Born in Aberdeen, Paul was first taught the practise chanter at age 10 by his beloved, late Granda, George Sim Ritchie, who was a former Pipe-Major and Captain of the 1st Fraserburgh Company Boys’ Brigade. Shortly after, Paul joined the learners’ group of the 47th Culter Boys’ Brigade Pipe Band, receiving tuition from local legends Sandy Robertson, Jim Campbell, Lewis Patterson and Stuart Reid. Paul progressed from the 47th Culter Novice Juvenile Pipe Band, led by Roy Thomson; to the Juvenile Band, led by Gus McAskill and David Paterson; and finally, to the Grade 2 Culter & District Pipe Band, led by Neil Selbie. Notable pipe band competition results included winning the European Championships in Novice Juvenile Grade, and the World Championships in Juvenile Grade.
During this period, Paul was also a member of the Robert Gordon’s College CCF Pipe Band, led by James Hamilton. Mr Hamilton introduced Paul to Piobaireachd, preparing him for the Highland Games circuit, and the major solo piping competitions. Of note, Paul won the Under-18 MSR at the Northern Meetings; Overall 1st prize in the Under-18 MSR at the Royal National Mod two years running; as well as back-to-back 1st prizes at the National RSPBA Solo Piping Competition.
In 1995, at age 18, Paul left Aberdeen to begin studies at Strathclyde University, in Glasgow. Unsure of his initial study commitments, Paul took a break from pipe band competitions during his first academic year. However, the following year, Paul joined the now-defunct Grade 1 David Urquhart Travel Pipes & Drums, led by Ally Fletcher; and the Glasgow & Strathclyde University OTC Pipe Band, led by Mathie Love. Later, during the 1999 pipe band season, Paul joined the Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band, led by Robert Mathieson, where Paul participated in his most notable pipe band achievement to date: 2nd in the Grade 1 World Pipe Band Championships.
During his four years in Glasgow, Paul received Piobaireachd tuition from the late Ronald Morrison. Notable adult solo achievements included winning the B-Grade Strathspey & Reel Competition at the Northern Meetings; and 1st prize in the B/C Piobaireachd contest, held at the National Piping Centre. This was Paul’s final solo competition.
Paul’s final pipe band contest, at this time, was with Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia in 1999, and apart from playing at a few weddings, Paul did very little piping over the next 10 years, as further academic study and work in London took priority. However, learning that there was a London-based contingent of the Manawatu Scottish, Paul joined the New Zealand-based band, competing with them at the 2009 World Pipe Band Championships.
Paul began writing bagpipe music aged 12, with his first composition, “Pipe-Major George S Ritchie”, named in honour of his Grandad. Since then, he has written steadily over the years, with the long-term ambition to publish and record his own music.
Urban Hero is Paul’s first recording and manuscript, and is dedicated with sincere thanks to the heroes and mentors who have directly influenced his life. The recording features original music, mainly written by Paul, but also includes some guest composers; and is a mixture of Celtic folk, Highland Pipe solo and Pipe Band styles.
Paul’s music has previously featured on World Pipe Band Championships albums, firstly in 1999, when his music was performed by the David Urquhart Travel Pipes & Drums; and in 2000, as part of Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia’s World Pipe Band Championship winning Medley. Paul’s music also appears on Pipedown’s debut album, “The First Measure”, released in 2002, as well as on their second album, “Roag”, released in 2006.