MBE honour for Duns piper Steven Small

Major Steven Small.
Major Steven Small.

A Duns piper has been made a Member of the British Empire in the Queen’s latest new year honours list, a month after retiring from the Army.

Steven Small, 51, learned to play bagpipes with Duns Pipe Band, and he has now been honoured for his services to piping and traditional music.

The retired major’s 35-year military career began with the Black Watch regiment in 1981 and culminated with serving as director of the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming in Edinburgh.

Settling into a new job helping organise piping at the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Steven told of his surprise at the unexpected honour.

He said: “It is not something you ever think about or expect much, if at all. It is very exciting.

“My kids are all delighted. It’s all down to them, of course. It’s a very nice touch.”

Steven began piping at the age of eight, learning from the late Tim Ainslie.

“Tim taught me from scratch through Duns Pipe Band as a youngster,” Steven said.

“He also taught me all the other things that go with it – marching, discipline and stories of the war. It taught me a lot about regimental piping and drumming before I ever joined the army.”

Steven followed in Mr Ainslie’s footsteps in more ways than one, with both men choosing to serve with the Black Watch and both being honoured by the Queen, Mr Ainslie having been awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to Duns Pipe Band in 1984.

Steven and his family have lived in Bonnyrigg since 2005.

His three children Steven, 23; Harvey, 10; and Eva, seven, are all musical, but so far they have not ventured into the world of piping.

His wife Jacqueline, meanwhile, is a Highland dancer and kilt-maker.

His new role with the Edinburgh tattoo will see him head up its Pipers’ Trail project.

He explained: “We are trying to form a capability for piping, drumming, Highland dancing and fiddling for doing the show in August but also for other engagements throughout the year.”

From 2008 until his retirment in November, Steven ran the Army’s bagpiping school at Inchdewar House in Edinburgh, teaching students, inspecting bands and selecting the music for the annual tattoo.

As well as being a regular fixture at the tattoo, Steven has piped at other high-profile events including the handing over of Hong Kong to China and the Queen Mother’s Funeral. During his time with the Black Watch, he travelled the world and learned different styles of piping in New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the US.

In the past, Steven has also competed with various top civilian bands including those of the Vale of Atholl, Scottish Power, Drambuie (world champions in 2005), Tayside Police (champion of champions in 2006) and Lothian and Borders Police.

He has already received congratulations from the College of Piping in Glasgow, and last week, UK Government Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “It is right that we honour the dedication and commitment displayed by the men and woman in our armed forces whose service goes above and beyond.

“Their work will help ensure that Britain stands ready to face any threat as we continue to step up our commitments in Europe and across the world.”