Music 01

Elsa "Hilma" Martens

October 14, 1925 ~ November 18, 2022 (age 97) 97 Years Old


Shuswap Pipes N’ Drums have lost our beloved Hilma Martens, a co-founder and life member of the band. She was Pipe Major, band manager, instructor, kiltmaker, trip organizer, and the band’s heart and soul for decades. Though small in stature, Hilma was a giant in the piping world throughout the Okanagan Valley and the kindest, gentlest person anyone could hope to meet.

Hilma Foote was born and raised in Vernon. Her family were piping enthusiasts, and in 1942 she began learning the pipes from P/M Bill Barrie, who was then in charge of the piping instruction at 110 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre at Vernon. Hilma later took instruction from Gregor Garrow, P/M of Kelowna RCL band and Kildonnan Pipe Band.

In 1947 with the assistance of her father Horace, Hilma organized the McIntosh Girls’ Pipe Band. The band members had been trained by Horace and Hilma, and achieved considerable renown, making many trips throughout BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and even Texas. One of its greatest honours was playing the Royal Salute at a reception in Kamloops on the occasion of a visit to Canada by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh.

Hilma spent a year in Edinburgh in 1957, studying piping from Hugh McRae, and attended the Coeur d’Alene piping school in 1977. She gave up leadership of the McIntosh Girls in 1959 when she moved to Smithers for several years.  After marrying John Martens, Hilma returned south in 1968 and with Johnny managed the Glen Echo Resort campground near Salmon Arm for several years. Hilma then worked for the Ministry of Forests, Salmon Arm Forest District, until retirement.

In September 1968 she joined with pipers Vern Deslauriers and Bob Allen and drummer Tom Ferguson in forming the Shuswap Pipes N’ Drums. Hilma was Pipe Major of the band from 1974 to 1986 and band manager for many years. And she kept the pipe band very busy; there were gigs throughout the interior and longer trips to Whitehorse, Nova Scotia and Hawaii. Some years would see 40 or more performances!  An accomplished seamstress, Hilma created much of the band’s uniforms over the years and became especially proficient at making kilts not only for our band but also for many other pipers and drummers. She loved making dolls and many other Highland-themed crafts, filling her home with her creations; she also partnered with fellow piper and lifelong friend Jan Mattock to form “McStuff”, selling their crafts at Mini-meets and highland games.

Hilma performed with Shuswap Pipes N’ Drums well into her 80s, and though she piped for the last time on her 90th birthday (!), she kept playing and learning tunes with an electronic chanter, and also continued to attend local piping events to meet with her many musical friends. Hilma eventually moved to West Kelowna to live with her son Neil and his wife Shelley, surrounded by her many loving grandchildren.

Hilma was incredibly kind, gracious and gentle; she loved meeting old and new friends and took a genuine interest in every person she met.  Her final words to Neil were, “Tell everyone, ‘Thank You!’”

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