When I got to work this morning, I had a voice mail from a friend of mine. He said “Just thought you should know that today is Drum Major Peet’s last ceremony – you might want to check it out”.
Drum Major CWO Tom Peet is probably the most photographed man in Ottawa. For nearly three decades, he’s led the Band of the Ceremonial Guard up Elgin Street to Parliament Hill for the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony. With his elaborate uniform, shiny mace, and perfect military deportment, he is a compelling figure.
He was my Drum Major back in 1993, and like all of us in the Guard, I held him in the highest regard. There is just something about him that demands respect. We all admired his unwavering professionalism, quiet leadership, and genuine love for the band.
I wandered over to Elgin Street around 10:30 and walked back to the drill hall beside the band. I imagined being in his shoes (boots), making the final turn on a march he has done hundreds and hundreds of times over the years. It’s not often that one gets to witness the end of an era, and it felt slightly funny that the moment was shared by only a few people along the route who knew this was his final day.
At the end of the march back, the band strayed from the usual routine and played “Auld Lang Syne”. As the pipes joined in for the final verse, it became very moving. Drum Major Peet turned to face the band and saluted. I saw his lower lip quiver, and I realized that no matter how strong and stoic you are, it’s incredibly difficult to say goodbye to something you’ve loved for so long.
CBC’s Ottawa Morning did a nice interview with Drum Major Peet that you can listen to here.