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Popular performers . . .the McAlpines North Canterbury Pipe Band playing in the Rangiora Town Hall. The pipe band can trace its roots back to 1928. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

By SHELLEY TOPP

McAlpines North Canterbury Pipe Band will celebrate 90 years of bagpipe playing this October. To mark the occasion, an open day will be held at its band hall in the Rangiora New World supermarket carpark on Saturday October 6, from 1pm to 4pm.

All current and previous band members have been invited, as well as the public.

It will be a day for catching up, reminiscing, playing the bagpipes and telling stories.

The band is a popular performer at A&P shows, Christmas parades, Anzac parades and many other community events.

The band began in 1928 with a group of eight pipers and three drummers from Leithfield, Sefton and Amberley performing at a weekend of festivities celebrating the Borough of Rangiora’s 50th anniversary.

A week later it was decided to register the band as the North Canterbury Pipe Band, wearing the royal stewart tartan. Three months later, there was another name change, this time to the North Canterbury Caledonian Pipe Band, based in Amberley, with the piper wearing the royal stewart tartan and the drummers wearing the hunting stewart tartan.

“The first 10 years of the North Canterbury Caledonian Pipe band were very busy and successful for its members,” the band’s treasurer and publicity officer, Anna Glassey, said.

“The band played at many local functions including A&P shows, sports gatherings, garden parties, jubilees and Anzac parades.”

It also attended eight pipe band contests and hosted one in Amberley in October 1935.

In 1949, the band moved its headquarters from Amberley to Rangiora and a new Pipe Major, Leicester Forrester, joined.

Two of Leicester’s sons, Robert and Stuart Forrester, are current members.

In 1951 the band hosted its first Canterbury Provincial Pipe Band contest, held at Dudley Park. Four years later, the band had success winning the C Grade championship, and in 1956 it again hosted the Canterbury Provincial Championships.

After considerable fundraising, holding monthly dances at the Rangiora RSA headquarters, running raffles and performing around Rangiora, the band attended its first national contest in Wellington in 1976. The next year the band won the B-Grade Championship at the Provincial Championships.

November 1976 was a turning point, with McAlpines Rangiora offering sponsorship. From then on, the North Canterbury Caledonian Pipe Band became known as the McAlpines North Canterbury Pipe Band. The company’s sponsorship continues to this day.

“The band first appeared in their new-look McAlpine tartan uniform at the Northern A&P show in Rangiora in 1982,” Anna said.

There are currently about 25 active members, aged from 13 to 70, plus with some younger members learning bagpipes and drums.

There is a strong emphasis on family involvement, with many wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters all active, including many long-serving members and life members.

The Rusbatch family, in particular, has played a big role. “The band has been under Pipe Major Graeme C. Rusbatch since 1987, making Graeme the longest-serving pipe major,” Anna says.

“It was a proud moment for Graham T. Rusbatch when he handed over the pipe major role to his son.”

The band attends contests nationwide and has travelled to Australia twice.

“The McAlpines North Canterbury Pipe Band is the only band that continues to compete in the drum majors display at our national contest every year,” Anna says.

During the display, the band marches into an “M” formation, to signal McAlpines. It is a competition crowd-pleaser and something for which it is recognised. The band has held the Drum Major trophy since 2004.

The band has been fortunate to have strong, continuing support from sponsors over the years.

“The band would like to thank McAlpines Rangiora Ltd for their continued support for 42 years,” Anna says.

Members would also like to thank the community over the last 90 years for its support, and Conroy Removals Ltd for its help with travel costs to contests, the Rangiora RSA, and many other organisations that have helped the band over the years.

Without such support the band would not be able to attend contests, she says.