Brian Whittingham is the Tannahill Makar of Renfrewshire – and Chieftain of this year’s British Pipe Band Championships.

Brian lived in Renfrew for many years and was a plater and then draughtsman on the Clyde shipyards. It was during this period he became interested in writing poetry while attending the Paisley Writers’ Group.

He has had nine collections of poetry published and spent the last 16 years lecturing in creative writing at the City of Glasgow College.

Brian regularly visits schools, libraries and local groups across Renfrewshire to give readings and talks aimed at encouraging an interest in poetry.

He has written this poem to mark the return of the Championships to Paisley … and we’ve published it here for you to enjoy!

 

HOMAGE TO A PIPE-BAND

 

First, there are the watchers.

 

We crane our necks

to see the band emerge

led by the Pipe-Major,

whose pride we cannot see

but feel it fit to burst his chest.

 

He spearheads

the tartan clad ensemble

as they march into their circle

in synchronisation

to their predetermined positions.

 

Then, there are the players.

 

The Base-drummer

beats the side of his drum.

 

The felt-headed sticks

stroke the drum’s skin

as tenderly as one who may caress a lover’s cheek

with the gentle touch

of the back of their fingers.

 

Yet, dictating the beat with an assured authority.

 

The snare drummers do their three-pace rolls

Trrrrrrrrrrt – Trrrrrrrrrrt!

 

The pipes pick up a tempo

as intimidating as any approaching army

marching into battle or as gentle as

a summer breeze skimming over

the silent waters of Castle-Semple Loch.

 

The tenor drummers twirl

their sticks above their heads,

make them spin like

twisting acrobats leaping from a trapeze.

 

And as the watchers,

we know little of

the timeless years of practice on drum-pads

and Mammy-Daddys and Paradiddles.

 

We know little of

chanters, and blowing and squeezing and

the technicalities of drones and reeds and tuning.

 

We don’t see

the nurturing and pulling together

of communities of families and brothers and sisters.

 

Because we, the watchers, on the day,

though we can’t explain it,

 

it seems by stealth

we have our senses engulfed

by the kaleidoscope of tartan finery

and the emotion surging through our tapping feet

pumping through our veins

and soaring into the pride and place of our hearts,

each and every single one

 

that will take that emotion home

as if a bottled souvenir

that we can open on tap

whenever our soul’s needs arise.

 

Brian Whittingham

 

 

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