Posted by Terri Hodges on Jul 30, 2019
John Farrow introduced our guest speaker, John Mackay, from the Kingston Police Pipe Band.  Our relationship began with a chance meeting with another band member at a bingo hall annual general meeting, and culminated with a grant for a project last year.
John did his teaching degree at Queen’s after an undergrad degree at McMaster, and his involvement with the Kingston Police Pipe Band began back in 2016.  John actually went to Scotland as part of his degree studies to learn and teach there at a famous piping and drumming school.  He's now a contract math teacher with the Limestone District School Board, the piping instructor at Royal Military College and the founder of the Kingston Police Pipe Band.
The band's first performance was at the First Capital Highland Gathering at the Isabel Bader Centre last April, and it showed what the band is capable of – a band built from scratch!
John was inspired by the Inverary and District Pipe Band from Scotland and their story of building from nothing to world pipe band champions.  He approached the Chief of Police in Kingston and outlined his plan to work with low-socioeconomic background kids and build a pipe band together.  John obtained support and started to advertise free piping and drumming classes, and obtained practice space from Queen’s at McArthur College.  He even used his own school loan money to buy practice equipment, and when that was insufficient to support the band's growth, the band applied for a Rotary grant from our club to help out.  John expressed his thanks at getting funds for much needed equipment.
In May 2017 they got the official go ahead from the Police Department, and were officially branded the Kingston Police Pipe Band.
Fundraising was a priority, and there fundraising included selling donuts and Remembrance Day lunches (and now bingo).
After a couple of moves John finally connected with the Boys and Girls Club and got use of their space free of charge to practice, and encouraged kids at the Club to join them.  Once a week lessons are taught there, on part courtesy of practice equipment bought with our grant.  In April 2018 the band received there own uniforms from Scotland (with the Macdonald hunting tartan – the nicest MacDonald one we could find….) and shortly thereafter placed 3rd in our first competition in Kemptville – all with a band of kids started from scratch!  Many other events, increasing the band's profile, have followed.
John wants to move to a 2 band system – a competitive band and a kids band.  And this is a passion that can encompass folks from all walks of life.  He’d really like to see the piping and drumming expanded into the school system, and has written a modified music curriculum to make this possible!  If Scotland can do it, why can't we?
John thanked us again so much for our donation – which purchased practice equipment enough for 30 children.  Prior to this, they were creating equipment in a makeshift fashion and did not have enough for all the kids who showed up……
There is still a need for funds.  They are now at 47 uniforms, worth $1,200-$1,400 each and are still short!
Elizabeth Cohoe thanked John for his presentation, remarking that it's so nice for us to see our fundraising money at work!
John' powerpoint presentation will be available on the club website.