Seven great 2015 Scottish highland games & festivals near Vancouver

Massed band photoLooking to satisfy that summer urge for piping, kilts and haggis? British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest is the place to be in 2015.

DSC02998It all starts this weekend with the annual Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival which kicks off the outdoor piping and drumming competitive season with a three day event at Topaz Park in the BC’s provincial capital. Catch the ferry to Vancouver Island to enjoy some of that region’s best highland dancers, pipers, drummers and heavy event athletes.  The Victoria Highland Games begin on Saturday, May 16 and this year will also include Clan displays, vendors, heritage and history displays, Celtic field sports such as Gaelic football and Irish Hurling, children’s entertainment, Celtic music and dancing performances, shepherding, whisky tasting, beverage areas and much more. Continue reading

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The rise and follies, highs and lows of a Vancouver bagpiper

Bagpiping at cemeteryIt’s no fun when you are booked to play at a wedding ceremony – and you’re the only one who shows up. It happens and it stinks after taking the time out of your day, driving to a venue and getting the pipes tuned and ready to play. But flakey brides, uptight mother-in-laws, poor directions, traffic jams and disorganized events are all part of the fabric when you’re a bagpiper in any city.

However, there are lighter moments that you can look back on and laugh.

Like the time I played at a Catholic funeral mass in North Vancouver a few years ago. The deceased was, according to the funeral director, the black sheep of the family. He attended Continue reading

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SFU “Piping up for Cancer” to support Vancouver bagpiper Andrew Bonar

The SFU Pipe Band is proud to announce a fundraising concert and ceilidh in support of Andrew Bonar with all proceeds going to the BC Cancer Foundation for brain cancer care and research. The concert will take place at 6:00 PM – 7:30 on March 28 at the SFU Theatre on Burnaby Mountain with the ceilidh following at 8PM at the Club Ilya in the Cornerstone building at SFU. The world champion SFU pipe band will be performing alongside the Heather Jolley Highland Dancers, of which Andrew’s daughter, Kate, is a member.

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An inkling of spring and the promise of bagpiping in the great Vancouver outdoors

2013 037I learned many year ago not to boast about the often great weather in Vancouver.

It first dawned on me soon after I arrived in Vancouver that not everyone gets excited about a sunny, 15 degree day in February.  The realization came while winter sailing in English Bay.

I was headed to Bowen Island with a group of friends, to participate and play pipes at the annual Robert Burns Supper at a local pub. With the sun shining down on us, a light breeze blowing and good friends, it was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon in January. In my excitement, I called one of my brother’s in Nova Scotia to tell him about my sailing trip, the warm sun and beautiful day. He told me that was great and that he’d like to stay on the phone and chat but he and his sons had to go back outside and shovel snow – for the third time that day. I got the message, and have been conscious of my smugness ever since. Continue reading

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Bagpipers around the world helping out a piper in need.

Great story from Summerside, PEI about pipers helping out others.  Check it out.

Pipers helping each other

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Ewan McGregor on wearing the kilt, OBE’s and bagpipes

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Calling non-competitive pipe bands in the Lower Mainland

Canmore Highland Games

Canmore Highland Games

From the world’s largest, to North America’s oldest, there are many great Scottish highland games around the world. To name just a few, the largest is the Cowal Highland Gathering in Scotland; in the US, there are the Pleasanton Games in California and the Grandfather Mountain Games in North Carolina and the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ontario. (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Antigonish Highland Games in Nova Scotia, the oldest continuous Games in North America). Continue reading

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Remembering the fallen, with bagpipes in Vancouver and beyond

Piping down of the sun.When the bagpiper plays the lament this year at cenotaphs in Vancouver and around the country on November 11, it will a poignant moment for many.

As most Canadian are well aware, we lost two soldiers recently on our own shores. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run over and killed as he departed a government office building in Quebec. The deranged attacker, who was later killed in a confrontation with police, was a Muslim convert who RCMP had investigated as an Islamic State sympathizer.   Continue reading

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A memorable day in Abbotsford

BC Law Enforcement Memorial, 2014.  Photo: Twitpic @bcRCMP

BC Law Enforcement Memorial, 2014. Photo: Twitpic @bcRCMP

The sun shone again, for the 16th time in the 17 year history of the BC Law Enforcement memorial, commemorating those officers of the RCMP and all other police forces who lost their lives in the line of duty in British Columbia. This is an annual event that draws police members from all over British Columbia and Washington. A similar memorial is held in each province at the end of September, with a national memorial held in Ottawa.

This is also an opportunity for the three police pipe bands in the Lower Mainland to play for the honour guards and troops who march to remember their past colleagues. The RCMP E. Division Pipe Band, under Pipe Major Hugh Peden and Drum Major Rob Smith, led the bands to Rotary Stadium in Abbotsford today, followed by the Delta Police Pipe Band, under PM John Ralston and Drum Major J.P. DaSilva and the Vancouver Police Pipe Band, under PM Cal Davis.



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This bagpiper from (New) Scotland would have voted “Yes”

A Rocky Mountaineer send-off

A Rocky Mountaineer send-off

If you wear a kilt and play the bagpipes for thousands of visitors from around the English speaking world, you can expect to be on the receiving end of a lot of questions about Scotland’s drive for independence. As the bagpiper for the Rocky Mountaineer train, I certainly have.

To be clear, I was born and raised in New Scotland (Nova Scotia) not Old Scotland. I am a fifth generation Canadian and obviously unable to vote. However, as a kilt-wearing bagpiper with a Scottish name, believe me, you become a magnet for questions from visitors from around the world about Scottish independence. Continue reading

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