In the summer of 2016, Glenn Brown took a boat trip from Girvan harbour in Ayrshire with two of his piping students, Jimmy Wyllie and Dorothy Moodie. They sailed to Ailsa Craig and formed the Paddy’s Milestone Pipers – for one day only.
Ailsa Craig has long been known for providing the granite from which curling stones are made, and Jimmy has been involved with the only company who manufacture the Ailsa Craig stones, Kays of Scotland. The granite was last quarried in 2013 when 2000 tonnes were harvested, and that quantity will keep the company going till 2020 and beyond.
The island – known locally as Paddy’s Milestone due to its proximity to the sea route between Scotland and Ireland – has a colourful history with links to Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish Reformation, monks of Crossraguel Abbey and is still the site of a castle built in the late 1500s to protect against the Spanish armadas of King Philip II of Spain.
There is also a working lighthouse which was completed in 1886 by Thomas Stevenson, father of Robert Louis Stevenson, and since the lighthouse was automated in 1990 the island has been uninhabited. Now a wide range of seabirds, including gannets and puffins, have the island as a sanctuary under the watchful eye of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The Paddy’s Milestone Pipers were on the island for two hours and played various selections on the helipad, in the old gasworks building and around the lighthouse. And as they sailed away from the island, the skipper killed the engines to allow Glenn to give a rendition of a 9/8 march called Mrs. Dorothy Moodie which he composed for Dorothy’s 60th Birthday.
When we arrived back in Girvan, Jimmy presented Glenn and Dorothy with a mini curling stone which he made himself, engraved with the date of the trip and ‘The Paddy’s Milestone Pipers’. I wonder if it was the first time the pipes were ever heard out there?