As many people know, Forres is home to its very own traditional Pipe Band and they are currently seeking new players and potential sponsors.
Originating in Scotland, the first formal pipe band can be dated back to 1850. Although bagpipes often accompanied clans into battle to boost moral before then, these “bands” were not the well-structured, well-timed and well dressed-formations we know today. This is especially true for the Forres and District Pipe Band. This local band was founded in 125 by a group of World War One soldiers from the Seaforth Highlanders. Their piping knowledge influenced the band greatly and helped mould it into what it is today.
This can be seen in the McKenzie tartan still worn by the players as this particular tartan has very strong ties with the Seaforth Highlanders, rooting them to their past. Despite the fact there was not a band in the 1960’s, they have piped strongly and continued on into modern day. The band has recently won their first award under the new Pipe Major at the Nethy Bridge Highland Games where they took home the Nethy Bridge Pipe Band Challenge Shield to Forres for the first time in over fifty years.
The pipe band is made up of 30 members with varying roles and an age range of 12-72. Gordon Roy is the Pipe major with overall responsibility for the musical directorship for both pipes and drums. He has been doing a great job for two and a half years, securing the band their first win in 53 years. He said “I love playing and listening to this type of music as it’s in my blood and I have been playing for 49 years.” He used to be in the band under Pipe Major Jimmy Wilson (Sykes) and the famous Watson twins.
The band itself is made up of the piping core (all pipers) and the drum core (snare, tenor and bass drummers). Young pipers aspire to be part of either of these sections. Before they reach that goal, trainees will spend an average of a year and a half to learn the chanter or drums, which will then lead onto the full bagpipes or drumming position.
Another key member is Lainie Meechan who assists the secretary at the registration, helps with fundraising and raises the profile of the band in general. There are many other vital members of the band such as the photographer, the secretary, the members and most importantly the newcomers who are the future of the band. Overall the team works well together with Gordon Roy saying “The band is a family unit and everyone puts in 150% all the time while also having a good time.”
Due to all the professional equipment, being part of a pipe band may seem like a highly expensive business, but Forres & District Pipe Band does a lot of fundraising to help cover costs, as well as tuition being free of charge to members and learners. Each year the band has to raise thousands of pounds to cover costs and allow them to continue playing at the level they currently do. Some expenses are also covered by the Budge Trust which helps to provide uniforms. Winning competitions is the biggest way of gaining money as prize awards, but the whole also finds other ways through playing outside Tesco for public donations and organising coffee mornings. An up and coming event on the agenda is a sponsored walk up Ben Rinnes.
Although they are actively involved in fundraising it can be difficult for such a small group as John Channon, Chairman explained: “The band does not have the capacity to raise all the funds so we will have to move out of the town hall by the end of the year.” This puts them in a tough position, but everyone is optimistic about the future and ready to work for this valuable part of the community.
It is more important than ever for people to join the Forres Pipe Band as they aim high with their new competition status. Everyone is welcome and you can come along any Tuesday night from 7pm to 8pm and Sunday night from 6pm to 9pm and talk to the team. Anyone of any age can join, with the recommended starting age of being seven. Having said this, there are many adults starting out, learning and succeeding in the piping world.
The main aim of the band is to maintain the enjoyment of the music throughout the area so the tradition will stay alive for generations to come. Lainie Meechan added: “People may think they can’t approach us but we want them to know we are a positive group of people that all share the same aim. Everyone feels like the pipe band is a second family who are always ready to involve new members and broaden the group.”
If you are at all interested, please feel free to make contact with any questions or queries via the Facebook page: “Forres and District Pipe Band” or contact Gordon Roy on 07796472430; John Channon on 01309 641608 or if you prefer email: johnchannon1943ebtinternet.