Air Force Son: Young Scottish pipers fly to New York's Tartan Day parade on plane piloted by pupil's dad

Proud father ready for take off on trip of a lifetime for Edinburgh students

A group of young pipers from a Scottish school are jetting off to New York to perform at this year’s Tartan Day parade – on a plane piloted by the father of one of the pupils.

Merchiston Castle School’s pipe band is due to perform at the ceremony on Saturday, joining more than 3,000 bagpipers, Highland dancers, clan organisations and dog breeds on the march up Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, as part of the annual celebration of Scottish heritage and culture.

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The band from the independent all-boys school in Edinburgh will travel on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Manchester tomorrow.

Merchiston Castle School Pipe Band, Image: Paul WattMerchiston Castle School Pipe Band, Image: Paul Watt
Merchiston Castle School Pipe Band, Image: Paul Watt

And the plane will be captained by Simon Rankin, from Edinburgh, who happens to be the father of one of the band members.

He said: “It’s a privilege to be flying The Merchiston Castle School Pipe Band to New York, particularly as I am a dad to one of the students.

"All of us at Virgin Atlantic are delighted to be part of creating such great experiences and memories for all of the boys. Enjoy Tartan Week and the magic of NYC.”

Merchiston’s pipe band is directed by the five-time champion bagpiper and composer, Kyle Warren.

Merchiston Castle School Pipe Band, Image: Paul WattMerchiston Castle School Pipe Band, Image: Paul Watt
Merchiston Castle School Pipe Band, Image: Paul Watt

The group has competed at local, national and international level, recently taking first prize in the Junior B Grade at the Glasgow Highland Club competition.

Mr Warren, director of pipes and drums at Merchiston, said: “It is a privilege to be attending the 26th anniversary of the NYC Tartan Day Parade with Merchiston’s Pipe Band to celebrate Scottish heritage and culture.

“I am incredibly proud of the boys dedication and commitment to rehearsals and practice to ensure the band performs at its best on the international stage.

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“I’m confident this will be a trip the boys will remember forever and can look back on with incredible memories – starting with a flight expertly piloted by Simon Rankin.”

The celebration was declared by the U.S. Senate in 1998 to officially recognise the “outstanding achievements and contributions made by Scottish Americans to the United States”.

A parade was first held the following year, in 1999, when two pipe bands and a small group of Scottish-Americans marched from the British Consulate to the UN in New York.

Now, thousands of people take part, while tens of thousands of spectators line the streets to watch the spectacle.

Each year, a well known Scot is given the job of acting as “grand marshal”, including Sir Sean Connery in 2002, Sir Alex Ferguson in 2010, Brian Cox in 2012 and 2020, and Gail Porter last year.

On Saturday, the grand marshal will be Emmy Award-winning actor Dougray Scott, the Glenrothes-born star of Mission: Impossible 2 and Enigma.

He said: “I couldn’t be prouder or happier to have been asked to be the 2024 NYC Tartan Day Parade Grand Marshal, and also to be wearing the Morrison tartan, the tartan of my mother’s family.

"She’ll be looking down from on high with pride in her Scottish heart, God bless her Glaswegian cotton socks.”

The Hibernian FC fan added: “May the chief let his sun shine all the way from Leith to NYC.”



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