I believe that the town of Meaford is beginning to recognize the magnificent job that one of its citizens has been doing as an ambassador at home and abroad. Senior Pipe Major Ross Baxter, a retired tinsmith, was requested by The Tournament of Roses Parade Committee in California to organize a massed pipe and drum band from across Canada to march in their 1994 parade. The bands included The Campbell River Pipes and Drums from British Columbia, The Fraser Holmes Memorial Ladies Pipe Band from Nova Scotia, The Midnight Sun Pipe Band from The Yukon, The Mirimachi Celtic Pipes and Drums from New Brunswick and The Ontario Massed Legion Pipes and Drums from Ontario. This year, he organized Scotland Tour 2001 from August 17 to September 2, and the Canadian Massed Pipes and Drums Band was expanded to include the J.P.Fell Pipe Band and The Delta Police Pipe Band from British Columbia as well as the Fort McMurray Pipes and Drums from Alberta.
Ross Baxter was responsible for organizing all details for over 350 persons, including many supporters of the bands. Parades by the massed band included Dumfries, Dundee, Glasgow (with a Civic Reception by the Honourable Lord Provost of the city), a preshow performance at The Edinburgh Tattoo, parades at Pitlochry and Blair Atholl Castle, parades at Scone Palace and Perth, the Irvine Marymass Festival, a parade and ceilidh in Aberdeen, two performances at the Braemar Royal Gathering 2001 and the Blairgowrie Highland Games. Participants had high praise for Ross's attention to details during the events. He certainly had the knack of assembling a terrific group of embassadors from across Canada. Word of the massed band spread quickly, and the size of the cheering crowds grew with each of the eleven venues.
The tour was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which we could not miss. Whatever our personal reasons for joining the tour, another consideration was the contribution to the economy of Scotland in the aftermath of the "mad cow disease" scare.
The Canadian spirit was very noticeable at every performance. Our Members of Parliament may not realize how important those "Maple Leaf" pins were to the youngsters along the parade routes. I noted that many of the band members and supporters were carrying a handful of Provincial pins as well. My MP will be happy to hear that the very last Maple Leaf pin of the two dozen he mailed to me helped to dry the tears of a wee lad at the "Lost Children's Office" in Blairgowrie; his grandpa showed up soon after. Two of the last Trillium pins for Ontario were given to Councillor Maureen and Bill Irons, whose table we shared at the Ceilidh at the Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen; ... thanks to MPP David Caplan for delivering 20 pins to his office where I could pick them up a couple of days before our departure to Scotland.
I would add a few comments about justifiable funding of such cultural events. I am certain that the Mayor of Fergus (Centre Wellington) and his wife, whom my wife and I met at the Blairgowrie Highland Games, could reaffirm many of my observations. If our Federal Government can justify spending 83 per cent of its cultural funds in Quebec, surely a request for one or two additional members of the RCMP was not unreasonable considering the scope of the good-will and recognition which Canada received at every event. As it was, a very solitary Constable Elizabeth Shaw of the RCMP took a vacation from her duties and paid her own way to accompany her husband Pipe Major Rob Smith on the trip. She added greatly to the impact of the tour ... and we observed that she was moved from the Colour Party at the back on the first venue ... right up to the front rank of the massed band at the Edinburgh Tattoo. [Beyond the marching, I would add that the constable was often behind the scenes greeting spectators and children, posing for photographs or encouraging young Highland dancers and competitors.] Just imagine the effect two or three mounties at the front and centre in the many scenes to follow!
Not surprisingly, the Canadian Massed Pipes and Drums have accepted an invitation from The People's Republic of China to tour their country in 2003. My wife and I congratulate Senior Pipe Major Ross Baxter for his efforts and for the opportunity of joining his assembled bands as goodwill embassadors for Canada.