There were tears as the swirl of the pipes and drums echoed through Eileen Mary Rest Home on Saturday during a special tribute to Ian McDonald.

"We're celebrating the amazing dedication and the selflessness of Ian, who has given the past 65 years to the Dannevirke District Highland Pipe Band and its successor, the Dannevirke Highland Pipe Band," band president Bronwyn Wotherspoon said.

"We are all indebted to you and Glennis [wife, who as acted as secretary]. Thanks for guiding the ship so well."

Bronwyn stepped up as president when Ian became a resident at Eileen Mary.

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"My son, Matthew, had 15 years of pleasure with the band, so being president is a small thing I can do," she said.

Kynan Griffiths was formerly a member of the Napier Caledonian Society when he first met Ian.

"Without his pointers and helpful hints I wouldn't be here today," he said.

Tararua District Mayor Tracey Collis said the special tribute, acknowledging Ian's 65 years of dedication to the highland pipe band, was well deserved.

"You are leaving us with a highland pipe band which is continuing to grow," she said.

Along with Kynan, helping to swell band numbers is Craig MacMillan, a new doctor in Dannevirke from Scotland. Recruited by the former Tararua Health Group chief executive Sharon Wards, Craig was looking for a placement in a town with a pipe band.

"We were delighted when he walked through the bandroom doors," Bronwyn said.

"There is also another person shifting to Dannevirke from Napier who will be joining the band, so we are in good heart."

Liz Edwards, whose grandson Scott and daughter Diana were playing with the band on Saturday, thanked Ian for the example of dedication and loyalty he had set.

"You are pretty special," Liz said.

"I remember when I first saw the band playing in 1962, you were wearing your leopard skin as you played. The thoughtfulness, kindness and encouragement you've shown to others is an outstanding lesson to us all."

As a band member Ian played tenor drum and was band president.

He said Saturday's tribute was emotional for him and wife Glennis.