The Great Highland Bagpipe will take you places

February 25, 2019 on 8:47 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Stories | No Comments

Amidst the magic found around the instrument we know as the Great Highland Bagpipe is an invisible golden ticket to untold amazing experiences. Learn the fundamental ways of the pipes and the world can be your oyster. The extraordinary travels and remarkable people and events that the pipes can conjure are boundless. There’s no prerequisite of grand champion status: pipers and pipe bands of every standard routinely encounter greatness – if not unforgettable bagpipe-made moments. From presidents, prime ministers, the Pope and pop stars, pipers the world over can find themselves in the most unlikely of performance situations.

Consider the Coatbridge Ladies Pipe Band. Oh, to be a member in the summer of 1965 (gender and age notwithstanding). On Wednesday, August 18 of that year, Muhammad Ali, the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, touched down at what was then known as Renfrew Airport. And there, waiting on the tarmac for the arrival of one of the most famous and controversial personalities in the world – were members of the Coatbridge Ladies, tuned and ready for a rousing Scots welcome. As part of a world tour, Ali was scheduled for a Friday night four-round exhibition bout at Paisley Ice Rink.

Just think: when the New Year landed it’s unlikely members of the Coatbridge band had any idea of the historic brush with greatness they would experience before the year was out. I’m not a student of boxing. Nor do I have any great knowledge of the history of ladies’ pipe bands. I do like old stuff. I like the look, the feel, the aesthetic of interesting vintage things. And so to boxing and this Coatbridge Ladies-Muhammad Ali story.

Last summer I was hard at it pulling together a music book project. A part of the process is landing on a decision of what makes the cover. I liked the idea of a letter block poster. I thought, this stark (and cheap) print style, common, especially, to sporting event posters of the 1940s and 1950s was just the thing. So, thanks to a little research and the artistry of graphic designer, John Slavin, we came to a good first draft. The Liston-Clay [Ali] poster would be a central inspiration. In looking at the design we thought:

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could find an old-time kilted boxer for the cover?”

Well, what are the chances? Enter stage right: Muhammad Ali and the Coatbridge Ladies Pipe Band.

In looking for our timeworn kilty, not only was the 1965 story uncovered but we stumbled on a great newspaper photo of the man himself – Muhammad Ali – posing in kilt and Balmoral bonnet. It was just too fantastic. After the appropriate photo licensing enquiries were made, an Ali cover draft was ready (pictured). Now here was a book cover that had real punch (ouch).

Read the rest of the story here.

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