The Ian Sturrock Memorial Pipe Band is named to honor the memory of Ian Sturrock of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, the first to teach bagpipes in the state of Alabama and is considered by many to be the source of Birmingham's proud Piping tradition. Ian was born in 1921 just twelve miles from the birthplace of Robert Burns in the town of Kilmarnock, where the world famous Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky was first blended.
Ian began his tutelage on the pipes at the Kilmarnock Academy at the young age of twelve. The bombing of Great Britain during World War II called Ian and his fellow countrymen to service. Ian joined the British Air Force, which brought him thousands
of miles from his home in Kilmarnock to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he trained as a pilot. After the war, romance kept Ian in Alabama where he married and became an American citizen.
After the war, Ian and his Alabama bride settled in Birmingham. Ian began taking on bagpipe students whom he organized into the Ben Dearg Pipe Band in the 1960s. Ben Dearg is Scots Gaelic for "Red Mountain," the name of the long ridge that juts from the Appalachian Mountains through the southern part of Birmingham. Under Ian's direction, the Ben Dearg Pipe Band enjoyed a significant degree of local success, and was even named the "Official State Pipe Band" by the late governor George Wallace.
The Ben Dearg Pipe Band was later reorganized under the name Heritage Pipes & Drums in affiliation with the Heritage Academy, an educational institution under the Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church (now Trinity Presbyterian Church). Leadership of the band soon passed to Ian's student Charles Smith. Under Charles' direction, HPD entered regional pipe band competitions and performed at major music venues such as the three-day Birmingham-based music festival City Stages.
In 2001, Charles Smith retired and Ryan Morrison, a third-generation student of Ian, was appointed as the band's Pipe Major and Director. The following years saw Heritage Pipes & Drums competing in more regional competitions taking 2nd place at the Glasgow Kentucky Highland Games in 2004. HPD also established itself as the headlining band for the Mason Corporation Oasis Stage of City Stages.
In 2008, Ryan reorganized HPD under a new charter with their primary sponsor to become the Ian Sturrock Memorial Pipe Band, named to honor the memory of Ian whose pipes are still played to this day in the band by the Pipe Major. Since this time, Ryan has led the band in a performance on stage with titans of Celtic music The Chieftains, led the band to victory at regional contests, and partnered the band with "The Official Beer of ISMPB" GUINNESS®.
In 2010, the Ian Sturrock Memorial Pipe Band reemerged as a powerful competitive force, taking the top prize in sanctioned Grade 5 pipe band competition at the Gatlinburg Scottish Festival & Games in May 2010. The band was even tagged as Above Grade Level by three of the four judges! Again in June 2010, ISMPB took the top prize at the Glasgow Highland Games, picking up yet another AGL. In their final contest of the season at the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Georgia, ISMPB took 2nd place out of 12 bands!
Photo by Parastoo Farzad Lykins.
After a couple of successful years of competition, the band has since redirected its efforts toward education and outreach. In 2014, the band began offering classes for bagpipes and Scottish pipe band drumming. Currently the band boasts the nation's only all-female pipe band drum corps affectionately known as the "Flam Fatales", who led the Birmingham St Paddy's Day Parade after only six months of training.
After opening the band's official studio in August 2015, the ISMPB Wolf Den at R+S STUDIOS on Birmingham's historic Southside, ISMPB will begin a second round of classes for the bagpipes and Scottish pipe band drumming in late August.
ISPMB is currently sponsored by GUINNESS®, the St Andrews Society of the Middle South, and the Caledonian Society of Alabama.