+44 (0) 7896 625766 irene@bagpipetheworld.com

They Say That It Takes Seven Years To Make a Piper!

My piping days started when I was thirteen years old after a visit to Chessington Zoo in Surrey with my family. It was a sunny day and we stopped to look at a band of young girls marching and playing the bagpipes on the lawn outside the main colonial house. My father was extremely taken with their performance and when they had finished playing he turned to me and pronounced loudly, “Irene you are going to be a piper”. He then walked over and introduced himself to the leader of the band. They turned out to be The City of London Girl Pipers managed by Mr Roach, a proud Irishman like my father. To my surprise the band practiced at my old primary school, St Anne’s in Vauxhall, London. That is how my piping journey began…

I fell in love with the bagpipes immediately, in fact there was no stopping me and I played the pipes as much as I could at every opportunity. At family parties the pipes were the highlight of the entertainment at any hour. I can remember my first pipe case that my dad made for me, painted with some old matt paint that he found somewhere, but it lasted years.

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They Say That It Takes Seven Years To Make a Piper! - Continued

There followed a period where piping took second place to working abroad and having a family.

On settling in Poole, Dorset I joined The Ringwood Pipe Band in the mid nineties and stayed there for almost twenty years. John Markham became my tutor and we quickly developed a strong rapport. He was a brilliant piper and a most gentle kind man. He gave me his set of Grainger and Campbell pipes when he could no longer play them. I am close friends with his wife Jean, who loves to hear about piping and what I am up to! During my time with them I held most of the roles; Social Secretary, Secretary, Chairman, Pipe Corporal and Pipe Sergeant. There were many great memories such as playing in the Royal Albert Hall, trips abroad and the usual piping engagements.In 2005 I found myself in a situation at the Marie Curie Pipefest in Edinburgh that involved leading 46 pipers and drummers with no Drum Major, through Holyrood Park.  This was an unbelievable experience where everyone was happy and I made lifelong friends with the Australian contingent. I became a member of The Royal Navy Pipers’ Society in July 2006, now known as The Royal Navy Pipe Band Association. This involves a close liaison with the Association of Naval Volunteer Bands and the Royal Marines Band Service, taking part in the annual Naval Volunteer Band trip to Cologne in Germany and many other prestigious Naval events. Many of the members are from the Rose and Thistle Pipe Band based in Gosport, near Portsmouth.

In 2008 I booked a flight to New York with the intention of piping in the St Patrick’s Day Parade but I had no idea of how this would happen. On the morning of the parade I decided that I would start at the top of Fifth Avenue and work my way down until a band said yes. As I was walking down the street I could hear the skirl of the pipes, my heart was racing but there was no backing out now! I asked Joe Korber, the Pipe Major at the time of The New York Corrections Pipe Band if I could play with them, he said yes and so our great relationship began and I became an official member. I join them most years for the parade enjoying the bacon and cabbage afterwards but of course mainly the camaraderie! In 2009 I was asked if I would lead a small band on a trip to Milan. This was a hugely successful trip, where twelve of us marched in front of the Cathedral and down the main Galleria, sounding like a hundred pipers, to an extraordinary amount of people. After speaking into a microphone that was put in front of me, I was recognised by the Chief of Police at Milan airport the following day. I had no idea that I had been on television but my first sentence was “it takes seven years to be a piper”.  I have taken part in Remembrance Services in Ypres, Belgium with the Devon and Cornwall Fire Services and I was also honoured to play the solo of Amazing Grace at 11.00am on 11.11.11 at the Menin Gate with the Newcastle Tyne and Wear Band. I have also played at the annual parade in honour of the Fire and Rescue Services at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

On a personal note, on 11th March 2013 my son Harry, his girlfriend Imogen and the proud owners (Andrew and Janie) of the yacht, ‘Hebe’, set sail from Poole  heading for Australia. I stood on the quay and I piped them off Speed Bonnie Boat and the title Auld Lang Syne, as they left the harbour. It was a proud moment and there was not a dry eye in the house! I secretly arranged for Greg, My Australian contingent friend, to pipe them into Brisbane Harbour, their final destination some eighteen months later. I am currently a member of The St Andrews Pipe Band in Hamble, Hampshire. In June 2015 we went to Normandy as part of D-Day Pipers celebrations. We played on the ferry and met many Veterans, in particular Stan who it was an absolute privilege to meet. Highland Cathedral was an emotional moment for him as it brought back memories from the war. We marched across Pegasus Bridge as Lord Lovett did in June 1944 and encouraged by our Drum Major Cameron Rannochan, I climbed over the barrier and piped Highland Cathedral again, on top of the bridge. A very special moment and a once in a lifetime memory. We played later at the Bill Millin memorial with John Millin, his son and pipers from all over the world.

My mentor, Bruce Royd-Taylor sadly died in December 2013. A philosophical  New Zealander with a life long love of piping and a passionate determination to teach the pipe to the next generation. He taught me to be self reliant and individual. He also encouraged me to stand out from the crowd. I will be playing his magnificent set of pipes to promote The Challenge – travelling over 50,000 miles across the 7 continents in less than 50 days to raise more than £50,000 for The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and Julia’s House.

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