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Piping in proud traditions at Dunedin campus

Thursday, 13 April 2017 1:40pm

A fine mist, a wee dram of whisky and the unmistakable sound of the bagpipes belting "oot" rousing traditional tunes – the pride many alumni have in their Scottish heritage was obvious at the Dunedin campus on 7 April.

Two sets of pipes were heard outside the Staff Club during last week's the David A. Grant Memorial Scholarship in Scottish Piping commemorative event.

This year’s scholarship recipient Juliet Johnson was joined by 2016 award winner Sam Darling. The pair played ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘The Road to the Isles’ and ‘Flowers of the Forest’ for benefactors and guests.

DARO Donor and Funding Manager Jude McCracken thanked benefactors Dr Peter and Mrs Ruth Grant and Dr Jock and Mrs Hilary Allison for supporting Otago’s well-resourced Scottish piping and drumming programme.

The event is held each year on the day Dr Grant’s uncle, David Albert Grant, died in France in 1918 after being wounded on the battlefield in the Somme region. Before World War One, David worked on his family’s West Taieri farm and had a strong interest in piping. He would often cycle across the Taieri Plains to band practices, returning hours later.

(From left) Dr Peter Grant, Sam Darling, Hilary Allison, Juliet Johnson and Jock Allison

Dr Grant, a Toronto-based Otago medical graduate who retired from psychiatry in 2014, says he is proud to support the scholarship because it recognises his family’s involvement in traditional music, and makes a continuing contribution to cultural life at Otago.

Hilary Allison, who funds the Alexander Leith Memorial Scholarship, said her forebears were “virtually neighbours” with Dr Grant’s. Her great-great-grandfather immigrated to New Zealand from Sunderlandshire, arriving on the barque Mary in 1849.

Mrs Allison said early European settlers to the region would be proud to see successive generations of young people receiving “elite tuition” at Otago, and the enduring interest young pipers and drummers maintained in something as quintessentially Scottish as traditional music.

Supporting the scholarship was a way of acknowledging her forebear's “courage, resilience and steadfastness.” 

Juliet says receiving the scholarship will help her become a more technically proficient piper and gain “in-depth knowledge about the instrument.”

The Arana College resident says seeing pipes played at a family function as a young child led to about eight years playing solo and with the National Youth Pipe Band and Hamilton Caledonian Pipe Band. Juliet is balancing piping with first-year Health Sciences studies and hopes to be admitted to Otago’s dentistry programme next year.

ABOUT: The David A. Grant scholarship provides $3,500 towards tuition fees for one year for students who complete the music performance paper in Scottish Piping or Drumming, or full tuition fees if a Bachelor of Music is studied. The scholarships were launched on 7 April 2009 with Greg Wilson, an international prize-winning piper, performing outside the Clocktower building.

In addition to the David A. Grant Scholarships, the Scottish Piping and Drumming programme at Otago is supported by the Alexander Leith Memorial Scholarship, generously funded by Mrs Hilary Allison.

Benefactors and guests at the Staff Club on 7 April, 2017