May 11, 2024

From Alex Gandy, Happy Mother’s Day to his and all moms!

By Alex Gandy

Beverley Gandy practicing for the upcoming competition season.

It is a day to celebrate the mothers who make it all possible. I’m fortunate to have had positive, strong women influence me and look after me in my 35 years, none more so than Beverley Gandy. Since day one, my mom has always been in my corner and excellent support.

My earlier years were occasionally tumultuous with Mum. Due to my brother Fraser arriving extremely prematurely, she needed to be much more hands-on with him. As a child, you aren’t able to consider the fact that your younger sibling is in much more need of attention than you are; you just get wound up about who’s getting time from whom. I see it now with my children. Colin (three) and Malcolm (one) are mama’s boys. Sharing Chantal isn’t always their priority.

Growing up as a bagpiper, I naturally spent more time with Dad. Dad is as active as ever in 2024, but he was always around when I would be piping. He taught me from a young age, and we would travel to Highland games, workshops, classes, and later even band practice together. Spending that much time with him bonded us, and it sometimes could feel like the family had a divide, though looking back now, that was mainly from my own childish perspective. It’s incredible how the same things look different when you’re 35 instead of 13.

Fast-forward to now, it’s easier to see how much more Mom impacted me. It wasn’t always apparent to me, but she was always around, too. While Mom’s piping was put on hiatus, it wasn’t like her ears quit the job. She would listen when I was practicing and tell me a few things here and there: that jig was way too fast, the strathspey was way too slow, and you were playing a wrong note in that march. It was 100% lost on me as a teenager how much of an advantage I had with having two pipers in the family.

It felt like a nuisance at the time, mainly because I was a lazy teenager. I was always getting caught for not practicing or working hard enough. 

Getting busted paid dividends. It’s much harder to fix a mistake after it has been in your playing for an entire week than if you only get the chance to make it for a day or two.

Holding the Glenfiddich MSR trophy with my Mum is a thrill I’ll never forget.

You’ll still find Beverley in the audience when Dad and I are playing. She will likely have knitting needles to keep her occupied and her head down. That way, people can’t tell her heart rate is going just as fast as ours while we’re on the stage. Most recently, I was thrilled that Mom could be in the audience (with Auntie Ainsley and Grandma June) at the Glenfiddich Championship. Having familiar faces there helps immensely when you feel you’ve forgotten how to play “The Green Hills of Tyrol,” let alone a piobaireachd and a double MSR.

Alex and Beverley Gandy at the 2023 Glenfiddich Championships with his trophy for winning the MSR event. [Derek Maxwell]
Holding the Glenfiddich MSR trophy with my Mum is a thrill I’ll never forget.

Most recently, Mom has been back playing the pipes. Last weekend, we shared the stage for the first time. If not the first, it was the first time in a very long time. Mom is playing with good friend and pipe-major Blaise Theriault in the Dartmouth & District Pipe Band. I accidentally walked right by her in the hallway of the concert venue. In a sea of Sutherland tartan, and Mom with her hair pulled back, I didn’t clock her at all. Bad son moment. I’m used to seeing her at piping events, but I forgot to be looking for her in uniform. It won’t happen again!

In an interesting turn of events, I’ve been coaching her a bit and helping keep her pipes going. She’s a hard worker and steadily practices, ensuring she’s an asset to their band as they will attend the World Pipe Band Championships in August in Grade 3A. She is very hard on herself. There have been many moments of self-doubt. It makes me consider how long any woman has taken off from piping and the struggle getting back into it. Mom took a break from her hands and arms piping, but her ears never turned off. Because of the physical break, her ears still know what she wants to sound like, but the rest of her body has taken some coaxing to get back to that. It’s a double-edged sword for sure, but it isn’t a hurdle she won’t be able to get over.

Many strong and supportive women have helped Alex Gandy in his piping career and life. L-R June Rollo, Jane Bowen, Christine Lee, Beverley Gandy, Peter Aumonier, Iain MacDonald (Regina), Jack Lee, Bruce Gandy, Tom Bowen, Alex Gandy, and Ainsley Rollo/Richmond.

Bagpiping is still male-dominated, and that’s a whole other story, but the men should be cheering all the ladies on. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without supportive women and mothers. Beverley has been there throughout my career, as has Auntie Ainsley Rollo/Richmond and Grandma June Rollo. Many of my parents’ closest friends and pipe-band moms have always been wonderful to me. Jane Bowen and Linda Aumonier have opened their homes to me in the past and always cheer loudly for us Gandy boys. Would Simon Fraser University have their titles without Christine and Nancy? Would Bill have made it without Lily? Probably not.

When I lived in Glasgow from 2006-’08, I likely would have starved to death if Margaret Houlihan had not taken me in and consistently made sure I had a Sunday dinner. It is wonderful to see her back playing with Shotts after a few years away, raising two boys.

I can’t forget my wife, Chantal. Her competitive career was spent as a Highland dancer rather than a piper, but she’s an exceptionally great mother and will (if all goes well) be a great pipe-band-mom. I couldn’t be piping at the level I do without her support. Colin and Malcolm are so lucky to have an amazing Mom, Grandma, Nana, and all of the other ladies in their lives.

I wasn’t sure if I would name names, as so many women deserve to be acknowledged on Mother’s Day. There are many more women who have been good to me. I’m incredibly thankful for the women who have played in the 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) with me as pipe major. Gender and genitalia don’t matter in a pipe band circle. Commitment, hard work, and skill trump all else.

I’m looking forward to seeing my mother back at it this summer with Dartmouth & District. I hope you cheer her on and cheer on all of the other wonderful women in your life. They deserve it.

Love you, Mum.

Alex Gandy is one of the world’s elite solo pipers, lifting trophies at the Glenfiddich Championships, the Argyllshire Gathering, the Northern Meeting, and myriad top events in North America. He’s also the pipe-major of the Grade 1 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) and a sought-after piping teacher. Alex Gandy, a professional financial advisor, lives with his young family in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.






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