Musical talents in demand

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MEMORABLE: John Waugh on top of the HMS Concord, piping in the 1950s.
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Ashburton’s John Waugh has had a life time of playing music and still performs to this day.

The 85-year-old retired hydrologist stepped out in his first parade, a St Andrew’s Day parade in Blenheim, as a piper 71 years ago.

‘‘I was piping with the Nelson Highland Band.’’

He was with that band for four years, before going on to play with numerous pipe bands around New Zealand.

In 1981 he was the pipe-sergeant of the Riccarton Band in Christchurch, which took out the national grade four competition in Timaru.

His piping has lead him to numerous locations and a variety of events, such as A and P shows, Scottish country dancing, highland dancing competitions and dancing lessons.

John has many memories he has gathered over all those years.

‘‘It was the mid 1950s, maybe 1957, and I piped the HMS Concord into Nelson Harbour.

‘‘Two or three days later I piped it back out of the harbour, returning with the pilot on the pilot boat.

On July 31, 1949 the HMS Concord had assisted HMS Amethyst to escape from the Yangtze River in China (during the Chinese Civil War).

‘‘The HMS Amethyst miscalculated where the enemy was and they had suffered loss of life, the HMS Concord sailed up the river to assist them out under the cover of night,’’ he said.

TALENTED: John Waugh today, playing the Scottish small pipes.

‘‘The reason I was asked to pipe the ship in and out was because I was the only person in the band not working, as I was still at school.

“The ship was visiting on a courtesy visit. It was tricky, as I had to climb up and down the rope ladder wearing my kilt and carrying my pipes and then play as the boat was moving and we were up high on the top of the ship.’’

In the late 1990s John was working for the Ministry of Works in Wellington.

‘‘I was tuning my bagpipes in Boulcott St, outside the Majestic Centre, ready for an end-of-year staff function. A car screeched to a halt and a woman jumped out and asked if I could I play for her wedding.

“When, tomorrow, what time, 2pm, where, over there at St Mary’s of All Angels in Boulcott St.

“Well, yes! I duly turned up in my kilt and piped into the church, later piping the wedding party into the reception and up to the top table.’’

Playing the bagpipes isn’t John’s only musical talent he also plays Scottish small pipes and Irish drums.

John retired from his work in hydrology in 2003 and moved to Timaru from the North Island. Having by then acquired a set of Scottish small pipes, he began to play in folk music sessions in Geraldine.

On moving to Ashburton in 2006, he joined the Southern Celtic Fiddle Orchestra based in Leeston.

He is still with the orchestra, a popular favourite for providing entertainment throughout the Canterbury region.

‘‘I have now been with the band for 17 years and during that time we have performed at 184 occasions.’’

John now days usually plays a low D whistle, the small pipes and Bodhran, a circular Irish drum.

Orchestra functions include the Hororata Highland Games, Oamaru Victorian Fete and music months in Selwyn.

‘‘I have greatly enjoyed playing music, especially when people are obviously enjoying our music.’’