Brace yourselves people this is going to be a rollercoaster.
Me and the Tenor Ladies eschewed common coach travel for the luxuries of the automobile and parked in residential parking just at the Suspension Bridge, apologies! We crossed the Clyde and went in search of the Band in their new darker more sinister uniforms, who had been dropped at the wrong gate and turned up hot and bothered after dragging the Event Shelter all over Glasgow Green. Musicians got their instruments out, no messing about, this is The Worlds. We have been competing here for a good few years now and we’ve never been close to a top six qualifying place, every year we think we’ve done enough and every year it’s heartache.
Big Stewart and his drummers wander off making a racket and the Pipey unleashes his secret weapon, Michael. He has just joined us and as he hasn’t been given a nickname yet and isn’t registered to play he restricts himself, in Neils absence, to helping Pipey and Mrs Broon make us sound invincible. The Aunties and Parents have set up the Event Shelter and are drinking all the tea while we practice our early E’s and Not Starting all Togethers. You have no idea how fast two hours goes by and suddenly we are heading for Final Tuning and against all expectations I’m playing, my pipes are a comfortable pressure under my arm, I’m calm and focussed. We are a huge band for Grade 4B, seventeen pipers and nearly the same again in the drum corps and we are up for it. Normally I say about now that we were sounding good but Pipey and his crew had got us sounding sweet, so out we marched and gave it the full bhoona.
I hadn’t fully realised how much pressure we place on our younger members until I overheard a mother say her wee piper was up at 5am in a blind panic, I nodded companionably, a lot of the older guys in the band are up then as well, visiting the toilet. My wife admitted to being so nervous she couldn’t twirl, at least this year she made it to the circle without falling in a puddle.
Now we wait. This is the time for drinking coffee, watching other bands perform, catching up with old mates and sharing secrets. Big Stewart told me a secret, shh, I’ll tell you later. I like to watch the Juvenile bands play but missed all but two and had to be content with the Grade 1 bands, this is what we aspire to, the juvenile bands let you know that the future of the pipes and drums is in good hands and shame you into practicing more. Meanwhile back at the ranch Michael has been given a mission, “Ask Jackie Bird for a photo with Lewis.” On his return it transpired he’d taken Lewis for a pint, introduced him to the RSPBA and there on the camera was Her Aff the Telly holding Lewis and grinning from ear to ear. Thanks Jackie.
The tension is building as bands arrive to hear who got through, lots of nervous laughter and bad jokes and incredulity at the wonderful Tony Stark/Iron Man display screen, you could see through it. The names are announced and we’re resigned to going home when suddenly Kilbarchan flashes on to the screen, we went nuts, grown men jumping in the air and hugging. The young guys from Sri Dasmesh – Malaysia in their faux tiger skins and big white turbans had their picture taken going bonkers with Lewis looking on. Pipey looked fit to burst. We have some time to kill before work resumes so what better way to spend it than watching the Grade 2 qualifier, or eating sandwiches, or drinking coffee or getting the cargo in for later.
We played outside the RSPBA offices before we played in the final and wee Glesga wimmin were heard to say, “Here, who’re they? They sound good!” That lady has a discerning ear, we sounded pretty tight. If only we’d kept that performance for the circle. Everyone did their best and that is all you can ask of anyone. Back at the Event Shelter Big Stewart gathered his drummers around him and announced this was his last performance with the band, he is moving to a higher graded band and we all wish him luck. (That was the big secret). He has transformed the drum corps in the time he has been with us.
We are in the Worlds march past and this is new territory for us, by the time Lana Gibson (Champion of Champions Drum Major) leads us into the arena most playing members are well into the celebratory wine. We normally slope off early but Pipey is savouring the atmosphere and won’t let us leave. I am a sober man in a sea of inebriates and really want to leave before I kill someone. We wait, Johnstone are World Champions and just when you expect the man to announce Field Marshall he goes and announces that Shotts and Dykehead are World Champions and the whole field goes oooh!
This has been our best Worlds to date, Pipey has taken us a fair distance in the last year and plans to push us harder next year. Before that we have the Rothesay Highland Games over the waater.