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North pipers at heart of Trump visit and D-Day events

By Mike Merritt

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Pipe Major Colin Simpson stands far left at Buckingham Palace while Norman Gillies is fourth left and Hugh Mackay third right.
Pipe Major Colin Simpson stands far left at Buckingham Palace while Norman Gillies is fourth left and Hugh Mackay third right.

Army pipers from the North helped celebrate the ties between the UK and the USA - and then joined an emotional tribute to the heroes of D-Day.

And leading the pipers from 4 Scots was Colour Sgt. Colin Simpson from Brora.

Also among the 12 pipers who played such a key part of a momentous week were Hugh Mackay from Dornoch and Norman Gillies of Ullapool.

As pipe major, it fell on Colin (35) to introduce the Queen and American President Donald Trump to the band.

They had played four tunes at the Buckingham Palace state banquet - including marches and a Strathspey and Reel.

Mr Trump's mother Mary Anne MacLeod came from Tong, near Stornoway

"Mr Trump talked about his Scottish roots and how his mother was from the islands," said Colin, back at home in Brora this week.

"He asked if everybody in the band was Scottish and I said they were. He said 'good.'

"He was very easy to speak to and down to earth - the Queen's the same.

"She knows all the tunes so every time you play a state banquet - and I've done eight now - you have to pick a different tune. Otherwise she'll know!"

Colin played at the monarch's official arrival parade at Balmoral last year and is expected to do the same again this summer.

But it was the moving 75th D-Day landings anniversary commemoration at Portsmouth that will live especially long in his memory.

Portsmouth, where much of the landing force sailed from in 1944, was the focal point of the UK commemorations.

"The band were on the main stage and it was all very emotional to be part of it. It was so special," said Colin.

Colin, who has sons Hamish, seven, and Rory, four, with wife Rebecca, 37, is based in Catterick in Yorkshire - but gets home to Brora as often as he can. And after keeping such high company he was literally back down to earth this week - cutting the grass!

His twin sister Carlene, his grandfather Duncan Matheson (90) - a former Seaforth Highlander, who first encouraged him to take up the pipes - and parents David and Edith all live in the village.

Colin is also grateful to his old piping teacher Brian Mearns, Rogart.

"It is has been a bit of a journey. I'm glad I picked a job that has allowed me to travel the world and play the pipes. I was in Virginia, USA, in April and I'm off to Australia at the end of the year," said Colin.

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