The pipes are calling in central Southland

Ann Robbie, who plays in the Waimatuku Southern Scenic Highland Pipe Band as well as at Anzac Dawn Parades all over Southland, wants to see more people learning the pipes. PHOTO: Monica Toretto

After a successful first term of lessons, Central Southlanders are being encouraged to rekindle their Scottish heritage and pick up the pipes.

Leading the way is Waimatuku Southern Scenic Pipe Band piper Ann Robbie who, along with Pipe Sergeant Bruce Rodgers, are teaching the bagpipes to Central Southlanders via weekly lessons. 

"Between Bruce and I we've got over 90 years' experience."

Mrs Robbie said the idea of teaching the bagpipes to a group came about after visiting Hillside Primary School where she spoke to the students, played some tunes and took the pipes apart for them to look at.

"The kids were really, really enthusiastic about it and said they'd be keen to learn. I thought perhaps this is something we could be doing."

Because a large percentage of people were in dairying jobs, they wouldn't be able to make it to Waimatuku and back in time, so the lessons would come to them, she said.

"I started to plan and spoke to Bruce on what I was intending to do... it was team work. I put it to the band and got good support from them as well.

"We cover such a large geographic area, from Te Anau right across Northern Southland, Lumsden, right down Central Southland, Otautau and Tuatapere."

Mrs Robbie said playing months were generally November through to April but the band never really took time off. Because Winton had "a huge heritage of piping," it was important to keep that going.

"Winton and Browns had their own very successful pipe band and combined in the 1970s to create the Pipes and Drums of Winton and Central Southland. This is when I started in 1974."

It was also hoped that people taking the lessons would eventually join the ranks of the Waimatuku Southern Scenic Pipe Band.

"We needed to be proactive and give the band a chance. Waimatuku has so much to offer, we're a bit more relaxed. We've had some really good students, there's been some really good ones coming through."

A positive of the band was being flexible around workloads, if people needed to be away from practice they could, she said.

The first term of lessons had six people learning the chanter, and three people take up the drums. Mrs Robbie said a second lot of lessons would be available next term.

"I think it's exciting... it's an honour to step out in uniform and be part of the band. We're self-funded, we rely on the support of the community. It's hard work playing and fundraising, you do it because you love it." 

The Southland District Council was a great supporter of the band when required, she said.

Mrs Robbie said anyone thinking of learning the pipes shouldn't let the opportunity pass by.

"They will have fun, it's the people you meet, the places you go, and competitions, community involvement. We meet so many nice people.

"They're not that hard to learn, it's just combining the information that you have got to put together."

Call (03) 221-7117 or text 027-353-8488 or email parobbie123@gmail.com


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