Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bagpipes, Shortbread and a 60th Anniversary

I was in Huntly today to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the town's Pipe Band. Fingers were crossed and uncrossed throughout the journey, since the weather looked decidedly indifferent as we headed across country. Luckily though, a few light showers apart, the weather held.

Quite apart from the obvious discomfort it would have brought, heavy rain would have meant the pipers having to cover up with their waterproof capes, which would have denied us the spectacle of seeing each of the bands in their full number 1 kits. With some nine other bands present to help the host band celebrate their anniversary, there was colour to be seen aplenty to help lift the gloom of the skies above.

Huntly Pipe Band plays a big role in the life of the town and throughout the North East. There's rarely a major community event in Huntly where they can't be heard. At Halloween, they march down from the castle into the town square wearing masks - I don't know if it does anything to help frighten the ghouls away, but it's worth seeing anyway! And in one of those nice little twists of fate, it's arguable that one of the town's major businesses, the shortbread manufacturer Dean's of Huntly, owes its very existence to the band and its perennial need to fundraise.

It's a great story. Back in 1975, Helen Dean, wife of the then Pipe Major Bill Dean, was noted locally for her baking. To help raise funds for the band, she decided to start making batches of her own recipe shortbread. Soft textured, unlike so many of the mass produced shortbreads of the time, her recipe proved so popular that she decided to go into business and established her own bakery.

The reputation of Dean's shortbread grew quickly, to the extent that the company, now run by the couple's son (also Bill), had to move in the early 1990's to larger premises on the outskirts of the town. Recently, they branched out further by opening a visitors centre and cafe/bistro at the factory. If you ever find yourself heading along the A96, it's well worth stopping off for a coffee and look round.

Anyway, I snapped off a couple of videos of today's events on my phone. The first is of the bands arriving at the town's Market Muir:

The second is of the massed bands marching, immediately after they had been addressed by First Minister and local MSP Alex Salmond.

It's a great regret of mine that I haven't yet learned to play the pipes. I can play the chanter without difficulty (doubtless a legacy of learning the recorder at school), so maybe one of these days I'll get someone to show me how to combine it with everything else that's supposed to go along!

Often, if you sit out on the Terrace of the House of Commons in the evening, you can hear a piper playing somewhere along the river. I never found out while I was down there who it was or where they were playing, which is a shame, because it seemed the most incongruous thing to be hearing slap-bang in the middle of London.

It was like a little bit of home sometimes as conversations stopped while people strained their ears along the river to listen. Today, it was great to be amongst the crowds and able to see the real thing up close and on such a scale. Congratulations to everyone involved in Huntly Pipe Band, and here's to your next 60 years.


Bill said...

Nice videos :)

Doesn't the Queen have a piper playing at the Palace? I agree though it's very unlikely you'd hear that down on the river, so maybe it's someplace in Whitehall - and the Scotland Office is at 66 Whitehall at Dover House, which is not so far away from Parliament.

Richard Thomson said...

Cheers, Bill. I'm not too sure what HM's musical arrangements are, but the Terrace backs onto the Thames, which flows northwards at that point, and looks eastwards across to St Thomas' Hospital/Lambeth Palace.

Given the way the buildings are and the traffic noise elsewhere, I suspect the piper is most likely to be in the park at the back of Lambeth Palace, or in Waterloo/the South Bank somewhere, with the sound then coming along the river.

The Speaker is apparently a keen piper, but given I've heard the music when he's been presiding over events in the chamber, it can't be him!

Richard Havers said...

Richard, your experience was somewhat more satisfying than one of my skirmishes with the pipes and drums....

Jim M said...

Oh dear. Looks like Brown and Darling's argument that it is all the fault of the world economy is looking a bit threadbare now.

Channel 4 News, 02 Sep 2008

"The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said the UK would be the only leading industrial nation to shrink in two consecutive quarters, the definition of a recession."

Who can they blame now when the only people who are responsible for the UK's position being worse than everyone else is ... Brown and Darling.

Morning Angel said...

I enjoyed your videos. Thank you.

Richard Thomson said...

Well, thank you. One aims to please :-)