Barbara Stewart

Barbara Stewart, a native of Nova Scotia, holds as one of her prize possessions a very special family heirloom – a set of bagpipes.

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Barbara Stewart

Barbara Stewart, a native of Nova Scotia, holds as one of her prize possessions a very special family heirloom – a set of bagpipes. The set of bagpipes belonged to her father, Ross Stone, who was Pipe Major with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in the Second World War. He played these bagpipes on Juno Beach – the morning of D-Day.

Ross Stone was born on January 28, 1913, in Amherst Nova Scotia. Before the Second World War Mr. Stone was a member of the reserves in the Canadian Armed Forces. When the war began, Ross became a member of the Regular Forces and he was promoted to Pipe Major. Just before he set off across the Atlantic to war, Mr. Stone ordered his set of bagpipes. When he finally got the opportunity, Ross travelled to Glasgow to see if his bagpipes were ready to be picked up. As fate would have it they weren’t ready, which gave him the opportunity to learn how his bagpipes were made.

He played these bagpipes on Juno Beach – the morning of D-Day.

On the morning of June 6, 1944, Mr. Stone was the only Canadian Pipe Major to pipe on the shores of Normandy during D-Day. It is tradition to give the Pipe Major his bagpipes as a gift from a regiment and his regiment continued that tradition. His daughter, Barbara, still has a note from his Colonel stating that if the Pipe Major had stayed as a member of the regiment, the officers in the regiment agreed to pay for the cost of his pipes.

At the end of the war, Mr. Stone returned to being a member of the Reserve Force and went on to work in war assets in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He retired from the military at the age of 43.

I had an old set of pipes that had gone through the war and they looked as if they’d gone through the war and all the kids in the band had new ones.

Barbara began playing the pipes when she was 13. She can remember being teased about her bagpipes. “I had an old set of pipes that had gone through the war and they looked as if they’d gone through the war and all the kids in the band had new ones.” But she remembers fondly the day she got to play her father’s pipes at a concert. “I polished the silver on dad’s pipes for three days.” After that the other kids stopped teasing.

Her father suffered a brain hemorrhage at the age of 43. It was during his recovery that he started private bagpiping lessons with his daughter. “I became his rehabilitation. That winter he would teach me at night. So, every night we had a little session and he would teach me something new that I hadn’t learned before. And that became our routine.”

Barbara continued her father’s legacy for years as the Piper Major with the 36 Halifax Pipe and Drums up until her recent retirement from the band.

That special set of bagpipes can still be heard throughout Nova Scotia today. Although, Barbara is currently injured, she hopes her recovery is quick and that she can continue to bagpipe during this very special year.

That special set of bagpipes can still be heard throughout Nova Scotia today.

To honour the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, Barbara Stewart is one of our Faces of Freedom. Barbara will also participate in the Government of Canada’s commemorative event on June 6, 2019 in Halifax.


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