For years the Mataura Pipe Band has been talking about how great it would be to do a concert on Stewart Island. As with most great ideas however they usually don’t get past the talking stage. A chance meeting between piper Jeff Shanks and the manager of the South Seas Hotel was the catalyst to start the wheels in motion.
And so it was that on a cold Friday evening we stood on the wharf at Bluff stowing our pipe boxes, drums, fishing rods, diving gear and uniform bags into aluminium bins, so that they could be “swung” onto the deck of the ferry. They do tie them down don’t they!!!.
The crossing was reasonably calm on the way over, only about a one metre swell, and just over an hour later we were steaming up Halfmoon Bay. We were greeted by the “advance party” that had come over that morning to set things up. The aluminium bins were unloaded onto the wharf using a forklift. As each tub was sat down you just pulled out what was yours. They are yet to install one of those fancy conveyor systems. The locals had put on a few utes and four wheel drives to carry our gear around for the weekend, and with over fifty players and supporters making the trip, we were spread around four different lots of accommodation.
Our group was lucky enough to be staying in a recently built house that looked out over the harbour. There were three couples downstairs and three upstairs with a large living – dining area that became the communal eating and gathering point for the weekend. After a quick feed, it was instruments out (without uniforms) and down to the hotel to provide the nights entertainment. As is the case on Stewart Island you tend to walk everywhere, and this was no exception. It was a bit strange seeing a pipe band make their way in ragged groups around the water front road to the Hotel, often tuning up on the way.
Our backing band “Lynx” had set up their gear during the afternoon and by the time we got there they had the place going pretty well. The band marched in playing and managed to find enough room on the dance floor to finish the bracket.
The hotel on Stewart Island is more what you’d describe as cosy than spacious, as a result the pipe corp was spread out around the bar. The Pipe Band played several brackets throughout the night with “Lynx” filling in with pub music in between. Our usual haggis addresser was not due on the Island until the following day, so Paul Bruce was persuaded to fill in. Apparently the Stewart Island version of the address sounds very familiar in places to the lyrics of Loch Lomand. Still if the All Blacks can change the Haka why not? Well-done Paul a good effort in very difficult circumstances.
There was a fantastic atmosphere in the bar that night, by the end of it you could hardly move for people. Judging by the response from the locals, some of who were standing on bar stools fists raised in the air singing along with “Flower of Scotland”, I’d say it was pretty well appreciated.