The last 12 months or so have been months which have seen massive changes within Gilnahirk Pipe Band. Firstly, we have welcomed to our ranks quite a number of new players - most notably our inspirational Pipe Major, Ricky Newell. Ricky has been joined at the helm of the Band by the returning Stephen Hoy as Leading Drummer, giving the Band a formidable team to take it from strength to strength.
As the rebuilding of the playing side of the Band has got underway, it only made sense to look at some of the other aspects of the outfit and consider some updates.
Gilnahirk has for around thirty years worn the Muted Lochaber tartan, initially pairing it with a green tweed jacket and latterly (about 15 years ago!) changing to a khaki number.
The look, which has served the Band well over the years, was starting to look distinctly dated and so the decision was taken to attempt to purchase new kilts and jackets. Most bands these days play (weather permitting) in waistcoats, so the shopping list got longer!
Funding an almost complete change in uniform was never going to be easy, but with a generous donation from Morrow Contracts and a programme of fundraising, the cash was gathered to allow the Band to start contemplating an order....
The next question was what tartan to go for.
As the Band had for so long been associated with Muted Lochaber, it was decided to make a radical departure and eventually the MacDuff tartan was settled upon. The tartan is predominantly red, with green, blue and black - completely different from the old kilt. A further decision had to be taken on how to pleat the kilt - and the most modern-looking variant was selected. This gives the kilt a radically different appearance from the rear, picking out the blues, making it look almost purple - a truly striking effect.
Combining the new kilt with black jackets and waistcoats, that only left the tie to be selected.
The whole uniform-change project was ably guided by the Band's bass drummer Michael Harrison, so it was only fitting that he should be the man who also designed and ordered the ties - and then the new look was complete!
The Band was delighted when Gilnahirk Presbyterian Church agreed to host a Service to dedicate the new uniforms and so we met on 23 June to parade to the Church from the Hall.
The service was conducted with great thought by Rev Stephen Moore and Band members took part with Carson Tate treating the congregation to the playing of several hymns, Stephen Jackson playing with the organ in a rendition of Highland Cathedral, and Stephen again giving a word of thanks to the Church and to our other supporters and friends.
After the service, the Church (and particularly the ladies of the congregation) put on a supper which was very welcome and extremely well-attended.
As a token of thanks, Band ties were presented to Rev Moore and to Graham Cooper, the Band's long-serving President. Both gents have promised to wear them regularly!
The Chairman also presented Audrey Smallwood, a great friend of the Band (and one of the ladies behind the supper!) with a bouquet of flowers to mark our appreciation.
All in all, it was a great night and a fitting way to mark the close ties between the Band and the Church. Judging by the kind remarks of all present, the uniforms certainly met with approval - let's hope they can also usher us back to winning ways!