Wearing their tartan kilts and carrying heavy cultural instruments, 39 members of the Greater Victoria Police Pipe Band are Scotland-bound to take part in major historical and musical events.
Colin Magee, drum sergeant for the GVPPB, says the band – made of up bagpipers and drummers who are active and retired Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria police officers – is set to play at Sterling Castle tomorrow (Thursday) to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.
“It was a major battle where Scottish King Robert the Bruce beat King Edward II’s army in 1314,” said Magee, who emigrated from Glasgow to Victoria in 1966 as a teenager.
“This is a key year for Scotland; 2014. Glasgow is hosting the Commonwealth Games this summer, in September they’re holding an independence vote, and we’re there to commemorate this original battle for independence.”
Magee, who helped establish both the City of Victoria Pipe Band and the GVPPB, says the goal of the group is “to support local policing as part of the public profile, and further Scottish music in the community.”
The band also includes civilian members, like Magee.
The group will also participate in Pipefest in Sterling, which will feature more than 1,000 musicians and Highland dancers parading through the city.
They’ll also attend the European Pipe Band Championship at Forres, though they won’t be performing.
Saanich police spokesperson, Sgt. Steve Eassie, has been a member of the band for eight years. He said joining the GVPPB has been a great experience so far.
“My family originally came from Scotland. I saw this as an opportunity to not only follow through with my passion for music, but also sort of look into my genealogy a little bit,” said Eassie, one of the bass drummers in the band. Both Magee and Eassie say there’s strong connection between policing and Scottish music.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the type of music. This music tends to resonate quite well with our members, especially when we’re doing formal celebrations or other events,” Eassie said.
“The bagpipes are synonymous with Remembrance Day, I think that’s why we gravitate towards them. … And there’s not many people out there that I know that don’t enjoy hearing bagpipes played from time to time.”
The GVPPB has members as young as 16, who’ve made it into the band by way of the GVPPB junior program, which practises out of Spectrum Community School.
“You’ll find pipe bands in a lot of communities – Australia, New Zealand, Africa. It’s really a global activity,” Magee said. “They’re teaching youth all over the world to continue this music. This bodes well for the future of pipe bands.”
The GVPPB will arrived in Scotland on Wednesday and will return to Canada on July 2. The trip is entirely self-funded, McGee said. For more info on the Greater Victoria Police Pipe Band, visit gvppb.com.