Teacher and champion of piping and Scottish country dancing;
Born: March 25, 1923; Died: June 17, 2012.
Bill Clement, who has died aged 89 of pancreatic cancer, was a virtuoso of piping and Scottish country dancing. He was an inspirational figure who spent his adult life educating young people in the finer points of these pursuits. In his spare time he was a full-time teacher of technical education.
He was born in Perth into a family with a long tradition of piping. He was a sickly child, starting primary school in Perth at seven-and-a-half years old, only to leave for good six years later.
For a brief period he endured a short-lived career as a message boy. However, having missed out on a secondary education he was driven by a surge of ambition to enrol in evening classes in Perth, and it was there that his appreciation of education really took root.
On reaching the age of 18, and by now an apprentice joiner, he ripped up the letter exempting him from National Service and threw it into the River Tay, and so his army years with the Black Watch began. It was with the regiment that he perfected his piping skills, ending up as Pipe Major of the 10th Battalion.
In 1944 the army encouraged him to assist in the technical department workshop at Lockerbie Academy. From this point on he knew what he wanted to do. In 1948 he undertook his first teaching post at Rockwell Junior Secondary School, a modern school in Tayside where he would spend eight fruitful years. It was here that he began to devote many hours to the teaching of Scottish country dancing.
Looking for a change of scene, he was excited by an advertisement for a job in Dumfriesshire and so began a glorious 55-year connection with Wallace Hall Academy in Thornhill. Following an early dispute about the quality of breakfasts for boarders and staff at the old Wallace Hall, he earned the title of "the starving school master".
He soon found he had a lot of free time to play with, and decided to make it known that if anybody wanted to learn the pipes he was happy to teach them.
He was invited to join the Atholl Highlanders in October 1947 under Pipe Major Peter Wilkie and continued to serve for another 52 years, latterly as Pipe Sergeant. In 1948, he became piper to the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, for which he served as chairman from 1996 to 1998.
In 1956, with just four boys, he formed the Wallace Hall Academy Scottish Country Dancing team. It would go on to perform (and still does, as Thornhill Scottish Country Dancers) with distinction throughout the world.
He finally retired from classroom teaching in 1983 but, far from the gentle retirement many might have expected, he continued to teach piping and dancing, passing on his skill and technique to countless young men and women. Many of his piping pupils progressed to play with the Buccleuch and Queensberry Caledonia Pipe Band. He remained chairman of this organisation for many years.
Aside from a hectic life filled with his interests and hobbies, he also found love through Scottish country dancing, marrying Atsuko Mikami in 1986. They celebrated their silver wedding anniversary last year.
Recognition of his amazing achievements in life culminated in two great awards. In July 2008 he was made an MBE for his services to piping and Scottish country dancing. This was followed by an award from the Japanese Consul General bestowed by the Japanese foreign ministry for strengthening ties between Japan and Scotland.
He faced his greatest challenge last summer when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Rather than giving in to this devastating diagnosis, he responded in his own inimitable style. During the very full months that followed, he completed his tune book, A Collection of Bagpipe Tunes, worked on his memoirs, attended a lunch in Edinburgh with the Japanese Consul General, visited Japan and attended the Atholl Highlanders Jubilee Parade at Blair Castle.
He was a gifted teacher with a willingness to educate and be educated by those around him. He never sought praise but was quick to give it and to encourage his pupils and peers to be all they could be. Those who underestimated him did so at their peril. He was a force to be reckoned with, standing his ground when he felt it necessary. Many were heard to comment: "He is some man!" There is no doubt that this gentleman will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
Bill Clement is survived by Atsuko and his sister, Sheila, who lives in Australia.
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