The Christmas lights and wreaths are down, the house decorations safely packed away in their boxes for another year and the final dregs of eggnog are being drained from the bottle. It’s time to begin the long, dreary winter haul to Easter
But wait! This is January, and despite the rain, snow and cold, by the end of the month we will once again celebrate the birth of Scotland’s Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Aryshire, Robert Burns. For a bagpiper in Vancouver, this is usually a busy time.
Personally, I have played bagpipes at a number Robert Burns suppers around the country. The most memorable at the officers mess at Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay, Labrador in 1997. The low-level fighter jet training base was home to Canadian, British, German and Dutch military. And as a foreign base for these allies, there was no duty on the food and alcohol they brought in. So, needless to
say it was a wild night. Each table had their own bottle of whiskey and the head table, several bottles of single malt scotch. The event included poetry recitation, singing, bagpiping and toasts that veered off into areas best left unmentioned. The entire room retired to the offices lounge afterward for the 25 cent drinks and things became a bit blurry after that. What I do remember is eventually losing my skian dhu (the Scotsman’s knife) in a snowbank as I navigated the -25 degree weather on my way home around 5am.
Other events included playing bagpipes for The Mason’s in Gander, Newfoundland and several times playing bagpipes at at pub/restaurant on Bowen Island outside Vancouver. Along with a group of friends, we sailed out of English Bay and into Snug Cove with me on the bow playing as we arrived in port. The supper gathered together a great group of local residents, great food followed up by an evening upstairs in the pub. afterward More recently, I have been the master of ceremonies at the Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band Robert Burns supper in Burnaby.
“The wintry west extends his blast and hail and rain does blaw. “Yes, January can be a dreary time. But thanks to Robert Burns the days of hail and rain can be broken up as we prepare to celebrate the life and works of Scotland’s major poet with great whiskey, tatties, nips, music and friendships.