by Shelley Inon

The Mackenzie Highland Pipe Band is seeking new members from around the area to bring the band back to its roots.

Pipe major Heather Fifield said they had smaller numbers of players than previous years and most members were having to travel up to 100km to take part.

While they could still make up a band for bigger occasions, very few members were able to come to regular practice, she said.

Covid had “shattered” their practice plans, with the restrictions of players being 2m apart.

“And a piper wearing a mask is an interesting image.”

She said those who lived in Fairlie, or surrounding districts, and had thought they would like to play pipes or drum, “now is a really good time to contact us”.

The Mackenzie Highland Pipe Band has been running for 109 years, and has often been the starting point for players heading off to other bands and national and international competitions.

She felt children after the age of 9 were able to cope with bagpipes “and a little younger for drums”.

There was no upper limit for learners and many of the players started in their 50s.

It would take probably two years before a player would be a piper in the band, but they would be able to knock up a good tune or two before then, she said.

Drummers were often in the band before the first year was up.

At present, all but four players are travelling 80km to 100km to weekly practices.

“There is something about age not being on our side, as well.

“We all still love playing and will continue to play as long as we can, but to get Fairlie and Mackenzie people involved would bring the band back to the roots where it belongs.”

She said they were fortunate to have friends and helpers in the South Canterbury band and other local bands, so they would draw players from there when needed.

However, to make it a true Mackenzie Highland Pipe Band “it would be great to have players from the area”.