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Life Membership - Shane Cotton

It was 1979 when Shane first joined the Manawatu Scottish Society Pipe Band as a learner piper. I first met Shane around October 1984 when I (and Paul Turner) joined the band. Shane had been involved for some time before then.

Shane’s initial influence on piping and pipe bands was through his Father (Norman) who was a piper, along with uncles, aunts and cousins of the Cotton Family who were based mainly in or around Feilding. A number of the wider family were then, and some still are currently, involved with the Feilding and District Caledonian Pipe Band.
In his early days with the band, Shane’s leading tutor was Dennis Pierce who was then the Pipe Major of the Manawatu Scottish Society Pipe Band. In 1979 Norman asked Dennis if he would give Shane tuition when Shane was around 9 years old.

The early 1980’s was a time when the developing No.2 pipe band was in its infancy, having been initiated by Dennis Pierce and Jock McKenzie. It was Square Day 1982 when the No.2 band had its first contest performances and Shane was one of the players. The No.2 band performed again at Square Day in 1985.

As a young teenager, Shane was piping with the No.2 Band as well as some No.1 band events over the 1984 to 1986 years and he was with the No.1 Band that went to the 1985 National contest in Christchurch, performing in the display. In 1986 Shane played with the No.2 Band at their first National contest in Wellington. Following this, Shane competed with the Manawatu Scottish Society No.1 Band in Grade 1 over the 1986 to 1987 summer season. On leaving school, Shane started as an apprentice joiner and the band took a back seat while he studied to gain his Advanced Trade Joiner qualification (1988-1992), after which he joined the family funeral business. During that time, he got further lessons from Don Fitchett who helped him with his solo piping performance. He came back fully into the No.1 band in about 1993 playing with them until 2003. In the early 1990s, Greg Wilson was involved with the band and the playing standard of the No.1 band was starting to reach a high level of performance. Shane went on the first two No.1 band trips to the World Pipe Band Championships in 1997 and 1999 which were significant ventures for the band and the start of putting Manawatu Scottish on the international pipe band scene. He also competed with the No.1 Band on their first three NZ National Grade 1 Championship wins in 2001, 2002 and 2003. He went on the No.1 bands 2002 trip to the Australian National Pipe Band Champs in Brisbane where they won the Grade 1 Championship. Stew McKenzie was becoming well established as the PM of the No.1 Band during this significant period.

During those busy contesting years of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Shane had been going out with a young lady from Waipu, Rachel Vaile, and in April 2003 Shane and Rachel got married. I should add to wish a Happy 20th Wedding Anniversary just gone and 3 fine children along the way, Liam, Andrew and Abby. Starting a new stage of life with Rachael, and along with work commitments, Shane took a break from the No.1 band but continued piping with the Manawatu Scottish No.2 band. He played a leading role with the band and competed for a continuous period from 2004 until 2016 attending all NZ National Championships and only taking a 2-year break when work commitments took priority during 2017 and 2018. When work settled down, Shane played again from 2019 to 2021, competing at the NZ Nationals those years and during which the No.2 band won Grade 3 for a second time in 2020.

Shane was PM when the No.2 band won Grade 3 for the first time at the NZ 2010 National Champs in Masterton. The following month, the band went to the Australian Nationals at Caloundra and, perhaps as underdogs, won Grade 3 there which had 10 bands competing in the Grade. This was a great year for the No.2 band. Under Shane’s Pipe Majorship, the No.2 band went on to play up in Grade 2 and spent 3 years (2011 to 2013) in that grade before dropping back to Grade 3 after a struggle to get enough players.

Up until about 2008, the No.2 band did not very often appoint a Pipe Major, but rather a
designated leading piper or drummer. In 2009 this started to change with the appointment of ranks and Shane was officially made PM of the No.2 Band although he had been the lead piper for a time. He remained in this position until 2017, then taking on the role of Pipe Sergeant. Shane has always been a strong and positive leader of the band members. He has a good ear for tuning and has developed a great skill in tuning the band, putting together the No.2 bands contest repertoire and helping integrate the pipe section with the drum corps. This has led Shane to become our musical director in recent years. He has selected most of the tunes and formatted the pipe music manuscript for many years now including this year’s music.

Over the years, Shane has been one of the No.2 bands strongest supporters; from a No.2 Band foundation playing member, a supporter with Dennis Pierce during their time with No.1 Band and becoming PM of the No.2 band for a long period. Shane went along to support the No.2 Band when it first went to the Australian Nationals at Melbourne in 2001. I went along in support also as Delwyn was playing in the band at that time.

Outside of playing with the Manawatu Bands, Shane has been on the bands executive committee for around 25 years now. He started as a No.1 Band representative on the exec, later moving to a No.2 band rep and then No.2 band PM. He became Vice Chairman in 2015 and 2016 and then as Chairman from 2017 until the present. Shane has carried out the role of Chairman well over these years and has developed skill and knowledge of committee management and how the band integrates with the Centre and RNZPBA, keeping up with rules and changes of rules through the remit process. He has also been key to helping with the integration of the Manawatu No.1 and No.2 bands combined activity at contests, parades, contest accommodation and purchasing equipment.

During 2021, Shane gradually began to feel unwell and, as you all know, he had to undergo a serious, life threatening operation in October 2021. This slowed Shane down, but we are all so pleased that the surgery was successful, and he is gradually recovering. It has not been easy for him to get back on his bagpipe and, although he has had a go, regular piping may still be a little way off yet. Over time, since his operation, Shane has got back into his business of work, continued in his role as the bands Chairman and assisted the No.2 band with music selection.

I have personally found Shane a great friend and band colleague and we have played together for near 40 years in both the No.1 and No.2 bands, having a great time. Please join with me in congratulating Shane for his achievements and leadership with the Manawatu Scottish Pipe Bands in what is a well-deserved Life Membership.

Kevin Sinclair