It's often a question I've been asked, how long have I been playing the pipes.
Well today the answer is easy. A nice round 20 years!
Given the old adage about it taking 21 years to make a piper: seven years learning, seven years practising, seven years playing, I'm almost there!
My first public outing with the pipes was on this day in 1996, in the sleepy little village of Boleto in the mountains of northern Italy for my cousin's wedding. Not exactly a common starting point.
At the time I was playing a very new set of Kintail pipes which the Buckie Pipe Band had bought with Lottery funding. I'd only had them a couple of weeks, a replacement for a much older set which had a leaky skin bag and cane reeds. This was a gore-tex bag, Shepherd drone reeds and a Shepherd chanter (which I think is still up the loft somewhere).
I played those pipes until 2004 when I purchased my own set with money from my Grandparents.
On the day of the wedding, we arrived on the Saturday morning into Milan, and made our way to my Aunt and Uncle's house. We basically dumped our stuff, put on the kilt, followed someone to where the wedding jeep(!) was starting from and got on with it. At the time I think I was only remotely confident with two tunes, "Flower of Scotland" and "Scotland the Brave". The slow march tune made it tricky and slow to get down the steep road to the hotel.
Anyway, great times were to be had by all, and I'm sure I'm a much better piper these days.
My first outing with the pipe band came a month later at the Aberlour Highland Games (pictured above).
If you want a laugh at my expense, watch the following video. I'll blame some of the dodgy sounds on the old camera. Some. If you're my current Pipe Major, then nothing to see here, move along!
Oh, and happy anniversary to my cousins. You know who you are!