Bagpipes doctor?s calling
By ADRIAN MILLER
WINNING a bagpipe medal named after the family who once owned your bagpipes might seem like an unfair advantage, but Alastair McInnes wouldn't have it any other way.
The Grafton Base Hospital doctor won the James McSwan Memorial Gold Medal for bagpipe playing last Easter at the Maclean Highland Gathering, making it the ninth time in the competition's 15-year history he had won the event.
What makes Dr McInnes' win even more special is the fact he plays bagpipes which were once owned by James McSwan's cousin, Angus.
Dr McInnes said the pipes were unique.
"They contain elephant ivory, silver mounts and are made from cocus wood, which is now extinct," he said.
"They are all a piper could ever want."
Dr McInnes said the pipes, made by the Henderson family in Scotland, were brought to Maclean early in the 20th century by Angus McSwan and have remained in the area ever since.
"They belonged to one of Angus' uncles and were brought in 1928 from Scotland, and when he was in his nineties he was a patient at Grafton hospital," he said.
"He told me that he and his cousin Donald planned to bury the pipes if Australia had been invaded by Japan in World War Two."
"They thought they were so priceless they didn't want them to fall into the wrong hands."
Dr McInnes, who has been playing bagpipes for 33 years, said winning the award was a tremendous feeling.
"It's always a great feeling and honour to have success at Maclean because I consider the Maclean Highland Gathering as the highlight of the competitive year," he said.
Lower Clarence Scottish Association chief Peter Smith said seeing a Clarence Valley resident win the award was great for the area and helped to increase the profile of the competition.
"It's a pretty high profile event on the east coast of Australia, and Alastair being a local, it's very fitting he won it," he said.
"It is a prestigious event and for a small district like Maclean, the likes of Alastair really help to keep it going."