Gracious in defeat

Lilias Day is our annual blooding of the newbies when we introduce our newest and shiniest players to the village, however I’m getting ahead of myself and I’ll rewind a few days to set the stage.

The week running up was more like February then the last week of May, grey rain slashed skies, depressed temperatures and a grim forecast promising no let up. Capes were being looked out and we were mentally preparing for a drenching. When the curtains were thrown back on Lilias Day it was dry, the gods of hail and thunder were obviously still looking for us in Gourock and we had a perfect day for a street march.

The erecting of Event Shelters is no longer a source of hilarity and we’re getting so proficient that we were helping other stallholders put theirs up. We did discover what all the puzzling bits of webbing in the bags was for, we should have read the instructions five years ago. Old Blue would have banned them anyway as a trip hazard. This year we were having our usual tombola and Hook a Duck, guess the teddy’s name and loads of other stuff for the weans. Even though we arrived before nine to collect all the bits and bobs it’s usually a rush to get it all set up, changed into our uniforms and make Pipey’s deadline at the Bowling Club (fines for lateness), but this year I had time to make a scrambled egg roll, get it all over the worktop, the floor and me, get cleaned up, into uniform and down to the Bowling Club in time to be one minute late and incur a £5 fine. Harsh!

After some of Dr Tennants Blowing and Fingering Embrocation it was time to get outside and play a few tunes for the pleasure of Jimmie MacGregor, folk legend and obvious connoisseur of pipe music. The weather was perfect (I’m starting to sound like Christopher Banchett), the pipes were sounding good and I was really looking forward to the march. This was to be my first Lilias Day parade on my feet in two years. The parade was preceded by massed scooters, the Town Crier had been replaced by a bloke doing somersaults off of peoples walls and louping fences, the Preses and Vice Preses of Kilbarchan General Society were directly in front of us in their big car waving to the lieges and directly behind us were two dancing Chinese dragons and big drum. The day was taking a surreal turn.

The march through the village was glorious, hard work and fun. I spent so much time nodding and making eye contact with spectators I may have lost track of where I was in the tune once or twice. When we reached the Steeple our newbies joined the ranks and Habbie Simpson came down off of his perch and took over as Pipe Major. This was a relief as we only had to play set of tunes through two or three times as opposed to Pipey’s ad infinitum approach.

I hope the new guys enjoyed themselves, it’s a big thing that first time on the street as is their first massed band parade, well done.

The stall was thronged when we made it back for lubrication and photographs. Last year we won the Tug of War and were so pleased with ourselves that we donated a trophy. As we discussed who was going to put it in their cabinet this year Nemesis cast a leary eye over us. Ross’s cap badge falling into the dirt should have been a warning that we were in for a drubbing. It was an evenly matched contest between us and the Scouts but just as we were wearing them down Piper McFadyen lost his footing and his dignity. A testimony of the ferocity of the battle was the number of rope burns, sprains and strains. The fact that the Scouts were beaten in the final by small children and a girl in a chintz dress just added to the surreal atmosphere.

Later, after the stall was dismantled and weary pipers and drummers had found the pub, I invited Habbie round for a burger before he had to get back up in his niche. The second last act of the day is a parade to the Steeple with Kilbarchans Piper leading a crowd of villagers, one cop told me he was getting out before they brought out the Wicker Man. Habbie played and the villagers danced a Strip the Willow in the street. Salvador Dali couldn’t make this up.

The last act of the day was the opening of the Bunnahabhain.

We have a cruise ship tonight (Sunday after Lilias Day) and our next adventure is Ardrossan Highland Games.

Cannae wait..

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