Trailing Drones
September 30, 2007


by Harry Tung

So here we are in this fabulous place ? what are you going to do
here? I was standing in this fabulous place . . . you auldyins and
know the rest. So much dirt to dig, and so little time to
dig it. But, here, have a look at some of the items that caught my
attention while I was busy being a waterboy to the stars this
summer/winter, depending on your hemisphere.

Harry was watching the action at the 2007 World Pipe Band
, with rain soaking my so-called “waterproof”
ghillies. Actually, I was not far from the beer tent when the
march-past was going on . . . and on . . . and on. Hooray! What a
gala finale! Nothing like making six of the world’s best bands slog
away at tunes while 230 bands go marching past, like some wicked
trail of tears from the Great War. I’m sure I saw Willie Lawrie
with one of the Argyllshire bands. Anyhoo, with the BBC now
getting video footage throughout the day for their subsequent show
on the grand day, I couldn’t help wonder how their competition felt
when the camera crew swarmed Field Marshal Montgomery
before the Grade 1 result was announced. I mean, Simon
Fraser University
was right next to them and, if they didn’t
know the result before then, they sure knew who won then. I’m all
for packaging the event into something for the masses, but that was

Speaking of brutal, my heart goes out to MacKenzie
from Dundee. Playing in Grade 3A, the band had
three firsts at the World’s. Why would you feel bad for them? Well
two firsts in piping and a first in ensemble still couldn’t give
the band the victory, or second, or even third. They finished
fourth because they were placed last in drumming by
Alistair Dowling. Funny thing was, the ensemble judge was
Alistair Aitken, who also judges drumming. Now, tell me if
I’m mistaken, but isn’t accompanying the pipe section and enhancing
the tunes the most important functions of a drum section? Doesn’t
that count for anything?! I mean, according to my calculations, a
still-pretty-bad eighth in drumming would have won the band the
contest. Keep working, boys and girls.

There were few odder things to witness this competition season
(well, actually, there were a lot more odd things to witness) than
the sight of the Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders with
their 30-plus pipers competing against the Toronto Police with their minimum eight. I
mean, it was like the Little Big Horn in terms of comparative
numbers, but some thought it was almost like David and Goliath when
it came to the actual battle. When the Peel Regional Police
announced that Glenn Brown is the band’s new pipe-major, I
again noted a disparity in numbers. Brown’s about 25 years-old,
while 78th Fraziers’ leader Bill Livingstone is 65. That’s 40 years
difference, peeps! But, never mind the band contests, who would win
in a wrestling match or a bike race or the World’s Strongest Kilted
Man competition?

As if producing a championship-winning band weren’t enough for a
summer, Strathclyde Police Pipe-Major Donald Mackay and his
wife, Esther, welcomed twins in June, just two days before the
British Championships. Nice work, pipey!

From Harry’s “These Things Happen Department.” The venerable
Simon McKerrell made a bit of a fox paw at the
Argyllshire Gathering in August. Simon Le Bon-Bon last year
won the A-Grade MSR at Aviemore, so he logically entered for the
Former Winners MSR at Oban. His entry was accepted by the
organizers, and he went ahead and played (very well, I thought) in
the prestigious event. Trouble was, he wasn’t in fact eligible.
Seems that you have to win both the March and the
Strathspey & Reel to have a go on the big stage. There was a
bit of confusion after he played, but all was okay in Oban-land,
since the judges decided that four other (qualified!) competitors
would make up the list.

Wha's a girl like yew doin' wi' a wanka loik 'im?I was at the April Dressed to Kilt fashion show in New York last
spring and got my fill of prats and wankers getting their jollies
with tartan. Honestly, they’re always saying that plaid is the next
big thing, but they never seem to understand that it’s always in
style with some folk. Paris Kilton was nowhere to be seen.
Doing time in The Big Hoose, I think.

The big musical trend in 2007? Why, it’s “traditional” tunes being
put into new time signatures. Lots of bands and soloists were doing
this over the summer, with stuff like LA Scots putting “Mrs.
Lily Christie” into hornpipe time, Alberta Caledonia with
“Rejected Suitor,” and Stuart Liddell (of 2007 Clasp and
more fame) with his very crafty doing their inimitable crazy
rendition of “The Sheepwife.” What a perfect solution for bands
struggling to balance the old with the new in their competition
stuff: accomplish both in one tune!

The World’s. The World’s. The World’s. It turns the entire
pipe band world into zombies for a full month. And the rain this
year was like Chinese water torture, or some Jack Bauer-esque
ordeal at CTU. I found this kinda-funny-kinda-sad video on YouTube that
spoofs the event, or the promises made by the Glasgow Council about
attendance. They kind of overlooked the chance that it might rain a
great deal. Too bad they chose not to show any of the zealots
running about in kilts ignoring the rain and getting on with their
wet dreams.

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Harry depends on readers like you to send breaking news and hot
dirt! Has your band made personnel changes? Seen a judge do
something untoward? Got a salacious story to tell?

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Drop him a quick e-mail with your scoopage, and he’ll promise to
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