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
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.
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
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.