It’s great being a bagpiper in British Columbia – at 4 pm on New Year’s Eve.
Which also happens to be midnight in Scotland.
So, 4 pm is when the party starts for the Scottish diaspora in British Columbia. For years, many in the community have been gathering to celebrate the new year together at the same time as their folks back home in Scotland. It’s been going on in various pubs and restaurants around BC for years. Large families and big groups of ex-pats and their families, eating, having a few drinks and making a happy racket. And of course, what’s a Scottish New Year’s celebration without bagpipes? Marching in at the sounding of the bell, rousing up the crowd and then all raising glasses and singing Auld Lang Syne together is a great way to spend a late afternoon. Especially with another big celebration only eight hours away.
I’ve played at a number of Scottish New Year events over the years. Recently, I’ve been the 4 pm “midnight” piper at Fox’s Reach Pub in Maple Ridge. If you’re thinking of heading out, get their early. It’s usually jammed. Although it may clear out a bit when the piper walks in at 4.
I hope to see you there, or maybe at another big event in Vancouver where the midnight piper appears.
On Remembrance Day, 2015, the people of our country will pause to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. As I have for many years, I will play the piper’s Remembrance Day lament at a number of ceremonies, including the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. But at each one, I will remember the most influential veteran of World War II that I have ever known – my late father.
Like many men from the small Nova Scotia community where I was born, he joined the Canadian military in the early stages of the war and served his country as a Canadian Air Force sergeant and aerial navigator. He received
J. Ronald Chisholm, 18, shortly before joining the RCAF in 1939.
the Overseas Medal for serving on a base that provided escort duties for naval and merchant ships plying the dangerous waters of the North Atlantic, keeping supply lines open and bringing Canadian soldiers overseas and back home. At the end of the European campaign, he was scheduled to ship out to the Pacific war zone when the atomic bombs were dropped, and the war ended. He credits his mother’s prayers for keeping him on home soil. He now lies in our family cemetery plot overlooking ancestral land along the shores of Antigonish Harbour and among the gravestones of many other fellow veterans and colleagues of “the war”, a common expression when I was growing up. When I was a younger man, I remember the “old” vets were survivors of W.W.I. Now the last of the W.W.II vets are passing to their final reward. I will think of them also, their dedication to country during war time and the contribution they have made to this country during peace.
Pebble Beach, CA
On a windswept piece of landscaped rough, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and its pounding surf, as golfers and guests gather to wrap up their day and reminisce about their drives and putts, they witness a beautiful sight and sound as a bagpiper strolls along the fairway at sunset, playing the sun down with haunting airs and laments as waves crash below him.
Every night this iconic image of a piper along the shore takes place at the Pebble Beach Resort, The Inn at Spanish Bay – south of San Francisco. The top golf course resembles a Scottish-style links course but instead of bordering the North Atlantic, duffers enjoy the salty tang of the wild California coastline. Designed by Robert Trent Jr., Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum, the course is a natural beauty. For many of the guests, including golfers and diners, the piper closing down the day is the highlight of the evening. Setting down drinks near an outdoor fire, a setting western sky. and what they have settled in to hear. In fact, a piper figures prominently in the golf courses logo. Continue reading
Looking to satisfy that summer urge for piping, kilts and haggis? British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest is the place to be in 2015.
It 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
Posted in History, Tradition & Heritage, Music
Tagged bagpiping, beer gardens, Coquitlam, haggis, heavy events, Highland games, kilts, tartans, Vancouver, whisky tasting
It’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
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.
I 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