Dagenham bagpipe player recognised in honours list

A bagpipe player who has led the world’s first female pipers band for three decades paid tribute to her musicians after being recognised in the New Year Honours List.

Mum-of-two Sheila Hatcher, 65, joined the Dagenham Girl Pipers at the age of 11, before going on tours in New York, Singapore and Oman and even playing for the Queen.

She was appointed major of the legendary marching band in 1980 and received a British Empire Medal for her services to music as part of the 2013 honours list.

Mrs Hatcher, of Grays, Essex, said: “It’s my everyday life. It’s very strange, I’ve done this since the age of 11.

“It’s not a chore. I have enjoyed it. The girls are fantastic. They will be delighted when they learn what I have achieved.

“I am certainly proud of the girls. They’re all devoted to the band, which is fantastic.”

The marching band was founded by an eccentric pastor called Joseph Graves who hired a Scottish pipe major to teach 12 girls piping, drumming and Highland dancing in 1930.

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The band went on to perform at hundreds of engagements worldwide but reverted to amateur status when the costs of running the company rose considerably in the Sixties.

Sheila is now responsible for compiling and arranging tunes and training the band, which comprises 16 girls - all from Dagenham.

She has appeared on TV shows, performed for the Queen at the Royal Variety Show in London in 1991 and at the Royal Albert Hall two years ago.

Players often seen her as a “second mum” and she also received a Barking and Dagenham Council recognition award in 2010.

Sheila’s husband Keith paid tribute to his wife. Mr Hatcher, 64, said: “I’m very proud of her. She started in the band when she was 11 years old.”