The Pipes and Drums
British Caledonian Airways
(Part 1)
Please, if you have any photo's you can share or show on this site, please drop me aline anytime, email Dave
Recently, the summer 2015, I have been very fortunate to meet up with Mike Sterling a few times. Mike was the Drum Major with The Pipes & Drums of British Caledonian Airways from their formation in 1969 under Caledonian Airways tenure to the end in 1988.

The band started from humble origins and, by Mike's admission, had room for improvement. However; they rose to become a Grade 1 Pipe Band and eventually became the World Champion Pipes and Drums Band. They represented the airline all over the world and unbeknownst to me.....the band members were not BCal employees.......the band members had their own jobs; Mike was a full time London Firefighter and juggled the demands of both roles.

Mike has kindly shared many of his photos and memories of his time with the BCal Pipes and Drums; and over the coming updates these will be shared on this site for all to is well worth the read not only to see who they met and played for representing BCal but for the humorous side too.
Pipe Sgt Mr Dave Stark
Pipe Sgt Mr Dave Stark
Piper Mick Farrell Bill Hewson and Mike Sterling
Piper Mick Farrell Bill Hewson and Mike Sterling
Caledonian//BUA Bass Drum and the local band playing
Caledonian//BUA Bass Drum and the local band playing

The Band members came mostly from the Addiscombe and Shirley British Legion Band with a few from the Crawley Pipe Band. It took a year for the band to come together and for the airline's strategy to become clear.

The Band assembled outside of the Flight Kitchens building at Gatwick in October and performed for Mr Ian Ritchie, Mr Gordon Mason and Mr Tony Cocklin in the summer of 1971.

Prior to the performance, the airline had provided an advance so that uniforms and kilts could be bought. Though the money had run out and only one Feather Bonnet was available, so the Drum Major (Mike Sterling) wore that; the remaining band members wore their Glengarry hats.

The money did stretch to some jackets, though these were military surplus and white, in fact they were ex-Army tropical service jackets.

Following the performance, Ian Ritchie asked Mike why he was the only one wearing a Feather Bonnet. After explaining the money had run out, Ian instructed that the Band should all have Feather Bonnets and also Doublets (jackets) and further money was found for this.

But the white jackets would be needed; Ian Ritchie then addressed the band and said that they were off to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in November as ambassadors for the airline. The band flew to Kuala Lumpur on board a Boeing 707, white jackets in hand and perfectly suited for the tropical heat.
The Pipes and Drums of Caledonian//BUA (as they had become) are reviewd by Chairman Adam Thomson and Sales Director Ian Ritchie (kilted on the left). Band President James Hamilton is on the right, Pipe Major Ian MacLeod is front left and Drum Major Mike Sterling has the feather bonnet at the head of the band.
On arrival in Kuala Lumpur the Band were met at the airport by a group who invited them to stay with them at their club, The Royal Selangor Club.  The band members would stay as guests in Club members’ houses, two to a house.  The band lined up and two by two they were selected by the residents and Mike and the Pipe Sgt were billeted in a beautiful house with most generous hosts.

Though after two days the Lady of the house summoned them and said her housekeeper had complained that she had not had any washing from them. The housekeeper, Armer, who was near 90 years old give or take a year and the guys explained that they did not want to burden her with their washing. They were ordered to leave some washing out, Armer was now happy, and the cleaned and laundered clothing was duly done and returned next day.

The Band played at the Club for three days and they were also entertained by the members too. A local pipe band came to visit them at the club too.
The Band at The Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur with members of a local Pipe Band.

The club was formed in 1884 by the British, when Malaya was part of the Empire.
The photos show the  Colonial Secretariat building.

After Independence in 1957, the offices of the Colonial Secretariat which borders the Royal Selangor Club playing field became the Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Independence Square.
But duty called and the Band boarded a coach bound for Singapore via Malacca. En-route they stopped off in a small village heading to a café for sold soft drinks and a “cake of some sort”. They soon noticed a small open trench from the café to a bigger open trench and after seeing the evidence roll by that this was an open sewer the Band bade farewell and retreated to the coach.

The Band arrived in Singapore the following evening and were met by BCal’s Manager Far East & Australasia; Graham Broadbridge. Graham explained that they were to play at a big hotel the following evening, but before that he would show them around Singapore. The evening performance went well and the Band were the star attraction in BCal’s promotion.
Mike with the Band's coach On the road to Singapore On the road to Singapore The Seaview Hotel in Singapore
Mike with the Band's coach On the road to Singapore On the road to Singapore The Seaview Hotel in Singapore
It was soon time to return to the UK, but on arrival at the airport the flight was over-booked and 4 volunteers were needed to fly home on the next flight - two days later. Mike was one of the volunteers along with the Pipe Sgt and two others.

As a London Fireman Mike had to ring in to his Fire Station to book “Late delayed Transport”, a standard procedure if you are going to be late for your shift. It took a while for Mike to explain to a sceptical colleague that he was actually in Singapore and was phoning from there. That late delayed transport call went down in in the annals of the London Fire Brigade as the furthest away anyone was when ringing in late.
Bass Drummer Mr Bill Hewson (left) with Drum Major Mike Sterling (right)
Pipe Sgt Dave Stark
Sadly we have heard that Dave Stark, pictured above, passed away on 23rd September 2015, a few weeks after this page was published. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.  

Mike Sterling recalls "Dave was a great mate, a good bloke, and will be sadly missed".