Southern Ontario in general and the Toronto area especially used to see a lot of teaching happening – and a lot of kids’ pipe bands. I can’t say for certain today how much teaching is going on but I do know we don’t have many “junior” bands around, the kind built for kids.
This part of the world is experiencing a pronounced drop in event participation. The recent cancellation of the Toronto Indoor Games is only one example.
I’m not entirely sure why this is the case – that we don’t have lots of bands focused on teaching young people – but we’re feeling the effect today, there’s no doubt.
I started out in the Downview Junior Pipe Band, a west Toronto-based band taught by Terry Cleland, the long-time Pipe Major of the 400 Squadron Pipe Band. The band would meet Sunday mornings at 10:00 am at the Falstaff Community Centre in Downsview (today still a slightly unsavoury part of Toronto). With practice chanter and “green tutor book” in tow, Terry or one of his pals from the 400 Squadron, would teach kids – for free. The Downsview band was around a long time and started off countless pipers – many still playing today, some in first grade bands. Terry – and people like him - are the real heroes of the tradition-bearing set. I wish we had more of them in action today.
Here’s a couple of photos for your entertainment. I thought they both had a brilliant rag-taggle look. The nervous enthusiasm (and squeals and skirls) jumps out.
This is from the Alma Highland Games, Michigan, USA, May, 27, 1977: My first outdoor pipe band contest (I had a run at the Toronto Indoor Games one month prior so I was full of experience and confidence). I remember this well.
Here’s the march to the field. I’m behind the PM, a bespectacled Hector MacDonald takes up the Pipe Sergeant’s position.
And here in full competitive flight (or fright) – I’m on PM Ron Morandin’s left.
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