Two years ago, my passion for Vancouver began in the pouring rain on Remembrance Day in North Vancouver. It was the beginning of a week-long visit to the city with my friend Kim Ing. We were meeting up with her old high school classmate, who is now an RCMP officer (Mountie to you Brits) and part of the parade.
By the end of that day, I had fulfilled three major Vancouver staples : hang out with a bunch of Mounties, eat some really good cheap sushi and get soaked through by the famed Vancouver rain. Each element certainly combined to make a memorable day, but the thing that stuck most with me was the widespread public support for the day. In Canada it is marked with a holiday, and crowds turn out in support, something I had not experienced in the UK. Normally, covering Remembrance Day for a local UK newspaper consisted of almost as many press representatives as attendees, so when I was asked to cover this year’s downtown parade with The BC Regiment Irish Pipes and Drums band, how could I refuse?
Growing up in Scotland, I’m familiar with the bagpipes, can dance competently in a ceilidh and still remember a good few steps of the highland fling, but this was my first time viewing an Irish Pipe band in action. Not that my novice eyes could spot any differences, bar the kilts.
Prior to the parade the band and regiment gathered inside the Beatty Street Drill Hall, an atmospheric building, while crowds were already gathering. The pre-parade movement is fascinating: for example the tune ups, the uniform alterations and the commands. Each reflected the military culture built up over decades here and at home. The historical influences were clear, from the building to the polished boots. This was also echoed in the make up of parade participants.
A wonderful Canadian trait is the amalgamation of many different home nations when its residents come together under the Canadian flag. Growing up in the ‘old country’ often makes this hard for me to fully understand -. a land that is not my native home marching to Scottish and Irish songs, playing Scotland’s traditional instrument and kitted out in Irish kilts etc. It was refreshing during a time of remembrance to witness the merging of a new culture from a combination of traditions – and one that evolved in such a short space of time. So while many were singing those familiar hymns, I was studying the faces of those around us and the movements of the professionals from each regiment.