Boeing Frontiers
September 2002 
Volume 01, Issue 05 
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools

Sounds of Scotland

It’s no pipe dream: several Puget Sound employees are members of a heralded bagpipe band


Forty-two years after discovering the sonorous magic that only a set of bagpipes can create, David Guthrie fills his summer weekends traveling the Pacific Northwest with his award winning Washington Scottish Pipe Band.

Guthrie, a Seattle-based Shared Services Group reliability engineer, is modest about his musical abilities. "I play OK. I'm still learning," he said. "There is an old saying that goes ‘it takes seven years of the seventh generation to make a piper.'"

Guthrie previously, however, has been piper major (band leader) of the group and has played the bagpipes since 1960, when he was 9.

"My older brother started learning the drums, and another brother learned the pipes," Guthrie said. "I liked it so much that when I was able I started learning the pipes as well."

The Washington Scottish Pipe Band, based in Shoreline, Wash., a Seattle suburb, includes five current Boeing employees and several more retirees and former employees. The band competes in regional piping competitions from British Columbia, Canada, to Oregon—mostly at Scottish highland festivals held in many Northwest communities.

The band has won numerous regional piping competitions this year. It beat the world champion band in its division—the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band, of Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. In another contest in July in Mount Vernon, Wash., Guthrie's group won the Washington State Championship for the second year running. A week later in Portland, Ore., Washington Scottish placed first in a field of five pipe bands, which included units from California, Oregon, Washington and Canada.

At the end of July, the band competed in the largest of Northwest highland celebrations—The Pacific NW Scottish Highland Games, in Enumclaw, Wash. Guthrie's band placed second overall and received the "Best Drum Corps" award. The Washington Scottish drums, under the direction of Glen Gurney, also won the West Coast Grade 3 Drum Corps Championship for the second straight year. Gurney, an electronic engineer from the Royal Australian Air Force working with Boeing on the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft project, developed his skills while playing in pipe bands in Australia.

The Washington Scottish Pipe Band currently has 15 pipers and 10 drummers, ranging in age from 12 to 60-plus. Typically the group plays seven summer competitions in which it is graded on its music and marching abilities. The band also performs in parades and other events during the year. Last year, it played in the Boeing Everett factory for a Boeing Employees Good Neighbor Fund event.

Guthrie hopes to visit Scotland in two years, accompanying the Washington Scottish to Glasgow, to participate in the World Pipe Band Championships if the band can raise the funds and get some corporate sponsors. It will take approximately $100,000 to make the trip.

Guthrie himself is descended from Scottish ancestors. "The Clan Guthrie has a castle or two back there," he said.

Guthrie also shares tunes with his own family group—The Clan Guthrie Pipe Band. The musicians include Guthrie's brothers Bill and Bob Guthrie; David Guthrie's sons Jim (on pipes) and Michael (on drums); and David Guthrie's wife, Monica, on bass drum. Some cousins, nieces and nephews also join in.

"I practice a lot at home," said Guthrie, an Auburn, Wash., resident. "I usually play in the garage, but the neighbors ask me when I'm going to play outside again. They seem to like it."

To learn more about the Washington Scottish and their upcoming trip to Scotland, one may visit the Web site at


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