Farewell to Melissa

I woke up terribly thirsty this morning.
Yesterday was Cowal Games, the last competition outing for the band this season. The forecast was for hard work followed by silliness with outbreaks of cheeky vimto later on. One of the pleasures of going to Cowal is the free breakfast on the bus. Bobbins of Kilbarchan provide rolls with bacon or sausage, magic. We picked up Davie and Brian on route to the ferry and as we sat in the car park I couldn’t help noticing the lack of activity, the ferry before had left half empty. This is unheard of at Cowal weekend, the ferries are normally crammed with bandsmen and their buses. This was the first indication that everything was not as we expected in Dunoon. The second was when our bus was directed to park where the Grade 1 bands normally park. Curiouser and curiouser. We had decided on 2 Event Shelters this time out, twice the hilarity, but one has a broken pole so we tied them together and Isy wrapped tape around it to stop it getting an  infection. We now had an Event Marquee. There was a paucity of drummers during this building work (James and the tenor ladies are exempt from this criticism) but as they had taken their drums off the bus they had to hit them, they were spotted sloping off for a wee paradiddle. With the tents up it was tea time, then an intense round of tuning followed and before you know we are at final tuning then heading into the Stadium. Inside the stadium was very quiet but it was still early and I expected it to liven up after lunch when last nights boozers woke up.
Cowal Gathering was stripped of it’s RSPBA championship status last year and this was the first time we had attended Cowal as a minor pipe band competition. All the other aspects of the gathering remain, it’s still a massive highland dancing competition with a worldwide reputation but the bands had deserted in droves. Of the 60 rumoured to be going 18 arrived. Last year there were 2 qualifying heats, this year 11 bands slugged it out for the Grade 4 prizes. I had swapped sides, over to the good side, due to Fireman Dave’s lurgy. Poor Davey look really ill so we sent him off for a lie down on the bus. We marched on and played, and we marched back to the Event Shelter and practiced the MSR a couple of times then back to final tuning and into the stadium for the Grade 4 MSR competition. I stepped out for the MSR due to not being able to play the tunes. All those who didn’t play gave the band a huge cheer from the sidelines.

Back at the Event Marquee much tea was drunk and cake eaten because we still had to play for Grade 3 and needed to keep our strength up. The pipers were dropping like flies and Adam joined Davey on the sick list.  Melissa had been designated Pipe Major for this competition as it was her last time out with the band for a considerable time, she has moved to Stornoway for Uni. While the rest of the band were tuned she practiced shouting, “By the right. etc etc!” Earlier in the day she had had saluting lessons as we didn’t want a repeat of The Jazz Hands of Sanquhar. Huge thanks to the RSPBA guys at the arena who were totally up for this unorthodox idea. PM Melissa marched us in, we played and she marched us out. All very professional but the compére told the whole Stadium what we were about and this had most of the female players roarin and greetin and caused a few lumps in throats for more manly types. Back at the Marquee we had a wee farewell ceremony and present Oor Melissa with an electronic practice chanter, more roarin and greeting. We wish her all the best for her studies and at Lewis Pipe Band.

This marked the end of the Dry Season and the sherry was unpacked. Many of the band wandered off to see what was happening in the arena; duck herding, mountain bike mayhem, Artie out of Singing Kettle and of course the dancing, solo piping and heavy athletics. Skipinnish rocked the ceilidh tent. Others wandered down into Dunoon and yet others sat about drinking and eating shortbread. Many tall tales were told and cheeky vimtos imbibed but not enough actual food eaten and as a result it was a slightly unsteady band that trooped into the stadium for the march past. Our pals at Johnstone skooshed Grade 3 but plucky KPB picked up the Thomas R MacIntyre Memorial Trophy for 5th  and the Ballochyle Challenge Trophy for 5th in the MSR. Well done Coalburn IOR who won both Grade 4 and Grade 4 MSR. We sloped off early and headed back to get ready for the march past, Brian and Big Stewart masks were the in thing so when Brian announced “Tops off,” it was a total surprise but as loyal minions we stripped off waistcoats and shirts. The ladies put their waistcoats back on or there could have been a riot. The march down the street was a gyrating pale flabby affair with some of the worst fingerwork ever seen on Scottish tarmac. Ladies and Gentlemen I present the Moobs and Guns of Kilbarchan Pipe Band, ta da. Brilliant fun though! Neil and Melissa gave us a few tunes on the bus back to the bus and it was all over for another year.

No more 7:30am bus journeys or standing in a field in the pouring rain/baking sun, no more heartache at poor performances or euphoria at good ones, no more fun days out with brilliant mates; until May. I for one plan to sleep to 10am this Saturday.

Cannae wait..

Both PMs with both trophies

Both PMs with both trophies


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