There was no doubt that Dr Ian Henry of Kurmond Veterinary Clinic in NSW would play the bagpipes—he just didn’t realise it would take such a long time.
“I was born in Ireland and graduated in veterinary medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1966. My first job was on the north coast, working as a country vet. There were always bands playing and parading, and I would watch them practise as I travelled around on calls in the long summer evenings.
“When I was a child, I was fascinated by pipe bands and my neighbour, a pipe major, was forever trying to persuade me to join. My parents thought I should concentrate on my studies, but I always knew I would take up the bagpipes one day. What I didn’t realise was that I would be in my forties and living in Australia when it happened. When you’re learning bagpipes, you need a spouse or partner who’s reasonably happy to hear you practise!
“I joined the Hawkesbury Pipe Band in 1985, led by pipe major Bob McLellan. It has had a few name changes since then and, at present, is called the Governor Macquarie Memorial Pipe Band with about 60 members. The band has a nice mix of older and younger members which is brilliant. I’m in my late seventies and I get along like a house on fire with the younger members of the band.
“The band plays frequently throughout the year—Remembrance Day, Anzac parades for the local council and on demonstration days. We have played at two world championships in Glasgow. Unfortunately, we couldn’t play on ANZAC day in 2020 due to COVID so I stood near my front gate and played to my neighbours.
“Over the years we have played with a few big-name musicians such as John Farnham and Andre Rieu. In 2017, Paul McCartney toured Australia and our pipe major organised for us to play with him at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. We performed Mull of Kintyre in front of 20,000 people and the whole audience sang along. This was one of the biggest thrills of my life. I often re-watch it on YouTube. I love playing the bagpipes as it’s such a versatile instrument with a large emotional range. You can play a march and everyone is happy and full of joy, or you can play a lament and it will break your heart. Unfortunately, 2020 was a very quiet year for the band. We weren’t even practising together; we were Zooming instead. All our usual gigs were cancelled and we didn’t compete in any competitions. I hope 2021 will be a better year.”