A few weekends ago Anna, Harry and I took a short trip in the tartan van to the east coast of Scotland to attend the North Berwick 23rd International Highland Games. This was our first outing to the Games and we were truly astounded by the number of Pipe Bands competing. The only time I have ever been close to hearing that volume of pipe music before was at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
One of the first bands to arrive were Catamount, who had travelled from Montpelier, Vermont in the USA. The band were established in 2001 and are dedicated to enriching their community as cultural ambassadors of Celtic music and tradition. Although the band are based in Vermont members travel from many neighbouring states and beyond in the East Coast.
I caught up Donald Lindsay, a longstanding member of the band. Donald’s father grew up as a Ghillie in Invermark at the east of Loch Lee in Angus, Scotland. Invermark has long been associated with the Lindsay Clan and in 1558, David Lindsay, 9th Earl of Crawford died within Invermark Castle. Donald’s Father emigrated to the USA and went on to found a piping college in 1961 which he named Invermark. Donald is now director of the college and has taught numerous pipers in the North Eastern States, including the band’s Pipe Major & Founder Iain MacHarg who he has been teaching since Ian was 6!
Iain is currently Vermont’s only full-time piping instructor and is also a music professor at Norwich University. He grew up surrounded by Pipe music as his father is a Premier bagpipe builder.
The band were competing in the Grade 4B March & Grade 4A March, Strathspey & Reel competitions. In between competing and practising we also managed to catch up with Andrew O’Suilvan who told us more about the trip so far.
The band landed in Scotland on Thursday morning and got to practicing, almost immediately! They hold what they are referring to as the Practice of Tears… Understandably the band were struggling with Jet Lag but that didn’t stop them. There was no chance of anyone falling asleep once the drones got going! Friday was another full day of rehearsal, which ran a little more smoothly once the band had enjoyed a good nights sleep. Up bright and breezy the band departed at 6am on Saturday to head to the games, making them one of the first to arrive, and we first made their acquaintance as a few members headed straight to the coffee stand next door to us.
You would think that Sunday may be a day of rest for the band but oh no, the band were then off to Perth for another day of competition. The following week involved a lot more practice and hopefully a little but of sightseeing before the band headed to the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow that weekend.
This year there were 13 nations entered in to the Championships and we managed to catch up with bands from New Zealand, Oman and Zimbawe, so watch this space for some more piping stories.