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PPBSO Life Achievement award: Ken Eller

Ken Eller was presented official PPBSO “life membership” recognition on Saturday, July 16, 2022, just before the awards presentation of the 47th Cambridge Scottish Festival. The PPBSO is grateful to the games committee for allowing us the opportunity to recognize one of our own. 

Life-long friend and colleague of Ken Eller, Bob Worrall, presented the award on behalf of members of The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario. 

What follows is the full text of Ken Eller’s recognition:

Please allow me to say the obvious….It’s so good to be back. To be back among friends, our music, and having a chance to celebrate. And, it’s my distinct honour today to join with all of you to celebrate, congratulate and thank one of our true pipe band icons.

I have known Ken Eller for 60 years. We competed with each other during the heyday of the Clan MacFarlane and City of Toronto Pipe Bands. He adjudicated me throughout my solo piping career. And, I adjudicated him during his long and successful leadership of the legendary Clan MacFarlane Pipe Band. During his 40 years playing at the Grade 1 level, with both the Clan MacFarlane and 78th Fraser Highlanders, Ken was part of a winning North American Championship team on 15 separate occasions. When Ken retired from active playing he made a commitment to devote his time to teaching and adjudication.

In 1985 he joined the PPBSO Adjudicators’ Panel and has become one of the greatest ambassadors for piping and pipe bands both throughout North America and the rest of the pipe band world. I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to journey with Ken on countless occasions over the last few years. And, yes, the competitive spirit always carries over into a battle for a cherished first class seat. But, I have to resign myself to the fact that Ken is the Captain and we all know where the Captain is seated on any flight. There have been so many piping trips shared with Ken that there were times when I think that Diane and Todd were starting to get a little worried. All joking aside, I’ve cherished and will continue to cherish every one of those seminars, workshops, summer camps, or adjudication assignments with Ken. Every time you are in his company, you continue to learn. He is truly a teacher’s teacher.

In 2005 Ken joined the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s adjudicators’ panel. In recognition of the depth of his pipe band pedigree, his integrity, professionalism, and the insight he brings to every single adjudication, the RSPBA has consistently assigned Ken to several of the Association’s Championships. This August will see Ken on the Friday Grade 1 March, Strathspey & Reel event at the World Pipe Band Championships.

I would describe Ken as a life long learner with an insatiable desire to understand and be able to communicate the intricacies of piping and pipe band music. This is something that has characterized him since his early days as a teenager in the 1960’s when he was making the weekly trek to the Armouries in Toronto for the much sought after lessons with the late John Wilson. And, for those of you who know him as well as I, the energy, passion, and drive for success have been directed to all aspects of his life. We just have to think back to those crazy years when he was training for Triathlon competitions. Thankfully, he now has had enough sense to focus his passion more on a good red wine and a delightful 15 year old Scapa.

Ken Eller’s generosity, inclusivity and support for players and bands at all levels are legendary. A true ‘giver’ in every sense of the word. So, please join me in thanking and congratulating The Captain on a lifetime of service to piping and pipe bands. He is one of ours and we’re so proud and honoured to have been able to share him with the world.

Ken Eller (right) accepts his award (photos: Michele Curtis)