Piper Doug McRae, was the oldest member of The Scots School Albury Pipe Band at 66 years old and Saxon Coffey was the youngest of three 12-year-olds from the school band, making him the youngest member of the 29-strong playing group in Scotland. Doug originally played with Scots Pipe Band coordinator Scott Nicolson nearly 30 years ago when the pair was both working in New Zealand. Doug returned to Albury around the same time Nicolson started at The Scots School Albury in 2013 so it was a natural progression that Doug would reunite with his old buddy to bolster the student group.
Doug learned the pipes as a student of Knox Grammar School in Sydney and found it a satisfying way to make social connections whenever he moved to a new city. As a CEO of Private Hospitals, Doug moved around a bit, but has settled in Albury and is now retired. In fact, he retired in 2017, just in time to accompany the Scots band to its inaugural appearance at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. “I love playing in the band with the students,” Doug said. “The kids are a great bunch, and we see an awful lot of each other as we prepare for the Tattoo. It was a real experience to perform at the Tattoo in 2017. It was very busy because we played in a number of other events while we were there, so we had to learn a lot of tunes. We had the contest tunes and the Tattoo tunes to learn, as we did this time around. It’s very rewarding to help these youngsters on the big stage of the Tattoo.”
Saxon is a Year 7 student who has been playing the pipes for three years and is a natural musician, having mastered the trumpet and piano as well. Saxon found the pipes fairly easy to learn initially but admits there is a lot of practise required as the number of tunes they needed to learn for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the band’s other commitments at the Scottish Pipe Band Championships, the World Pipe Band Championships and Piping Live in Glasgow mounted up. “I do a lot of practise at home as well as at school,” Saxon confided. “The neighbours so far haven’t come knocking on my door to ask me to stop so I must be going ok.” Saxon, whose favourite tune is Sweet Maid, said the nurturing nature of the band is one of the best things about the group. “The older students are very supportive, and I’ve learnt a lot from them. It’s fun to be part of the group.”