Hawick Scout Pipe Band is definitely older than its 100 year old billing.
But pipe major Michael Bruce and his fellow band members didn’t know that until AFTER they had organised this year’s centenary celebrations.
So instead of ruining the party, they decided to forge ahead with the plans – and celebrate anyway!
Michael (68) explained: “We were only two or three weeks away from the centenary dinner in Hawick Rugby Club on February 25 when we discovered the band was older than we believed.
“Someone came in with a picture that appeared in the Hawick News in August 1914.
“It showed the first group of volunteers marching out of Hawick to the station to go and join the army.
“And right at the head of the parade were three adults and five youngsters from the Hawick Scout Pipe Band!
“To get to the level to be good enough to play, the band would already had to have been in existence for at least two years.
“The Scout group in Hawick was founded in 1908, just a year after the national movement started.
“So it’s conceivable that the band started then but we’ve no real way of knowing.
“All of our previous records led us to believe that the band was founded in 1917, a good year at least before the first engagement we knew about – which was the Peace Parade in 2018.
“One thing we do know for sure though is that we’re definitely 100 years old.
“It was too late to cancel the centenary dinner and we’d already made arrangements for other events this year too, so we just decided to go ahead with the celebrations anyway!”
The band is now gearing up for its next big engagement – the Battle of Arras centenary commemoration event at Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade on Sunday, April 9, at 7.30pm.
Hawick Scout Pipe Band members will perform in the beating of the retreat, starring Legion Scotland and several military bands.
Michael said: “We must be doing something right as the Legion approached us and asked us to take part.
“We’re honoured to have been invited and are looking forward to playing our part in such a special event.”
The community band – which boasts more than 30 members of all ages – has built a solid reputation, playing at more than 40 events every year.
These include the likes of Hawick Common Riding and the primary school sports day as well as larger gigs at the Edinburgh Festival and Pipefest in 2005.
But regardless of where they play, band members are content not to compete.
Michael explained: “We’ve chosen to be a community pipe band rather than compete, because we can’t do both.
“It’s nice because if someone plays a bum note we just carry on; there are no repercussions. We just help each other out and enjoy it.”
That, however, does not mean the band is not very highly thought of.
Indeed, Jedburgh and Melrose Pipe Bands and Edinburgh Postal Pipe Band have already signed up for the band’s centenary display in Hawick High Street on Saturday, September 23 – and more are soon likely to follow suit.
The High Street will be closed off from 3pm to allow the bands to entertain.
Michael said: “We’ve had a lot of support from other bands so we’re hoping we’ll get a big crowd along.
“It’s our big celebration event – we hope to liven up the high street with a fantastic display attracting lots of people into the town.”
But it’s far from the only celebration the band will enjoy this year.
Members have a packed schedule of more than 40 engagements in 2017.
And in August, Hawick Museum will also launch a centenary exhibition focusing on the history of the town’s scout pipe band.
It will kick off on August 20 and is expected to run for around two months.
Michael added: “We’ll have the band’s original 100 year old bass drum on display, along with a host of memorabilia for people to enjoy.
“Uniforms and instruments used many years ago will form part of the exhibition, along with pictures of the band throughout the years.
“It’s nice for us all to get this kind of publicity as well as celebrating our, sort of, 100th anniversary!”
A World War One battlefields tour is also in the early planning stages with members hoping to tour sites where so many Borders soldiers lost their lives.
Centenary dinner is a success
The band’s first centenary celebration, an anniversary dinner, was held in Hawick Rugby Club on Saturday, February 25. More than 70 people attended, including former pipe majors Charlie Turnbull and John Robson. There were three guest speakers – the former Lord Lieutenant, Captain Gerald Maitland-Carew, president of the south east of Scotland Scouts Jeremy Phipps and Melrose man Mike Lindsay, the drum major of Edinburgh Postal Pipe Band.
Two of the speakers have their own special links to the band. Michael explained: “The band operates out of premises above the local army cadets.
“After the Remembrance Parades every year, Captain Maitland-Carew would go round the army cadet bases, thanking them for taking part.
“He often popped up to thank us too – probably because he heard the racket!
“Mike Lindsay had to retire from the Post Office because of the Queen’s Scouts centenary reunion at Holyrood Palace in 2007. A pipe band was formed for the occasion, with many of our members taking part in it.
“Mike agreed to be the pipe major, before handing over to Charlie Turnbull, who’d had a stroke and was unable to march, for a couple of tunes.
“It was a big day for us all but, sadly, while driving home down the A7, Mike was involved in a head-on collision. It took him years to recover and he had to retire as a result – so the band has a real soft spot for Mike.”
If his toast to the band is anything to go by, the feeling is certainly mutual!
Michael added: “He roasted me for everything I’d done wrong over the years. It was a pretty hard act to follow!”
As was Jeremy Phipps, a former SAS man who was in charge at the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980.