Friday, April 15, 2011



Linda Rhodes is pictured here with Pipe Major Chelsea Fox and yours truly.

We are all familiar these days with musical boy groups and to a certain extent, girl bands are nothing new, but more than 80 years ago they were a rarity.

When the Dagenham Girl Pipers were founded in 1930 by the Reverend Joseph W Graves, they caused a sensation when they made their debut in this once-small Thames-side town. Joseph Graves was no ordinary minister. When he and his family arrived in Dagenham, he was in his fiftieth year. Here was a man with a strong personality. Alongside his Congregational church activities, Joseph organised the Sunday School. To motivate the youngsters, he introduced the bagpipes, the swirl and sound of which he'd loved from his own youth.

The excitement with which this idea was received by the Sunday School girls, prompted him to approach Pipe-Major Douglas Taylor with the King's Own Scottish Borderers who ran a Highland dance and piping academy in Hertfordshire. At first, Pipe-Major Taylor was doubtful. "There's no reason - no physical reason at least, why girls shouldn't play the pipes. It's just that the bagpipe is a man's instrument and if I started to teach girls how to play, I should be not only criticised in my own country, but probably ostracised as well. Now, if you were thinking of forming a boys' band.." You could see his point.

Pipe-Major Taylor eventually agreed to teach piping to a dozen girls. The first practice meeting for the youngsters was Saturday 4 October 1930. This day was an important one for 11-year-old Peggy Iris, a slim dark-haired girl whose own destiny was shaped by that first introduction to the bagpipes. Her role within the DGP was to be a life-long profession.

Linda’s book tells the full story, including the band’s crucial role during the Second World War; also the heart-warming Millennium Day reunion. Linda has written a wonderful book, one that will bring pleasure to readers including the many former Dagenham Girl Pipers and their families around the world. It is also a valuable historical book about Dagenham's past.

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