Trailing Drones

Trailing Drones: rosters, weather and badges, oh my!

Published: June 1, 2016

Welcome to the season, fellow afflicted self-flagilators (say that three times fast). Yer auld pal Harry is off on adventures this summer, disguesting with a pretty famous pipe band in hopes of taking the hardware in the hotly contested “Juvenile Adults” category. It’s going to be yuuuuuge, like that time Henrietta had a half-dozen oysters before she discovered it was the spittoon and not the oyster pot. I told her to lay off the cider.

Yuuuuge adventures and tunes are certain to be had this summer when Stuart Liddell, Angus MacColl, Callum Beaumont and maybe even Gordon Walker go round the Scottish games this summer. These smaller events have suffered from small turnouts from pipers, and it’s rare these days when any the top-flight players are at the wee games. With their CPA gradings well established and their places in the big contests unassailable, why venture out to where the Grade C and B players are wrestling musically for the £25 first prize? Harry thinks it’s fantastic, and wishes there was more of it, even if the C-Grade players just come out to listen and learn from these masters. A fair weather day at the games is brilliant: great tunes, great craic, and generally everyone is happy to just be there having a tune, tea and a chockybicky, and maybe a sneaky dram in the carpark when it’s all done. On the other hand, a bad weather day generally means running out of the car to play as quickly as possible, and then running back to the car for quite a few more drams. But all part of the joy of going ‘roon the games.

Good to see former SFU pipe-major Terry Lee with clipboard in hand at the British. Smart move to get such an acknowledged expert straight onto the Grade 1 panel in record time. No “taking your turn” judging Novice Juvenile and Grade 4B for three years before getting on a Grade 1 circle. There is hope yet, dear readers. Or maybe it’s only five-times-or-more-World-Championship-winning P-Ms who get put on the fast-track. Gold star, RSPBA!

Of course, weather is on everyone’s mind at the games, and none more so than that canny genius Richard Parkes M.B.E. Famous for his ability to gauge tuning by the conditions, P-M Parkes reportedly brought Field Marshal Montgomery to the line five minutes early at British Championships, craftily ensuring that his band avoided the rain that dumped a little later on others. No rain, some gain. Who says drawing first on doesn’t have its benefits? Brilliant.



Harry loves a well-turned-out band, and social media is all a-twitter with new uniform photos as bands get ready for the season. In his last installation (Harry considers himself a written-performance artist), Harry waxed prolific about the projected cost of all of one band’s gear going to the UK. Well, social media shows that they saved a few bob on sporrans, as they clearly opted for the £13 model from Pakistan. All band members please double check your chains before the majors. We don’t want to see any wardrobe malfunctions. C’est chic!

The big suppliers are going hard on the custom cap badges too. Every band now seems to have their own cap badge of honour, so to speak. Harry’s a little disappointed that nobody has brought back the Balmoral bonnet with blackcock feather. With just one major in, it’s not too late. Who’s in? And wouldn’t everyone just love to look like the official re-enactment pooch from last January? (Right after the photo was taking the killer canine lunged at his owner with killer drool.)

Speaking of hunting things down, Harry hears the RSPBA rovers were doing spot checks (see what I did there?) of band personnel at the British Championships alongside the motorway at Paisley, making sure that “guest” players are properly registered and there’s no hanky-panky with the lists. Remember, you need 14 days clear from the last competition and an official release from your association. To all you bands loading up rosters for the Greater Glasgow Green Gala, get your papers in order. Remember to return all custom cap badges and budget sporrans and kilt pins. Still, it’ll be good exercise for the RSPBA admin folks, and it’ll cut down the budget at the officials’ hospitality tent. Stay safe out there, comrades.

All this talk of uniforms brought to mind a news story from January, when the icy blasts were shrivelling all before them at the outdoor toilets in Aberdeen. The roads to hell and the South Pole are paved with good intentions (might be the same road, Harry thinks) as shown by the plucky Palestinian/Scot who went all the way to the South Pole, only to put his kilt on backwards. No doubt the fingers were fair frozen and he couldn’t get it turned around Harry hopes he then didn’t realize he was actually at the North Pole.

Harry thinks of May/June as “YouTube Season,” as the bands rush to post and re-post their new medleys on social media, begging, pleading beyond hope that you listen to their stuff. Most of the time it’s absolute rubbish. “Let’s get the judges used to the breaks, and build a little positive steam for the next one.” Yeah, all the judges are whiling away their spare time searching for your band’s third-prize medley at Ratatouille, South Carolina, so they can be ready for when you blow that break again.

So get they YouChubes streaming, the pipes played and the new cap badges affixed. The season has begun, and Harry is stoked to hear yer blether, so just drop me a line with your anonymous dirt. Ask me no questions, I tell you no lies!


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Pipers: Never remove a chanter from the stock by grabbing the sole even if it’s plastic. It’s habit forming and you might one day change to a wooden chanter.
Stuart Shedden, Glasgow, 1998 Northern Meeting Gold Medallist