Due to ongoing ferry inefficiencies we’d decided to get to Ardrossan harbour early to avoid disappointment. The weather forecast was grim but hopefully clearing later so we had braced ourselves for a cruel crossing with a dispirited march at the other end then damp splashing through the park.
I had been sent to the bar for supplies and James the Hat was away for medicinal rolls n bacon, egg and tattle scone. Most of the band were bracing in the same manner while Maybole entertained the travelling public by tuning up out on deck. The trip over took a surreal turn when Sleepy Alan was spotted wide awake next to a sleeping bloke. I had opted for a bottled beer and was glad of the choice as I’d finished one while Big Grant hovered about the bar waiting for them to clean the pipes.
Brodick Highland games is a serious event, just not for pipers. The dancers and athletes are there for the competition and the pipe bands are there to add colour. Add a few golfers and hillwalkers and it’s always lively on the boat. The ethos we cling to is that anyone who has played, supported, fundraised or helped us is welcome to join us, gratis. It’s a thank you from the band for the people who are always there for us.
There is no hanging about when we dock as there is a hectic schedule of marches, photo opportunities and celebrity endoresments to keep us busy. Alison’s wee black and yellow friends were there in profusion again, if you don’t like wasps I’d avoid Brodick in August. We marched up the street in a cloud of wasps, I had one land on my nose and then give my lips a thorough investigation while I was playing, behind me the drum corps banged and screamed it’s way up the road.
Having had no-one stung and dragged away to feed the grubs it was time to head for the church hall and “The Purvey.” I may be a Grade 4b piper but I’m a Grade 1 starver and remembered the famine of last year when it was a quarter of a roll each and our Unelected Social Committee ended up washing the dishes. From my place at the head of the queue I noted that there weren’t nearly enough sandwiches and that the production line in the kitchen was just about buckling under the pressure, however after a frenzy of sandwich making that would have had Hercules sweating the tartan masses were fed, I wasn’t one of them having finished up and headed for a round of golf.
The weather had decided that damp wasn’t really its style and had opted for glorious sunshine instead, Dot was dispatched for sun screen but many felt they were okay as long as nobody took the roof off the pub. The two massed band marches, which had looked likely to turn into muddy straggles were in fact hugely enjoyable and entertaining, I’ve seen the pictures and we look splendid.
About now mine and James the Hat’s paths diverged; I went and bought chips from the Englishman at the Frying Scotsman and he opted for The Arran Malt the upshot of which is that I marched in a (reasonably ) straight line and played my instrument competently and he kept grinning at people. The big circle at the harbour prior to boarding for home was the usual anarchy as pipers played all the old crowd pleasers and Mickey Blue Eyes marched about in the big bass drum. The new terminal building has curtailed some of the madness as the crowd are segregated from the bands earlier. Our pipe and drum cases were causing some worry as they hadn’t been seen since the morning. I managed to load all my gear into a Lewis’s case the same as mine but less broken then have to load it all into my own which I then swapped with another Lewis and had to retrieve on Sunday.
The ferry back to Ardrossan was a lot less mental than previous years although we lost James the Hat and Big Mick explained potatoes to me. A search party of weans found the Hat sitting on the top deck with a glass of whisky and grinning. The bus trip home was uneventful but noted for its singing.
Thanks again to the Games Committee for inviting us, I really thought it was going to be a washout but the park was perfect and the crowds hadn’t been deterred by the forecasts. Next year we will check the Arran only forecast as you guys seemed to have no weather worries.
Technically Arran is the opening of Piping Live although they would dispute this, so, next up is Piping Live and the run up to the Worlds.