Guards, said Webster was respected across all ranks and beloved when he took over as Pipe Major to his battalion.
“We were second to none. Gordon’s style of leadership was second to none,” Rennie said. “He got the best from those pipers and drummers, he was an exemplary example of a leader, and I believe he became a mentor to everyone.”
But Webster wasn’t perfect. He also struggled with alcoholism, a problem that “screwed up a chunk of his life,” Lezlie said. He made amends in his later years.
He also had a wry sense of humor, and Monty Python was a favorite, Lezlie said. Webster often sang the group’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” a whimsically sarcastic ditty. That humor came through even in difficult times, said Lt. Col. William Swinton, a friend from the Scots Guard.
“No one who has Gordon as a friend on Facebook could fail to be moved and entertained daily by his posts and updates on the internet. His detailed reports on the nocturnal habits of his roommates ... made me cry with laughter,” he said. “Most striking for me was the astonishing positivity and stoicism that Gordon showed throughout, right up to the last week.”
Webster died at the Pleasant View Center in Concord last Thursday. He is survived by his wife and children, and his sisters Ina MacIntyre and Mary Easson and brother David, according to his obituary. He was 59.
Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.concordmonitor.com