Dagenham girl piper reunited with pals

After decades apart, a former Dagenham girl piper was reunited with her one-time performing pals.

Bette Read, 87, (nee White), who has been living in Canada for the best part of six decades, met up again with fellow wartime ex-pipers Marguerite Marshall, 88, (nee Sargeant); Jean Gibbon, 84, (nee Vale), and Ivy Riley, 84, (nee Richards).

They were joined by local historian, and author of a book about the Dagenham Girl Pipers, Linda Rhodes, at Valence House in Becontree Avenue, Dagenham.

Bette spent more than a decade with the group, having first joined when she was 12.

Jean and Bette enjoyed an illutrious past with the pipers and played together in the show Happy and Glorious at the London Palladium after the Second World War.

Ivy, chairman of the Dagenham Girl Pipers Veterans’ Association, knew Bette through her sister Grace.

It was romance that took Bette away from the UK – but her connection to the pipers also played its part.

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During the war she met a Canadian soldier while performing for troops with the group through the Entertainment National Service Association.

The couple married and later moved to Canada where she has lived ever since.

Catherine Walsh, also of the association, contacted former pipers who knew Bette to arrange the reunion.

She said: “Bette was delighted to see her friends from those happy times all those years ago. They shared photographs and memories with laughter and excitement.

“Bette has returned to England to visit family in the past but had not had the opportunity to track down the friends she had lost contact with.”

The Pipers, all-female bagpipe marching band, were formed in 1930 and the various members have toured internationally in the group’s 80 years on the music circuit.