By the left ...
March 31, 2012

By the left . . . Geezerhood and piping and drumming: Age-old questions from the front-lines

packages are in jeopardy. These problems are beyond our control.

However, continuing to play in a pipe band at some advanced stage of geezerhood is a choice . . . a choice one should consider carefully. And so I worry.

Take the business of insurance. I received a note from my bank recently, thanking me for “your continued interest in our insurance program,” and then going on to tell me that at age 70, my insurance will be discontinued. Wha’? Yes, I have a continued “interest” in my insurance program . . . I want it to continue.

My fancy travel insurance through my fancy credit card will drop by 50% at age 70. Say what?! If I get sick while travelling, it will only cast the system half because I’m 70.


So consider the geriatric piper off to some faraway pipe band contest who gets creamed by a runaway drunk driver. Too bad, bub; cough up half.

Actually the only safe place to get sick or hurt while on a piping venture is Scotland, because if you need a hospital there the National Health Service cares for you. Period. No questions asked; no demand for a credit card, no demand for proof of insurance. Are you listening, US Republicans?

It’s not just insurance. There is no end of foreseeable problems that could arise. The glaucoma stricken piper can have someone guide him into the circle. Maybe not so bad, as this kind of happens now, but make that piper a senior as well, and you can see the potential.

But what about the piper using a walker (a “Zimmer” for those in the UK)? You can’t push and pipe at the same time. Or consider the wheelchair-bound musician. They don’t make wheelchair accessible pipe band competition circles in my experience, and the ground we march over getting into the circle is definitely not wheelchair friendly.

But maybe there’s a bright side. If the age of band members continues along this trend, contest organizers will be compelled to change the rules. Bands will be permitted to form up in the competition arena in any way they see fit, and in a fashion that eases their halt and lame members into position with minimum risk of injury, and thenstart to play. This would see most of them performing while facing the audience!start to play. This would see most of them performing while facing the audience!

“C’moan, Jummie, they’ll never dae it! Bloody revolutionary! It’s they Canadians and they Aussies behind this crap!”

Maybe so, but I have often dreamed of qualifying for the Scottish Bar, and taking on some neat litigation over there, say, a class-action on behalf of composers against the appropriate defendants ( they know who they are) for compensation for their wrongful use of copyright material at the World Pipe Band Championships. What a hoot.

But to return to the topic at hand, perhaps it would be lawsuits in every corner of the pipe band world, relying on the local human rights legislation, claiming that if organizers don’t do something to help mobility challenged pipers and drummers on the top end of the age scale, their rights have been violated as a result of age discrimination. That would be fun.

But not as much fun as I’m having now, playing in a pipe band.

Born in 1942, Bill Livingstone was competing successfully in top solo contests until the age of 69, and continues to compete at the Grade 1 level in the Toronto Police Pipe Band. He still has his own teeth, hair and health, and shows none of the typical signs of geezerhood.




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