Grand Slamming

You just knew that it would come to this.

But, first, a bit of history.

The 78th Fraser Highlanders are the 25-year-old band based in Toronto. The surviving members of the former General Motors Pipe Band got uniforms and a bit of sponsorship money from the 78th Fraser Highlanders, a group of mainly society folk into re-enactment and wearing the bright orange 78th Fraser tartan, tam, retro-tunics and tartan socks. The new band named itself the 78th Fraser Highlanders and won the World’s six years later. “The Frasers” have had no real sponsorship tie with the historical group for at least 15 years, and even created its own “78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band” tartan (a brilliant idea, if I do say so) in 1997. The band got permission to keep the name.

The 78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel Pipe Band is about five years old. The band was the Halifax Police for many years and, as with the General Motors situation, found new sponsorship from the Halifax Citadel, a major tourist attraction and historical re-enactment thingmee in Nova Scotia. To get the benefit of the sponsorship, the band had to change its name to the 78th Highlanders. No “Fraser” in the name, since there’s no “Fraser” in this particular historical group. Fair enough.

So, what has it come to? Well, both bands are competing in Scotland again this year, and both bands are playing at Bridge of Allan. The RSPBA has made the draw for the contest, and, lo and behold, the two bands play back-to-back. Not only that, but the RSPBA has listed the 78th Highlanders Halifax in the draw as the 78th Fraser Highlanders Halifax Citadel.

While North American judges seem to be used to the notion of two bands having similar names, the same might not be true of RSPBA judges and administrators.

There was a time in the 1970s when there were two bands called Denny & Dunnipace. Both were Grade 2. Both were teased with the “Dummies That Didnae Place” name by jealous rivals. One was from Denny, near Stirling, Scotland, and the other from Washington, DC, where the closest thing to the name is a “Denny’s” on Highway 66 near Fairfax. The bands met a few times at the Inter-Continental Championships in Toronto. No word whether they shared a Grand Slam Inter-Continental Breakfast at the Denny’s off of the QEW.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if there’s any confusion at Bridge of Allan, or the World’s for that matter. My guess is no. The two bands couldn’t look more different and their musical styles and sound are like chalk and cheese.

But, if the 87th Cleveland Pipe Band manages to get to Grade 1, dyslexic judges will have to be monitored very closely . . . or is that loosely . . .



Watching the Open Championship (or, the “British Open” as North Americans call it) at St. Andrew’s reminded me of a little known bit of piping trivia.

There’s a bunker on the second hole named “Cheape’s.” It is in fact named for the grandfather of Hugh Cheape, the well known piping historian (who is also the grand-nephew of Brigadier-General Ronald Cheape of Tirroran).

To have a bunker at St. Andrew’s named for your family — how cool is that?

Loco motives

A ton of correspondence comes through the sumptuous P&D offices every day from pipers and drummers of every ability, from everywhere. I can’t help but notice how many of them say how they’re “crazy busy” with everything, running around to band practices, their own practices, judging, teaching, workshops, whatever. And so many of these folks are doing all of that piping/drumming stuff in their spare time.

Why are so many of us willing to drive ourselves to the point of exhaustion? And for what? Our name in a prize list? A hundred bucks? Beer-tent glory?

I’m one of those people, too, and I’m not even playing, except for giving a lesson or two a week and the odd band practice with The Odd Band and the occasional twiddling on the chanter of The Odd Tunes. Add all the other piping stuff (about which I won’t bore you again) I’ve been busier than ever this summer.

What is it that drives our obsession?