Saturday, June 15, 2024

Pipe dream to become a reality for Auckland Police band

Auckland Police Pipe Band (APPB) members are winging their way to the Belfast International Tattoo in September.

The annual event is dubbed the largest musical and dance event in Northern Ireland and our 18-strong contingent of pipers and drummers will represent Auckland Police alongside pipe bands from Canada, Australia and Switzerland.

This tattoo is particularly poignant for the APPB whose meetings, practise sessions and performances have been impacted by three years of sporadic COVID-related lockdowns, and is in preparation for the upcoming New Zealand contest season, which begins in October and runs until March.

The APPB’s origins date back to 1945 when Constable Fred McKenzie formally created the ‘Auckland Police Highland Pipe Band’. Since then, the band has regularly performed at ceremonies including pay parades, medal and awards ceremonies, Police funerals, station openings and open days over the past 78 years.

The Belfast International Tattoo is significant for Pipe Major Stewart Hobson (pictured right), who has led the band for the past nine years. It will be his last as Pipe Major before stepping down to devote more time to family and other commitments.

Stewart will be replaced by incoming Pipe Major Simon Fraser. who will take the helm on return from Belfast. The band’s Police Controlling Officer, Inspector Scott Webb – who isn’t able to attend the tattoo due to other commitments – acknowledges the pivotal role Stewart has played during his tenure as Pipe Major.

“Being the Pipe Major of a Police Pipe band comes with an added set of responsibilities due to representing New Zealand Police at many Police-related events, services and ceremonies,” says Scott.

“Stewart has done an outstanding job in this role for the last 9 years and on behalf of the New Zealand Police, we thank him greatly for his leadership.

“However, we are delighted that we are able to retain his talent within the APPB and he will continue to perform with us when time allows.

Auckland City District’s Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Allan, (pictured right), is one of the new kids on the block, having started began learning to play the pipes five years ago.

“I was on a trip to Scotland when I first thought about taking up the instrument much to the surprise of my wife,” he says.

“I just happened to be looking for a pastime that was something a bit different and would challenge me. I researched bagpipe tutors and just got into it.

“While watching pipe bands is certainly an impressive spectacle, being part of that and performing with a group is pretty cool to be part of too. Just like team sports, I’ve met a lot of good people, formed friendships and connections, and we have fun along the way.

“You never stop learning, and in my case, I’d like to think you’re never too old to try something new. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a serving member of one of New Zealand’s few service pipe bands.”

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