Reborn Dundee Scottish Pipe Band honors longtime supporter
By Mike Danahey email@example.com June 10, 2012 9:36PM
The Dundee Scottish Pipe Band including Wes Williams, center, of Crystal Lake, Ill., performs outside of Family Pride Dry Cleaners in West Dundee, Ill., on Saturday, June 9, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |
Updated: July 12, 2012 6:06AM
Auld lang syne, indeed. The Dundee Scottish Pipe Band surprised longtime supporter Faye Williams Saturday afternoon with a concert outside the West Dundee business she is trying to sell.
“I’d like to retire and go on tour with the band,” Williams said.
Williams was moved by the music and hugged each player after the performance. That included her grown son, Wes, who said, “For all the years, a thank-you for the kilts,” as the two embraced.
“Faye has owned and worked at Family Pride Dry Cleaners since the early 1970s, and during this time she has been a dedicated supporter of the Dundee Scots, which turned into the Imperial Scots,” bass drummer Scott Braun said. “Now, Faye is involved with former members of those bands who helped form the Dundee Scottish.”
Williams has been tailoring and mending the kilts and other garb for the various incarnations of the bands since 1976. And even though she will be retiring from her career in cleaning, Williams plans to be a Dundee Scottish booster and still will work on the uniforms for the group.
Wes is the pipe major for the group and a former member of the Imperial Scots at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville, which formed when Irving Crown and Dundee High Schools merged and their award-winning bands combined into one unit.
During the course of his piping, Williams has played with the Scots, the Midlothian Pipe Band and at the world championships in Scotland.
After his father died about 17 years ago, Williams had given up playing bagpipes. Two years ago, upon hearing the Celtic music at a St. Patrick’s-time dinner at St. James he attended with mom Faye, he was inspired to take them up once more.
Eight members of Dundee Scottish wear uniforms from the old Scots that were kept by Williams’ mother, who was a seamstress for the high school outfit.
“I don’t know why I kept them,” Williams said. “My husband was Welsh and I am Scottish, so it’s part of our heritage. I was thrilled when Wes started up the band again, and I am sure his dad would have been, too.”
Using social media, Williams started looking up former band members and pulled together a group that soon was practicing again on Monday evenings in a meeting room at the church.
The new group was first called Dundee Scottish T. Doyle Heffron Memorial Pipe Band in honor of the late director who in the 1970s took the Dundee Scots to marching band competitions across the nation, to the Macy’s Parade in New York City and to the inauguration parade for President Jimmy Carter. In its current form, the group’s first public appearance was at the Tilted Kilt pub restaurant in Elgin in March 2010.
Bass drummer Scott Braun noted that the group has been growing in numbers and in proficiency, taking first-place honors for its level this year at the Celtic Festival in Springfield and at the Highland Games in Milwaukee.
Dundee Scottish member and U.S. Marines Gunnery Sgt. Joshua Cunningham, 30, of Elgin brought home a first place in the senior novice division for his bagpipe solo at the Milwaukee event.
In the fall of 2010, Cunningham, who works as a Marine recruiter in Rosemont, grabbed a card the pipe group was passing out to recruit new members at the Irish Fest in West Dundee at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, where his daughter Cadence will be in first grade this fall.
“I wanted to take up the pipes in large part because of my strong Irish family heritage — and the pipes are Celtic, not just a Scottish instrument,” Cunningham said. “Also, my platoon commander In Iraq where I was stationed in 2008 was from Boston Irish. This allows you to take a step back and celebrate that heritage.”
With the tenacity of a Marine, Cunningham practices about two hours a day, even on breaks at work, with a practice chanter, which is like a recorder and not as boisterous as a full-bore bagpipe.
The group currently numbers fewer than two dozen, with members as young as 10 and students as young as 6, and is a family-oriented unit, Cunningham said. In fact, he hopes the aptly named Cadence and his soon-to-be-3-year-old son will one day join. And his wife, Alexandria, who plays saxophone, has recently started taking bagpipe lessons.
With the renewed intergenerational interest, piper Shawn McDonald said the group intends to raise $8,000 for new uniforms it hopes to have for the Kilts by Waukesha (Wis.) competition this Labor Day weekend.
To that end, the members are working out details of holding a hoagie sandwich sale June 30, a fundraiser which has been part of the band’s traditions. And a further fundraiser at McNally’s in St. Charles is to be held sometime in August, McDonald said.
For those who would like to hear the Dundee Scottish Pipe Band, the group will be taking part in the 26th annual Scottish Festival & Highland Games, which run Friday (June 15) from 4 to 10 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Hamilton Lakes in Itasca. Competitions are Saturday.
For more information on the fest and games, visit www.chicagoscots.org/highlandgames. For more information on the Dundee Scottish Pipe Band and its hoagie sandwich sale, see www.dundeescottish.org or phone 847-542-8422.