What a difference Cowal itself was this year - gone were the arrogant, awkward and downright obnoxious stewards, officials and police and instead the welcome provided by all the officials, and even a host of members of the public, was tremendous. Absolutely everyone we bumped into throughout the course of the day was obviously going out of their way to say 'Thank You' to the bands that attended and treat them to the warmth and friendliness that was so reminiscent of the 'old days' of Cowal (we started competing there in the 1970s!)

We had absolutely no problems with parking the band minibus and van - straight to the 'old' parking area to be met by friendly, smiling security people who directed the 'traffic' throughout the day - even allowing us to send the van back to the village hall to fetch some 'forgotten' equipment! (In recent years it was always a battle to even get the vehicles in to the allocated parking areas, even though we had the correct passes!)

The friendliness continued with the officials in the tuning park right up to the start line and it was great to be able to have friendly banter with all of them, stewards, security staff and even the guys holding the ropes on the approach to the stadium

Competing in the main arena was great (we were no longer just a part of a little 'sideshow' tucked away at the top of the hill - out of sight, out of mind). Once again we were part of the games

The march down the street at the end of the day (something we've not done for a few years) was also a 'kick back' to the 'old days' - relaxed and full of atmosphere. Again the appreciation shown by everyone was tremendous - there's nothing like marching down Cowal High Street with a couple of trophies in front of you and feeling the genuine warmth of the welcome from the crowds lining the street. Our little unplanned 'display spot' of slow air and jig was well received and started some impromptu dancing from members of the public!

When we reached the bottom of the town, the coaches and buses were right there waiting to ferry us back to the stadium

We'd been fortunate to follow Inverary & District on the parade and even more fortunate to find ourselves on the same coach as them back to the stadium. A number of their pipers had played on to the coach, seated themselves at the back of played all the way back to the stadium, where they continued playing as they exited the coach! Just another of the memories that will remain of a tremendous weekend

So, was the weekend a success?

From our point of view - definitely

We'd been concerned just what Cowal would be like without it's Major Championships status and yes, it's not the same - with only 26 bands entered instead of 160 it was never going to be the same.

Is it better for it?

Without a doubt

OK, it was strange sitting on the minibus in the carpark and seeing so much empty space but the organisation was superb, everything ran to time, everyone was friendly and welcoming and we thoroughly enjoyed our weekend

Here's to Cowal 2015 (with maybe a few more bands - oh, and a PA system for the announcements at massed bands that could be heard)


Our Performances?

The signs were all good leading up to the contest - pipe sound in the practice hall in the weeks before the contest and again in the village hall on the Friday night were excellent - strong and sweet with a good match and no real hassle in obtaining it. A couple of reeds were changed that were starting to sound as if they might just be on the edge of going past their 'best before date', but other than that things were looking really good.

Come the time for us to enter the arena for the first event, we were truly ready...............

Grade 4 (Marches)

A good start with a good sound until.......... the last part of Cabar Feidh when the most awful 'Low G' sound was produced by one of the pipers!

Fingers not covering holes properly? Overblowing? Underblowing?

Who knows but it certainly killed any hopes we'd entertained of picking up a prize - we were slaughtered by the judges, hence the final placing achieved :-(

Grade 4 (M, S, R)

Without a doubt, the best performance we've given of this particular event as a band. It's not our favourite event and we're all usually pretty happy when its over and done with. On this occasion everything just seemed to click - tone, tempo, expression, breaks, etc, etc.

There were a couple of little finger slips but on the whole, we were very pleased with the peformance

Grade 3

The tone from the Grade 4 (MSR) was maintained - if anything it improved a little more and we approach the arena confidently

A good start, some nice clean playing and expression, although again a couple of little finger slips occurred

The final place of 3rd was a bonus, particularly beating one of the Grade 3 bands entered