Pipers help blow away the competition

Raglan pipers Deirdre Bourne and Brett McCardle recently helped blow the competition away at the New Zealand Pipe Band Championships in Nelson.

The couple play in the Hamilton Caledonian Pipe Band – because they are the only remaining pipers in Raglan – and the band cleaned up the grade-four competition at the nationals on March 12.

“We marched on in there and took out the pool of 22 bands,” says Deirdre, who took up bagpiping as a child after falling in love with the sound at a Christmas parade.

Brett, who is born and bred in Raglan, played in the Raglan Pipe Band as a kid.

“We won our grade. We won all the possible prizes in our grade,” says Deirdre.

That included for drumming, piping, street march, dress and ensemble (how the band sounds together).

“The best possible score of the day was eight and we got eight. So that was pretty cool.

“No-one else in grade four got any trophies. We got a whole pile of trophies and go up to grade three, which is a bit more challenging – you have to be snappier in your playing.”

The 53-year-old laughs that it might be more fun remaining in the bottom grade and  “winning all the cups”.

Deirdre says the band of 12 pipers and seven drummers had a really good buildup to the nationals.

“Last year we were sitting on fourth, and this time it was everyone else going “why did I come?’”

The band knew, and everyone knew, that they “had the sound”.

“It’s all about the sound,” says Deirdre.

You know that sound created by a really good bagpiper that “makes people cry and stuff”. “If you can create that sound, that is amazing. Then if you can get a whole group of people making it, that’s something special.”

That’s not usually something a grade-four band can do, laughs Deirdre. They can make people cry because they can sound really awful.

“Usually it’s not quite there.

“We played out best on the day. It comes down to those four minutes. Quite often you leave your best performance under the trees but we managed to pull it off.”

Inger Vos