Family helping co-ordinate Games
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 06:00 am
The co-ordinator for piping and drumming has too much on her plate to worry about who is going to take charge of the grand finale at the Foothills Highland Games.
That is why co-ordinator Heather Fancourt is having her son Duncan McEwan, a former piper and lineman for the Foothills Falcons, be the chief steward for the band pipe competition.
“It’s nice to have someone who knows involved,” Fancourt said. “Duncan has the background. I’m relieved because Duncan will have everything under control and is experienced with piping in a band.”
Bagpipes and Highland games are in mom and son’s blood. Fancourt learned to Highland dance in territory known for folks wearing watermelon on their heads at football games, not kilts.
“I was maybe eight years old when I started Highland dancing in this little tiny town in Saskatchewan, Assiniboia - and I just loved it,” Fancourt said. “I remember telling my great-grandmother I was going to take up Highland dancing and she was delighted.”
Assiniboia didn’t quite offer the opportunity pipers, dancers and caber tossers have in the Foothills and Calgary. She competed in Highland games in Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon as a youngster.
“I danced mostly for my own enjoyment, because I didn’t have that many chances to compete,” she said.
Fancourt gave up Highland dance when the responsibilities of adulthood beckoned.
“After I went to university and then had some kids, I gave up Highland dancing,” she said with a laugh. “You just don’t have the ability to jump like you used to.”
However, her children jumped at the chance to participate in Highland games quicker than Scotland’s Andy Murray’s tennis serve when they moved to Okotoks in 1998.
“Duncan was at the age when he was interested (in his heritage) and he loved the sounds of bagpipes,” Fancourt said. “He had this little cassette player and he would go to sleep at night with the sound of bagpipes.
“I urged him to take some lessons — I was just overjoyed that he loved piping as much as he did.”
She was like a hockey mom, but instead of hockey bags, she was hauling bagpipes.
“I loved it, it is what we did as a family,” she said.
The 19-year-old Duncan is using his fingers to turn wrenches as a heavy-duty mechanic at Fairview these days. However, he still squeezes the bagpipes now and then.
“I started playing when I was eight,” McEwan said. “I always liked the sound of the pipes. It was the last sound competing armies would here before going to battle… I have always been aware of my Scottish heritage. The bagpipes are the national instrument and going to the Highland games, you get to eat haggis and things like that.”
He said learning the bagpipes is time consuming, but it was worth it. He competed across Alberta, Saskatchewan and in Scotland with the Ogden Legion Pipe Band.
“It was awesome — I got to see where my family came from and Glasgow has the biggest Highland games in the world,” McEwan said.
He also competed in the Foothills Highland Games.
“I really liked the venue because I used to play football there,” he said. “It was also good to play (the bagpipes) in front of friends and family.”
The McEwans became involved with the Foothills Highland Games when Duncan’s sister, Marina McEwan, started dancing with Jackie Roe, the original chairperson of the Foothills Highland Games, when it was held in High River.
Fancourt has been the coordinator for the piping and drumming the past four years.
Duncan said it was only right he sign up and help.
“My mom used to sit down and help me learn the tunes and she was always helping me get ready for Highland games season,” he said. “I wanted to help when she asked me.”
The Foothills Highland Games is this Saturday at Foothills Composite High School. The piping and drumming competitions start at 8 a.m. and band competition is at 2:30 p.m.
For more information go to www.foothillshighlandgames.com