Not satisfied with his contribution, he worried that there were no constructive groups for the girls of high school age and he focused his attention to the task at hand. Drawing from his Scottish heritage, his answer of course was to form the first all girl drum and bugle corps in the United States. The end result of that dream of course still marches today as the Central High School Kilties in Springfield, Missouri. Dr. Robertson founded the Kilties in 1926.
Dr. Robertson then left for a trip back to Scotland, his homeland. While in Scotland, he acquired Scottish accouterments for the corps. It was then that the Royal Stewart plaid (see picture at right) was chosen. After returning to the states, Robertson chose Springfield Senior High School home economics teacher, Louise Giester, to make the kilts that the girls would be wearing. Harris later discovered that it was easier, not to mention cheaper to purchase the kilts from Canada.
In 1926, the corps made its first public appearance for the Rotary Convention in Springfield. The corps was lead by Majorette Esther Marshall. The immodest showing of the knees, the knee-length kilts along with the rest of the Scottish uniform shocked spectators, and some girls ended up having to drop out of the corps because of the uniforms. For the most part however, the public accepted the all-girls drum corps.
Left- 1930s Kiltie Bugle,
Right- 2000s Kiltie Bugle
In 1927, the corps became known as the Scotch Lassies. Until 1928 or 1929, the Scotch Lassies marched with only drums. It was then that the Frisco officials donated new Aida trumpets to the corps. In 1930, Arch and Charles McGregor, along with the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs donated four bagpipes to the corp. In 1939, Kilties became the formal name for the corps.
The high standards of personal conduct and musical performance have distinguished the Central High School Kilties as an outstanding parade unit. For over eighty years, the Kilties Drum and Bugle Corps have traveled all around the United States of America.
There are several well-remembered trips in the Kilties long history. In 1937, the Kilties marched in Kansas City for the St. Andrew Society of Scotsmen. At this time, they were known as Ritchie’s Scotch Lassies. In 1939, the corps marched at the Sedalia State Fair. In 1949, the corps performed in Boliver, Missouri in front of President Harry S. Truman and President Gallegos of Venezuela. In 1955, the televised coverage of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. showed the Kilties marching proudly to the drum cadences. In 1961, they were included to the list of participants in the Orange Bowl Parade.
In 1974, in recognition of their highest standard as a marching and performing drum corps of top-ranking national status, the Governor of Missouri proclaimed May 3rd “Central High School Kiltie Drum Corps Recognition Day.” In 1989, the corps marched in President George Herbert Walker Bush’s inaugural parade in Washington D.C. In 1996, the Kilties performed in Magic Music days at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In 2003, The Kilties, as well as the Hillcrest Highlanders, marched in London’s New Year’s Day Parade in front of England’s Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the Royal Family.
Of course local parades throughout the Ozarks are just not a parade without the Kilties! From Park Day in August, until the many Christmas parades in December, the girls are busy doing one or two parades a week!
Since 1926, the Kilties have incorporated traditional Scottish dance and songs into their uniforms, instruments, parade march, and dance routines. “The Highland Fling” (see picture above) which is said to have been danced frequently upon battlefields in celebration of victory after a successful encounter is performed at Homecoming assemblies.
The “Sword Dance” also seen at the Homecoming Assembly, was performed on the eve of battles as a means of exhibiting self-control and relieving tension. The Kilties Majorette performs the Sword Dance (see picture at above). Legend has is, that if she does not step on the swords, Central will be victorious in their battle!
Bagpipes originated a long time ago in southwestern Asia. Sheepherders liked to play on simple pipes and flutes to pass the time. But they could blow on only one pipe at a time. A sheepherder had an empty skin and it occurred to him to sew up the holes where legs and head had been so the skin would hold air. Then he attached several pipes. The sheepherder then attached small vibrating reeds inside the pipes, now he had something new, a bagpipe.
The idea spread far and wide through the Middle East and into Europe, the Roman Emperor Nero being the first piper on record. In the highlands of
Scotland, the bagpipe found its true glory in Scotland where it became the instrument of a nation.
The Scottish bagpipes date back to the Highland wars of Scotland. Played during battle to distract and scare the enemy, the practice was so successful, that for a time the bagpipe was taken away from Scots by a very angry English King!
The bagpipe is a very difficult instrument to play and requires many hours of practice. The most recognizable bagpipe song the Kilties perform is “Scotland the Brave.” The Shileighleigh, also a bagpipe song, is a mock battle, symbolic of the clan wars. The dancers advance and retreat, the same as if in battle. The sticks the girls carry represent weapons, and the color of the sticks represents two opposing clans. The Kilties perform this dance every year at Loyalty.
Left-1930s Majorette-Full Uniform,
Right- 2000s Majorette-Full Uniform
The Kiltie uniform is a replica of the old Scottish dress. The kilt, and tartan are purchased from mills in Scotland. The Kilties wear the Royal Stewart Tartan. This is the sacred plaid of Scotland, reserved for Kings and Queens. Leaders from Robert the Bruce to Queen Elizabeth wear the Royal Stewart.
The Scotsman, as a pouch use the sporran, which is made of horsehair, for money and valuables. Each girl (except the Captains) wears a Scottish hat called a Glengarry.
The clan hose tops, which are hand knitted socks accent white spats. A garter is worn on the top of each sock to designate the rank of the Kiltie. The color of the garter represents the rank: Drummers are red, bagpipers are blue, trumpets are yellow, auxiliary is green and the Majorette is white.
Left-1930s Full Uniform-Non Captain,
Right- 2000s Full Uniform-Non Captain
The Balmorals are a round Scottish hat and are worn by the captains and have feathers to represent the section color. The responsibility of the captains is to unify all the girls in their instrumental section by giving signals and having continual practices.
The Kilties have proudly represented Springfield and the Ozarks all over the United States for over eighty years. Dr. Ritchie Robertson and his original Springfield Senior High School all girl drum corps, started with a dream and created a piece of National history. Since the original Central High School Kilties, schools all over the United States have implemented all girl drum and bugle corps. The Kilties remain the first and oldest. Because of their tireless determination to be the best, they still receive invitations from all over the Ozarks and United States to perform. Please help keep the Kilties a proud Springfield tradition. Maintaining the corps is a monumental task that is funded solely through the fundraising efforts of the girls. The rising costs of uniforms, (fifteen hundred dollars a piece) instruments, (can cost up to fifteen hundred dollars for one bagpipe) repairs and bus transportation (two hundred dollars per local parade) makes this an impossible and never-ending task for today’s girls.
Who does not thrill from the beat of the drums, or feel the Scottish Highland ghosts evoked from the haunting sounds of the Scottish Bagpipes? Parades are not complete without the excitement of the drum and bugle corps! To this very day, the Central High School Kilties remain an exciting popular highlight of parades and events.
Today’s Kilties are committed to preserving the memory of Dr. Ritchie Robertson and Kiltie Corps preceding them by continuing the tradition long into the future! The Central High School Kilties Drum and Bugle Corps have been around for a long time and have had performances all around the world for several audiences ranging from elementary schools to United States Presidents and European Royalty.
The purpose of the Kiltie Drum Corps is to stimulate school spirit and to promote a closer relationship with the public though service and performance, and to display high standards. Being a Kiltie is a year round job for which we practice throughout the summer months. We feel it is an honor to become a Kiltie.
As said before, the Kilties are recognized as the first
and oldest uniformed girls drum corps in the United States, starting in 1926. This gives us something extra special to be proud of. Hopefully the Kilties Drum and Bugle Corps will continue to march for another eighty-six years and longer. If for some reason they do not, the Kilties have a saying that is a tradition. A tradition that will go on forever – Once a Kiltie, Always a Kiltie