Peggy Iris, founding member of the Dagenham Girl Pipers dies aged 97

We were saddened to hear that Pipe Major Peggy Iris of the Dagenham Girl Pipers died yesterday (15 June) at the St Michael’s Care Home in Clacton. She was 97.

The Dagenham Girl Pipers in 1932. Peggy Iris is 4th from the left in the back row.
The Dagenham Girl Pipers in 1932. Peggy Iris is 4th from the left in the back row.

Peggy was born in May 1919. She lived in Catford in South London before her family moved to the newly-built Becontree Estate. In 1930, at the age of 11, Peggy became one of the founder members of the Dagenham Girl Pipers, the first female pipe band in the world. It was founded by the Reverend Joseph Waddington Graves, Congregational Minister at Osborne Hall, using 12 girls from his Sunday school.


When Peggy was 18 she was promoted to the highest rank in the band, Pipe Major. In August 1939 she was with the band on a tour of Germany that had to be cut short with the Second World War looming. During the war Peggy and Sergeant Margaret Fraser toured Africa with an ENSA concert party entertaining the troops. They gave over 1000 shows in three years, and were awarded the Africa Star campaign medal.

Pipe Major Peggy Iris (1919-2016) photographed in the 1950s (Photo courtesy of the David Land Agency)
Pipe Major Peggy Iris (1919-2016) photographed in the 1950s (Photo courtesy of the David Land Agency)


Peggy was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in 1976 and didn’t retire from the band until the late 1980s. During her long career she was the respected and loved figurehead of the Dagenham Girl Pipers, known throughout the world. She trained and inspired hundreds of local girls. A few years ago Peggy donated her Pipe Major uniform to Valence House Museum, where it is on permanent display.

Oil painting of Pipe Major Peggy Iris: Piping through the Heather, by John Strevens. This is in the Valence House collection but not currently on public display
Oil painting of Pipe Major Peggy Iris entitled, Piping through the Heather, by John Strevens. This is in the Valence House collection but not currently on public display.