Some wonderful memories of the first visit of a Haddington pipe band to our twin town, Aubigny-sur-Nere, in 1966
1) Arriving at Orly airport after what was the first ever flight by most if not all the BB band. To the horror of our French hosts who were there to greet us and transport us to Aubigny, we were dressed in our travelling kit - black blazers, grey flannels, BB tie etc. They apparently were expecting big hairy Scotsmen dressed in full number 1 uniform. Before we knew where we were, out kit was offloaded from the plane and we were ushered into the airport manager’s office and told to change. It turned out that we were part of the publicity for a French star of the stage who was arriving from USA about the same time as we arrived. We then spent a good while posing for photographs with her. At least we got some publicity as our photo featured in the Express in UK the following week.
2) Playing in parades up the main street in Aubigny with the police having to force a way for us through the crowds and being covered with blue confetti which which was thrown over us. I was still getting confetti in the folds of my plaid two years afterwards.
3) Sitting in the bakery opposite the sword-in-the-stone monument eating croissants and drinking coffee with the bakers in the early hours of the morning after our many late-night performances.
It was a hectic time for a teenager - a three-week trip to Denmark as part of the Kettinge twinning in early July, leading to the first performance of Haddington BB pipe band in the Aubigny twinning arrangement.
Arrival at Orly airport - hustled into a lounge to dress for a photo shoot with a French actress on her way to the US, was the first activity. Francoise Gall was her name. The pic appeared in UK press and is included in the Pipe Band publication.
A Beating the Retreat ceremony in the Chateau created a few tears - it was the first time the pipes had been heard since the liberation in 1945.
I played the lament at the war memorial as part of the seven-year celebration, and was enrolled as the 'First Honorary member of the Committee of Feasts of Aubigny'. I've never taken advantage of the post, although I still hold the certificate - written on the back of the menu of the celebration evening!
We attended a concert by 'Francoise Hardy and les Haricot Verts' - as part of the celebrations which led to a pen pal relationship with a Breton family.
Loads of memories!
One event in 1966 at Aubigny sticks out. There was someone who we would call the local squire who lived in the local ‘grand property’. Let’s call him the Count in the Chateau.
One evening we were asked to play in his grounds and there was an arch which had been barred up since 1945 because the Nazis had marched through this in 1940 and after the war the count did not want anyone else to do so as he wanted nothing to do with it. Until we arrived, no one else had ever gone through it again. On this particular day, he had changed his mind and he told us it would be an honour for him and his family if we went through the arch. He took the grating down. We did so and he and his family were quite emotional about it.
Ian McDonald (Adelaide, South Australia)
It is hard to believe that it was 50 years ago. I remember that the weather was very warm. We stayed in an old house or school and ate peaches, a rare treat at that time.
My most enduring memory is of the great kindness of the townspeople from the moment we were picked up at Orly Airport to the time we left.
I am pleased that the association with Aubigny is still going strong and the pipe band makes such a contribution.
Good luck with the beating of the retreat and all the best to the band for the future