July 19, 2005

Grand Slamming

You just knew that it would come to this.

But, first, a bit of history.

The 78th Fraser Highlanders are the 25-year-old band based in Toronto. The surviving members of the former General Motors Pipe Band got uniforms and a bit of sponsorship money from the 78th Fraser Highlanders, a group of mainly society folk into re-enactment and wearing the bright orange 78th Fraser tartan, tam, retro-tunics and tartan socks. The new band named itself the 78th Fraser Highlanders and won the World’s six years later. “The Frasers” have had no real sponsorship tie with the historical group for at least 15 years, and even created its own “78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band” tartan (a brilliant idea, if I do say so) in 1997. The band got permission to keep the name.

The 78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel Pipe Band is about five years old. The band was the Halifax Police for many years and, as with the General Motors situation, found new sponsorship from the Halifax Citadel, a major tourist attraction and historical re-enactment thingmee in Nova Scotia. To get the benefit of the sponsorship, the band had to change its name to the 78th Highlanders. No “Fraser” in the name, since there’s no “Fraser” in this particular historical group. Fair enough.

So, what has it come to? Well, both bands are competing in Scotland again this year, and both bands are playing at Bridge of Allan. The RSPBA has made the draw for the contest, and, lo and behold, the two bands play back-to-back. Not only that, but the RSPBA has listed the 78th Highlanders Halifax in the draw as the 78th Fraser Highlanders Halifax Citadel.

While North American judges seem to be used to the notion of two bands having similar names, the same might not be true of RSPBA judges and administrators.

There was a time in the 1970s when there were two bands called Denny & Dunnipace. Both were Grade 2. Both were teased with the “Dummies That Didnae Place” name by jealous rivals. One was from Denny, near Stirling, Scotland, and the other from Washington, DC, where the closest thing to the name is a “Denny’s” on Highway 66 near Fairfax. The bands met a few times at the Inter-Continental Championships in Toronto. No word whether they shared a Grand Slam Inter-Continental Breakfast at the Denny’s off of the QEW.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if there’s any confusion at Bridge of Allan, or the World’s for that matter. My guess is no. The two bands couldn’t look more different and their musical styles and sound are like chalk and cheese.

But, if the 87th Cleveland Pipe Band manages to get to Grade 1, dyslexic judges will have to be monitored very closely . . . or is that loosely . . .





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