NEILSTON and District Pipe Band travelled to the Czech Republic to mark 40 years of appearances at the International Bagpipe Festival.

The band made its first journey to the country – then known as Czechoslovakia – in 1978.

This year, all 17 members of the band made the trip over for a 40th anniversary appearance after raising £2,500 to cover their travel costs.

Pipe major Iain Macdonald has been present for them on every trip.

Iain said: “It all started when I met a Northumbrian piper in Newcastle when I was competing. 

“He asked if I knew of a pipe band that would be interested in going to Czechoslovakia. 

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“I immediately jumped at the chance and we’ve been going ever since.”

The event, held in the city of Strakonice every two years, attracts bands from dozens of countries across Europe.

This year, bands from more than 17 countries featured in the line-up, with Neilston and District once more representing Scotland. 

Their performance, leading the parade with Highland dancers, is considered one of the highlights of the event.

Looking back, Iain and his fellow band members have witnessed some huge changes in the Czech Republic.

Iain said: “When we first went in 1978, Czechoslovakia was one of the satellite Soviet countries and it was under the control of the communist countries. Now it’s a thriving European nation and the town of Strakonice has seen a lot of changes.

“When we went in 1978 we could buy 10 pints of beer and get change back from a pound. Now we can only get one and a half.

“We get a tour of the brewery every time we go. I could lead it myself, I’ve been so often. 

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“This year, we also enjoyed a visit to Cesky Krumlov, which is a Unesco-listed town with a beautiful castle.

“Over the years we’ve picked up some of the language and learned one or two Czech tunes.”

Neilston and District Pipe Band recently returned from Nuremberg, Germany, and is arranging more overseas trips before the end of the year.