THE LONDON IRISH
Although the London Irish Rifles (LIR) was formed in 1859 as part of the Volunteer Movement against the perceived republican
threat from France, a pipe band was not established until a Col Pakenham was appointed its commanding officer in 1906. He
enrolled Albert Starck, the principal bagpiper maker for the British army, as his personal piper and charged him to teach
the pipes to volunteers from the ranks of these part time soldiers. This was despite the fact that such pipers were 'clandestine
pipers' as they were not authorised or funded by the War Department. At this time Starck was heavily involved in promoting
his father's Brian Boru pipes (with keyed chanters) and the first LIR pipers used this instrument.
It was not until the start of WW1 that conventional Irish Warpipes came to the LIR when a second Battalion of volunteers
was formed and the nucleus of its pipe band was the Irish Warpipers and drummers of the Haverstock Hill Company of the Catholic
Boys Brigade who joined up en masse.
Originally LIR pipers wore the same uniform as the bandsmen of the regimental military brass band and were not seen
in kilts until towards the end of WW1. It is thought that they copied the idea from the kilted Irish Guardsmen who had come
to the 2Bn LIR in 1916 to learn the war pipes.
After WW1 pipers were finally authorised for the muster of Irish regiments and the War Office approved uniforms for
these pipers which had an 'Irish distinction' including the wearing of saffron kilts and green caubeens. Also from this time,
Irish regiments (including the LIR) increasingly used conventional Irish Warpipes and there are no photographs after the mid
1920's of LIR pipers with keyed chanters.
Although the survival of the LIR's pipes was officially guaranteed during the inter war years, funds were only authorised
for one sergeant piper and five pipers. However for big occasions these were augmented by civilian pipers drawn from the Irish
pipe bands that flourished in London at the time. By the early 1930's the importance to the LIR of a substantial pipe band
had become obvious and the regimental military brass band was replaced with a full blown Regimental Pipes & Drums.
During WW2, at one time, the LIR had four pipe bands (pictured together above), namely:
70th Young Soldiers Battalion
and the vast majority of these musicians would have seen action in one theatre of war or
another including the evacuation of Dunkirk and the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and