We don’t quite know where the last six months went! We managed to pack a fair bit in to that time. The annual Airth Highland Games was held on Sat 22 July, and Neil was privileged to play for the British Open Professional Highland Dancing Championships, It was a tough gig, as he was practically playing all day! Our local dance school, Jenkins, did very well.

Neil piping for the dancers at Airth Games

We joined some of the dancers from Jenkins for a charity fete at Carrondale Care Home on 5 Aug. We were supposed to be outdoors but there was very heavy rain so we retreated to the lounge! Neil played for the dancers and we also did some tunes as our Glenbervie Folk Duo. We had great fun and the residents and staff seemed most appreciative.

Eid in the Park took place at the Helix in Falkirk, on 13 Aug. Neil had been asked to pipe some of the members of the local Muslim community around the area where the stalls were set up. Unfortunately it rained a bit that day, too, but it’s always a joyful, colourful event, whatever the weather!

We were delighted to have been asked back to perform at the Schottische Nacht in Schloss Erbach, which is in the Odenwald Region of Germany (twinned with Falkirk District). It took place on Sat 26 Aug and fellow Falkirk musicians, The Tonkerers, were also playing. It was a lovely evening and we were joined on stage at the end of the night by the Clan Pipers Frankfurt, for a rousing rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. The last time we performed in the Odenwald was at a Burns Supper just before Covid hit, so this was quite a poignant event and we loved spending time with our German friends.

Neil & Kathryn on the stage at Schloss Erbach

Schloss Erbach, where Schottische Nacht took place

Neil (centre) with our friend and fellow piper Lothar (left) and the owner of the distillery(right)

With some of the Tonkerers and our German hosts, at the distillery

On 10 Sep, we were performing at a more local event – Linlithgow Folk Festival, which takes place in the gardens of the Burgh Halls, beside the famous Palace. It’s a friendly, popular festival which runs for two days.

At Linlithgow Folk Festival

Later in September we had a trip to Richmond, North Yorkshire. It was our second time in this lovely area, and we met up with friends at the local folk club to share a few tunes. The weather was kind to us on the whole and we enjoyed finding more places to explore.

On 6 October, Kathryn played in the local Falkirk Tryst Orchestra for their annual autumn concert. The theme was ‘North to South’ and the programme was very varied with both classical music and tunes from musicals.

We were back at our local garden centre, Torwood, in October for the first of their festive evenings. It’s always a popular event with craft stalls and refreshments from their cafe. Neil and I provide some background music for it. The next event there was in November and although Neil had broken his ankle badly at the end of October, we still managed to get along to play some tunes for them.

At Torwood Garden Centre festive weekend. Neil even had a Christmas plaster cast on!

We had a lovely afternoon at Falkirk Blind Club, another regular slot for us, where we performed some Scottish tunes in honour of St Andrew’s Day. We always have fun there, and are joined by local musician and historian Ian Scott, who plays guitar and sings, as well as our good friend Derek McMorrow, on accordion. That same week, we played at a care home in Polmont as the residents celebrated St Andrew’s Day.

A Christmas Fete was held in Stenhousemuir on 3 Dec, and some of Neil’s young pupils performed as part of Falkirk Schools Pipe Band, piping in Santa and Mrs Claus and providing some musical entertainment. Despite it being freezing cold, they played brilliantly and went down a storm with the local community.

Neil with some of his young pupils who are part of Falkirk Schools Pipe Band, based in Larbert High School.

We had fun playing for Falkirk Ladies Lunch Club at the golf club on 5 Dec. Christmas dinner was served then we entertained them with a selection of Christmas and Scottish traditional tunes, on various instruments. Unfortunately Neil was unable to play Highland pipes due to his broken ankle, but the music seemed to be appreciated anyway.

A number of Neil’s pupils – from all age groups – have won prizes in piping competitions this year and we are delighted at how well they are all doing. It’s especially encouraging to see youngsters improve and show great promise as pipers. We still have a mixture of pupils at the house and also on Skype, worldwide. Of course, Milo the collie still takes his role as official ‘meeter and greeter’ very seriously…

We will be taking time off from the end of the day on 21 Dec 2023 and start back on 3 Jan 2024. We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all, near and far, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Slàinte mhath!

Bannockburn House at Christmas