Obituary: Chris Anderson – famed piper and ThinkScotland contributor

Obituary: Chris Anderson – famed piper and ThinkScotland contributor

by Brian Monteith
article from Monday 18, September, 2017

IT IS WITH SADNESS that I write to inform ThinkScotland readers of the passing of one our former contributors, Chris Anderson, who died suddenly on 5th September at the age of 84. Chris was a retired police constable who had led a full and eventful life thanks to his great skill with the bagpipes, regaling rapturous audiences around the world at every possible level. He was a member of the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band that won five Grade 1 World Championships in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1972 and 1976 (the final achievement as Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band).

Chris took part in the many piping societies that make the pursuit so rewarding, becoming the President of The Chevaliers Piping Society that meets regularly in Edinburgh Castle, until his death.

From his days in Edinburgh’s City Police Chris had a wealth of humorous anecdotes revealing the scrapes he had been involved in, the black humour that helps the police deal with the most traumatic of circumstances – and the old-style policing that today would be seriously frowned upon even though such common sense and pragmatic approaches often delivered a fair and just outcome. This made Chris an entrancing storyteller and witty raconteur, so long as you heard his tales only a couple of times – for they were so memorable they immediately came back to listeners on the third or sixth telling, for he never cared if you had heard them before!

This combination of humour, old policing legends and being a voracious reader (he claimed Amazon would turn up at his funeral to check if he was really dead) made him an ideal author of light-hearted but informative columns on random topics out of left field. Between September 2012 and October 2013 turning eighty,  Chris authored some twenty-two articles for ThinkScotland on subjects as diverse as Abraham Lincoln, the Navajo Indians’ role in WWII, common myths about the properties of vegetables – to the Olympics, Gordon Strachan and of course piping. Only his colourful views about Tony Blair ever required the editor’s consideration.

Chris eventually retired from writing after being diagnosed with a debilitating liver disease that had nothing to do with alcohol. His first question to the doctor was “does that mean I can still take a dram?” To which the answer was “Yes!” Up until his death at home Chris continued with The Chevaliers and visiting the Scots Guards Club, watching Hibs win the Cup on the telly in his den and reading his burgeoning library.

Christopher Anderson was born on the 26th August 1933 in Murano Place, Leith, the second son of Christie, an Edinburgh Tram worker, and his mother, Mona Anderson.

Chris’s father had lived in County Cork, Ireland, and at the age of 12 stowed away on a ship bound for New York, but was discovered and put ashore in Wales. The authorities ascertained he had an aunt living locally and she agreed to take Christy in, eventually adopting him. During the Great War Christy was called up to serve and joined the Seaforth Highlanders in Inverness – ending up in the Highlands of Scotland and on the battlefield of the Somme – neither being like New York! It was back in Inverness that Christie met and married Mona, later having a son, James, followed by Christopher Anderson fifteen years later.

Chris’s father died early in his childhood and ‘Jimmy’ became his father-figure, serving in the Paratroops during WWII and losing a lung in the process. Chris learned to play the bagpipes as a youngster and as his tutor took the local Leith Boys Brigade the organisation provided him with many competitions and events where he could learn and excel. Attending Broughton Primary and Secondary Schools, Chris initially worked as a Laboratory Technician in the Geology Department of the University of Edinburgh before volunteering for the First Battalion Scots Guards where he saw service in Egypt and became a member of its pipe band. Suddenly Chris was learning and performing Scottish dancing as well as playing to audiences around the world in auditoria such as Madison Square Gardens. Chris had by now met his wife to be, Moira Ponton, an attractive Edinburgh lass and they were married just before Chris left the Army with a glowing testimony from his commanding officer to join the Edinburgh City Police.

It was then Chris joined the Edinburgh Police Pipe Band, one of the most universally recognised and successful pipe bands of all time. With their pipes and drums the pipe band was an ambassador for Scotland’s capital, travelling the world and performing as part of UK trade delegations and promotions. Founded in 1898 it won virtually every competition, award and accolade available in its 130-year history including the Grade 1 World Pipe Championship on five occasions. Due to their reputation for excellence the band appeared in many films over the years that required pipers or pipe music, including the James Bond films Diamonds are for Ever and the original Casino Royale, allowing Chris to be photographed with Bond girls. Other films included Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Battle of the Sexes, and Lets be Happy. Famously the band performed in Moscow’s Red Square, marching past Lenin’s Mausoleum at the height of the Cold War in 1966.

After his 30 years service with the police Chris retired from the police and the band in 1984 , noting that he was exactly the same weight and had the same clear eyesight that he had when he entered the force.  He then worked for Scotmid as a security consultant and took up tutoring pipers and composing pipe music that was popular enough to earn royalties from. Having lived in the Joppa area of Edinburgh and then East Lothian, Chris and Moira eventually settled in Livingston where he spent many years enjoying his garden, sampling his malts and following the Hibs from a distance – as well as writing for ThinkScotland.

Chris is survived by his wife Moira, his three daughters Jackie, Fiona and Sam and their children – also all girls – so he was delighted when a great grandson, Jamie, arrived last year to break the all-female spell. 

Brian Monteith, editor, ThinkScotland.org

Chris Anderson articles for ThinkScotland.org

A pain-free toothy tale                                                                                                                           13-11-2013

Who was Joe the busker?                                                                                                                              01-10-2013

The tragic Rembrandt and the waster Hals                                                                                                25-07-2013

The code breakers – and code talkers                                                                                                           17-07-2013

Number crunching? Count me out                                                                                                      17-06-2013

Everything in moderation                                                                                                                         12-06-2013

The good shepherd                                                                                                                                   30-05-2017

Of tormented genius                                                                                                                               08-05-2013

Who’d be a policeman these days?                                                                                                              26-04-2013

The mythical New York                                                                                                                          08-04-2013

What’s in a name                                                                                                                                      03-04-2013

A matter of Faith                                                                                                                                       18-03-2013

Lincoln; the greatest American of all?                                                                                                  14-03-2013

A sight for sore eyes                                                                                                                                  04-03-2013

When the elite lose our respect                                                                                                               26-02-2013

Cameron should realise one Blair was more than enough                                                                    21-02-2013

Please! No more about the Olympics!                                                                                                   13-02-2013

Thank Gord ! it’s Strachan                                                                                                                            29-01-2013

British politicians? I’ll vote but I could see them far enough!                                                           11-01-2013

Seven wonders that make you think                                                                                                       09-01-2013

Our piping heritage in all its wealth and detail                                                                                 12-12-2012

A piping history worthy of a wider readership                                                                                  10-10-2012

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