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  • Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal GazetteMembers of the Fort Wayne Scottish Pipes and Drums, from left, Bob Downing, Stewart Hatfield, Roger Bayford, Bill Richter (bass drum), Max Craft and David Van Gilder play during a rehearsal last week.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette A hat worn by a member of the Fort Wayne Scottish Pipes and Drums lies on a table as the group practices on Thursday at the Faith United Church of Christ.

  • Denny Andrews, manager of the group, plays his bagpipe during the group’s practice. The group meets Thursdays at 7 p.m. at Faith United Church of Christ. You do not need to be of Scottish descent to join the co-ed group.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015 3:24 pm

Keeping Scottishheritage alive

Rosa Salter Rodriguez The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne residents looking to ally with members of their clan might find it a wee bit more difficult now than in auld lang syne – years gone by.

Folks can still get a taste of Scottish music, and even join a local bagpipe and drums corps, the Fort Wayne Scottish Pipes & Drums. But if they’re looking for a cultural festival – kilt-wearing, caber tossing, haggis-eating, highland flinging and such – the Fort Wayne area no longer has one. Nor does it have an active Scottish cultural society or an annual Bobbie Burns celebration to honor its national bard, Robert Burns.

Denny Andrews of Rome City, a retired postal service employee who used to volunteer with both groups, laments those sorry facts. 

“We can’t get enough people to volunteer,” says Andrews, 60,  a former cultural society head. “It was kind of the same 10 people doing it every year, and you kind of get burned out with it.” 

Now, if someone wants a Scottish cultural group, they’ve got to go to Indianapolis, Andrews says. As for festivals, one took place last weekend in Columbus, Bartholomew County, and there’s one in Indianapolis on Oct. 11. Or, revelers can travel to Alma, Michigan, in May or Chicago in June, according to The Association of Scottish Games and Festivals’ website, www.acgf.org.

The local festival took place for several years on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, before scaling back and moving to Columbia City in 2011. The event was discontinued after 2012’s festival.

But if it’s bagpipes you’ve a hankering for, the local pipes and drums group will be happy to oblige, says Andrews, who now serves as its pipes sergeant and manger.

The co-ed group rehearses at 7 p.m. Thursdays at Faith United Church of Christ, 10707 Coldwater Road, and is available for hire, as are several individuals, he says.

“We welcome new members and offer free lessons for bagpipes and drumming,” says Andrews, who notes the corps will play at the Johnny Appleseed Festival on Saturday and Sunday and was recently heard at Fort Wayne’s Taste of the Arts.

People need not be Scottish to join, although about half the members have some Scottish blood, he says. Andrews is actually of English descent, but he married someone with a McKenzie clan pedigree and decided to wear plaid proudly.

An estimated 6,000 Allen County residents claim to have Scottish ancestry, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“There’s actually quite a bit of Scottish (heritage) in Fort Wayne,” he says. “But it’s like with the American Legion and the Shriners – the younger generation isn’t as interested in this stuff as we used to be.

“It’s sad,” he says, “because you don’t want to see this stuff going away.” 

rsalter@jg.net