September 11, 2008

Pipes Welcome Everywhere but Edinburgh

I HAVE just returned from a trip to Macedonia with the Tartan Army.

Despite the result, we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, as we always do.

There are usually between 12 and 16 of us, including our own piper. And for reasons of economy, we tend to go to the games' venue and return home via several different countries.

This time, on the outward journey, we travelled via London and Belgrade to Skopje; and returned to Edinburgh via Thessalonica and London.

This is a pattern of travel that will be familiar to many other groups that make up the Tartan Army, and over the years we have visited many cities and countries, which were only staging posts to our final destination. Our visit to Minsk in Belarus included stops in London, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Amsterdam, making it a particularly memorable trip.

One of the most interesting aspects of all of these excursions is the reaction to the sound of the pipes by residents of all the different countries we visit. Our piper has played at every airport and train station, every town centre and hotel we have visited, and the reaction has always been the same - uniformly positive. The assistant airport manager in Belgrade on the most recent trip, where we had a four-hour stop-over, apologised for asking the piper to play several times during our stay explaining, "For you, you see it all the time but for us we see it only sometimes and it is so beautiful." People clamour to have their photograph taken with him and parents bring their children to watch the spectacle.

Only once has he ever been asked to stop playing on the basis that "it might offend some of the other passengers". That was in Edinburgh airport last Wednesday. It is comforting to know the Scottish cringe is alive and well in Scotland's capital city.

Jim Fairlie, 1 St Ninians, Heathcote Road, Crieff.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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