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A message to all members of the PPBSO: On Membership

When it comes to piping I was a lucky kid in many ways.

When it came to things “piping” my mum and dad would drive me pretty much anywhere their 1977 gas-guzzling Dodge Monaco could reach. On more than one occasion we’d head on that legendary long-weekend drive from Toronto to Maxville for the Glengarry Highland Games. Traffic was always bad – even then. After six hours east on the 401 Friday night to Maxville, we’d set up the tent in the cornfield near the games – yes, the tent – after a muggy and sleepless night it was on to the games – most always the hottest day of the year, then as now.

The next morning we’d drive the hour and forty minutes to the Montreal games in St Lambert. When the contests were over late Sunday afternoon – are you ready for this – my dad would drive us the six hours or so back to the west end of Toronto. We’d be in the door around midnight set for a good five or six hours sleep before heading to Dutton games, always held on the Monday August Civic holiday. Dutton is a leisurely two hour ride from Coppermill Drive in Toronto. Yes. We were hardcore.

If it wasn’t for The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, these atomic road trip weekends would never have happened. And I would never have experienced the fantastic events that were integral to the development of my piping – and me.

And it’s not just games. The PPBSO supports “branch” activity. Again, I reflect and think of myself as a kid, a person who loved the music of the pipes and wanted to be the best I could be. That part of me hasn’t changed. The Toronto branch of the PPBSO was – as it is now – a magnetic hive of activity. Like all branches, places to hang your hat with like-minded people, have a tune, hear a tune. Really, rare sorts of places in the context of 21st century life in Canada.

The Sergeant’s Mess of the Toronto Scottish Regiment was the place to be every third Friday night. That was the meeting time of the branch and a high social event on any clear-thinking (and pipe-and-drum-music-loving) person’s calendar.

I attach a photo of a medal I still have in my possession. I won this for playing “Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban” at a grade four Toronto branch event. Crazy that I remember it. But it mattered to me. In fact, Bob Worrall was the judge – at the time he was vice-president of the branch to the excellently Irish-named, president, Danny Monaghan. Just think: an inexpensive – ok – cheap – medal, held in my hand all these years later. We should never under-estimate what matters. It really is so often the small things. Not unlike this nondescript medal and the occasion it represents.

I can’t imagine any person pines to be leading a not-for-profit org like ours. I didn’t. But I’ve come to appreciate that people come to the idea of the intrinsic value of service and aiming to do the right thing, like my predecessor, Chris Buchanan and all those volunteers before him. And all those many who step up today and offer their time. Time is limited for all of us. We have that in common. We’re only given just so much. It’s priceless. Never let anyone tell you there is “no overhead” in an organization like ours. The cost of ours is incalculable.

We’re in membership renewal season. In any standard year PPBSO membership times-out on the last day of the calendar year. With pandemic pressures in mind the 2021 renewal period has been extended to April 30.

While we’re working at developing new revenue streams for the PPBSO the truth of the matter is that membership fees are currently the society’s most important source of income.

Contrary to what some might think, The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario is not just a “highland games-running machine”. Yes, the PPBSO has a solid track record of collaborating with games committees to field successful events. We’re lucky to have administrative support that helps enable all of that – and the ongoing office work of keeping the wheels of the society turning.

This past pandemic year our branches collectively staged over two dozen events for members. That’s especially impressive considering the need for everyone to immediately adopt technology – and adapt accordingly!

Games and branch events aside, I say that the the PPBSO’s core value to members is the community it represents. In the teeming diversity of our ever-busy multi-cultural world the PPBSO offers lovers of the music of the pipes and drums a place to call home. A place to preserve and promote a great tradition. One that matters.

I know you feel the same way. So I’m asking you to join me today in renewing your commitment to our community by renewing your membership. 

Sincerely, Michael Grey, President, The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario


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