Pioneering piper with a place in record books dies at the age of 38
A MUSICIAN behind a string of record-breaking piping parades in Scotland's capital has died in a tragic accident in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Tributes have been paid to Thomas Grotrian, one of two pipers who took the concept of the massed parades overseas, to cities like New York, Paris, Shanghai and Rome, following their initial success in Edinburgh.
The 38-year-old, from Edinburgh, is thought to have died suddenly after falling down a flight of stairs into a cellar at a party at a friend's house on Saturday.
Mr Grotrian had moved to Canada to take up a post as marketing manager of the Nova Scotia International Tattoo in 2006.
The previous year he and long-time collaborator Magnus Orr, a fellow director of Epic Concepts, an Edinburgh-based events firm, had set a record by having around 8,500 pipers parade through Holyrood Park.
Previous records had been set on Princes Street in 2000 and 1995, when Rolf Harris agreed to learn the pipes to lead a massed parade through the city. The event attracted a crowd of 300,000 who flocked to see the Australian icon lead almost 3,000 pipers through the capital.
The first event was a fundraiser for Marie Curie Cancer Care, where Mr Grotrian's mother Sarah worked as the charity's secretary at the time.
Rugby legend Gavin Hastings led the second event in 2000, when more than 7,000 pipers were involved.
Mr Grotrian and Mr Orr persuaded the authorities in New York to allow them to stage a huge parade of pipers down Fifth Avenue in 2002 during the city's Tartan Day celebrations, an event that is now an annual fixture.
The pair's efforts around the world, which secured the involvement of Prince Charles, Sir Sean Connery and Sir Jackie Stewart, saw the events raise more than 750,000 for the cancer charity.
Mr Orr, 41, said: "It was a huge shock to hear about Thomas. We were still very good friends, even though he was in Nova Scotia in recent years.
"It was his vision and determination that brought thousands of pipers and drummers together to march along Princes Street to raise funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
"The really big one was the one in New York in 2002 when a huge parade was held down Fifth Avenue. Nothing of that kind had happened before. The authorities didn't want to allow it at first, but they couldn't really give us a proper reason why it shouldn't be allowed."
His mother, Ms Grotrian, who is now retired said: "He had been out with a group of friends celebrating someone's 40th birthday and was apparently about to go home when this happened.
"He always lived life to the full and had a great group of friends over there.There is going to be a big memorial service for him in November and we'll be going over for that."
Richard Hambleton, managing director of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, said: "Thomas was a great friend of the Tattoo and it was always a pleasure working with him on his charitable fundraising pipe band parades, with which he became synonymous. He will be sorely missed."
Mr Grotrian's family is trying to organise a procession of pipers at his funeral, which is expected to be held at Channelkirk, near Lauder, in the Borders, on 11 August.
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