The call of the pipes

The Farm­ers Santa Pa­rade cel­e­brates its 80th year on Sun­day. Re­porter Jess Lee caught up with mem­bers of the City of Auck­land Pipe Band and keen bag­piper 90-year-old Jim Kirker. PA­RADES

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE -

THE un­mis­tak­able tone of the bag­pipes has rung out among the fes­tive floats of the Farm­ers Santa Pa­rade for more than 60 years.

Their call has long held sig­nif­i­cance for City of Auck­land Pipe Band mem­ber Jim Kirker.

The 90-year-old for­mer pipe ma­jor per­formed as part of the band when it first marched along the cen­tral city route in the 1940s.

He was a fa­mil­iar face in the lineup right up un­til a few years ago when he left to join the non-com­pet­i­tive Royal New Zealand Navy Pipe and Drums band.

You can’t match the bag­pipes for im­pact, Mr Kirker says.

‘‘It doesn’t mat­ter how noisy the crowd is the bag­pipes will al­ways pierce their way through.’’

Thou­sands of Auck­lan­ders lined the foot­paths of the cen­tral city to catch a glimpse of the pa­rade’s dec­o­rated horse-drawn carts when Farm­ers founder Robert Laid­law in­tro­duced the pa­rade in 1934.

The event to­day at­tracts more than 250,000 peo­ple along its 2.2km route.

This Sun­day’s pa­rade will be one of the few Mr Kirker has missed.

He first picked up the pipes as a 12-year-old but cast them aside a year or so later. It wasn’t un­til he re­turned to New Zealand from the Solomon Is­lands af­ter serv­ing in World War II that he gave the in­stru­ment an­other go.

‘‘When you hear the pipes you al­ways head in that di­rec­tion just to see who it is,’’ Mr Kirker says.

Mr Kirker found him­self pro­moted to pipe ma­jor af­ter just 11 years.

City of Auck­land Pipe Band man­ager Rex Gar­land says pipe bands have a great ca­ma­raderie.

‘‘You can look at lots and lots of or­gan­i­sa­tions but pipe bands just seem to stick to­gether.

‘‘It’s one

of those things you get ad­dicted to.’’

The group is proud to still be part of the colour and spec­ta­cle of the Santa Pa­rade, he says. The band will per­form with high­land dancers and march­ing girls be­hind the Emi­rates Team New Zealand sail­ing crew whose mem­bers will act as the event’s grand mar­shals. Farm­ers Santa Pa­rade November 24, 2pm. Rain date, De­cem­ber 1. Pa­rade route: May­oral Drive, Queen St, Cus­toms St West and Al­bert St. Santa’s Party in Aotea Square from 3pm One­hunga Christ­mas Pa­rade November 30, 11.30pm till noon. Pa­rade route: Set up at One­hunga Pri­mary School, One­hunga Mall, turn around the round­about at Princess St to head back up One­hunga Mall and back to­wards One­hunga Pri­mary School Puke­ta­papa Santa Pa­rade and Christ­mas Party November 30, pa­rade 10am till 10.30am, Christ­mas party 10.30am till 2.30pm. Pa­rade route: Set up at Me­mo­rial Ave, Do­min­ion Rd through the Mt Al­bert Rd in­ter­sec­tion then left into Jaspers Ave Eller­slie Santa Pa­rade De­cem­ber 1, 11am till 12.30pm. Pa­rade route: Set up in Cawley St, Main High­way, Ladies Mile, Robert St car park, Robert St, right back to Cawley St Pan­mure Santa Pa­rade and Fes­ti­val De­cem­ber 7, pa­rade 10.30am till 11.30pm, fes­ti­val noon till 2pm. Pa­rade route: Set up in Pleas­ant View Rd carpark, Pilk­ing­ton Rd, Queens Rd, turn around the round­about at Kings Rd to head back up Queens Rd Block­house Bay Santa Pa­rade De­cem­ber 7, 9.30am till 1pm. Pa­rade route: Block­house Bay Main St, then Block­house Bay Rd

Photo: JESS LEE

Pa­rade pipers: City of Auck­land Pipe Band mem­bers Jor­dan Steven­son, Bon­nie Steven­son, Cherie Wal­lace and Chris Lu­cas.

Can’t wait: Chil­dren ea­gerly await Santa at the first Farm­ers Santa Pa­rade in 1934.

Jim Kirker

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