The pipes are calling for Borders carers, medics and other key workers

Hawick was happily lost in music for a few minutes yesterday as 15 pipers played tunes across the town as part of a national initiative to honour medics, carers and other front-line workers.

By Paul Kelly
Friday, 3rd April 2020, 3:36 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd April 2020, 3:54 pm
Piper Malcolm McEwan in Hawick town centre last night.
Piper Malcolm McEwan in Hawick town centre last night.

That synchronised turnout was organised after the Glasgow-based National Piping Centre called on bagpipe enthusiasts all over the world to pipe up for key workers as a show of appreciation for national Health Service staff, carers and other key workers such as delivery drivers and food store employees.

It was a challenge taken up with gusto by part-time taxi driver Malcolm McEwan.

The 60-year-old, of Hawick, has spent the last fortnight piping outside old folk’s homes, sheltered accommodation schemes and vulnerable and elderly people’s houses, always at a safe distance.

It’s his way of keeping up spirits as the worldwide coronavirus crisis continues.

Malcolm had been planning to line up nine pipers to play Scotland the Brave across the town at 8pm yesterday to coincide with the now-weekly national round of applause for carers but, in the event, managed to muster 15.

It proved an inspiring and uplifting experience, he said, explaining: “The pipers were at Cavers village outside of Hawick and across Hawick including the housing estates at Stirches, Silverbuthall, Burnfoot, Weensland and the terraces, and one of the pipers went and stood at the top of Millers Knowe, which overlooks Hawick and up to Roberton and as far as the Craik Forest.

“I kind of ended up organising the pipers in Hawick, mainly because I know most of them.

“We will be repeating it every Thursday until things get better.

“I have to admit that I have turned down a few requests because I am getting a bit knackered now.

“Scotland the Brave, Flower of Scotland, as the national song, and Highland Cathedral, they are the three most popular songs.

“The greatest pleasure for me is people on my Facebook page saying ‘did you see granny waving out the window?’ or ‘I’m in Australia, but I can see my mam and dad waving at the window’. That has been fantastic.

“If I make people smile, it makes me smile. It’s as simple as that.”

Those morale-raising performances by Malcolm, employed by Hawick’s JW Taxis, are being filmed by his partner Michelle Lyle and uploaded to his Facebook page so they can reach an even wider audience worldwide.

He added: “Physically I am fit as a fiddle for a man my age.

“I’ve had to turn some requests down because I have done so much in the last fortnight and I can’t be everywhere.”

Elsewhere in the Borders, pipers also got out their instuments to take part in the tribute from their gardens and doorways.

Among them was Selkirk Pipe Band ex-pipe major and King’s Own Scottish Borderers regiment veteran Andrew Bunyan.

His wife Susan said: “We already owe the NHS a great deal of gratitude after our son was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour, aged eight, and endured many surgeries and gruelling courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy 17 years ago.

“He is severely disabled and blind, so we now also rely heavily on the care sector to help us care for him.

“They all do a wonderful job every day of the year and even more so now during the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Paramedic Darren Scurfield, of Jedburgh, took time out during his shift last night to pipe for his colleagues and those being treated at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose, playing Scotland the Brave outside its accident-and-emergency department.

He added:“I suppose being one of the key workers in all this, last night was an opportunity to show my colleagues in the Scottish Ambulance Service and staff at the Borders General Hospital that we’re all in it together and that we appreciate our collective efforts.

“It was a chance to have a wee lighthearted minute in the midst of it all.

“Thanks to the National Piping Centre in Glasgow for organising this effort across the country.”

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