Anyone who has spent any time in Canada will be familiar with the Tim Hortons chain of coffee shops, and anyone who’s learned about Canadian culture will know that a Tim Hortons coffee with two creams and two sugars is known as a “double-double.”
Anyone who’s serious about piping will know that “The Double” – winning both Highland Society of London Gold Medals at the Argyllshire gathering at Oban and the Northern Meeting at Inverness in the same year – is a rarity. In fact, the Double Gold Medallist feat has been achieved only a handful of times in history, and in 2016 Ian K. MacDonald became only the twelfth person to do it.
But 12 times is relatively a lot, compared with the fact that probably never before in the last two centuries has something else that happened in 2016: the first and second prizes in the Oban and Inverness Gold Medals went to the same people, with Sean McKeown placing second at each.
Add to all that the fact that MacDonald and McKeown play in the same band, as pipe-sergeant and pipe-major, respectively, of the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band. They’re also both serving police officers. While MacDonald persistently traveled to compete in the Gold Medals for upwards of 20 years, and even returned to keep at it after suffering a heart attack in 2014, McKeown gained his double-seconds in his first year of playing in the Gold Medal events, after winning the qualifying Silver Medal at Inverness last year.
After their apparently unprecedented piping “Double-Double,” we caught up with MacDonald and McKeown at a Toronto Police band practice at the Toronto Police College, Tim Hortons double-doubles in hand, on a cold winter’s day for a brief video chat about their twinned accomplishment.