Tartan Week: New York flight serenaded by Western Isles pipers

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Passengers on a flight from Scotland to New York for the city’s Tartan Week were treated to a very Scottish surprise.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to have some live in-flight entertainment.”

Then the Norwegian Airlines flight some 36,000 feet above the Atlantic was filled with the skirl of the bagpipes. Donald Ban McDonald perched on the edge of a seat to a captive audience. But many of them were already fans and admirers.

After a huge fundraising campaign the first Western Isles pipe band to play at Tartan Week were finally en route for the Big Apple, with a travelling part of 42 including their piping instructor Donald Ban and his wife Mrs Esther MacDonald.

READ MORE: Tartan Week: Empire State Building to be lit up in Scotland’s colours

Not only is this a very special school trip but it is also the 20th anniversary New York City Tartan Week Parade. Both Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis and Scottish folk musician Phil Cunningham endorsed their fundraising campaign.

Donald Ban McDonald in action. Picture: Phyllis Stephen

Donald Ban McDonald in action. Picture: Phyllis Stephen

All the young members of the Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band are looking forward to taking New York by storm with an itinerary is not for the faint-hearted.

READ MORE: Second US route from Edinburgh halted by Norwegian Air

JohnDaniel Peteranna who is travelling with the band, and whose company Energee is one of their main sponsors, said : “We are going to New York to take on Tartan Week! This is the first island band to go to Tartan Week. Some of the kids have never been on a plane before, far less out of the country, far less to New York. Bring it on!”

According to the list I have seen the band will visit Ground Zero, Carnegie Hall, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the American Museum of Natural History (and they are stopping to eat and sleep here and there!)

On Friday they will play in Bryant Park where the Declaration of Arbroath will be read out on National Tartan Day, 6 April, all leading up to the highlight of their visit when they march down Sixth Avenue in the Tartan Week Parade. They also have three Highland dancers with them who will dance to the McCallum bagpipes playing with two bass drummers, two tenor drummers and six snare drummers.

This year’s Grand Marshal is KT Tunstall the Scottish singer, originally from Fife and who now lives in the US.

The band is made up of 19 teenagers from 13-17 years old, and they have a few adults with them. They come from six islands in the Hebrides : Berneray, North Uist, Grimsby, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra.

The young people all attend the 300 pupil Sgoil Lionacleit in Benbecula, some of them having to stay over in Benbecula at weekends for band practice. They are current winners of the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships Freestyle Competition 2017

Wearing their own tartan, a specially created design by Kathleen and Robert Ferdinand of Celtic Clothing in Stornaway, they will be most distinctive in their school colours of red, black and white. They also have a BBC Alba film crew with them making a Trusadh documentary which will be aired in October this year.