“It hasn’t sunk it yet. I honestly still can’t get my head around it.”
The thoughts of Lewis Pipe Band Chairman Sandy Gomez as he reflected today on the band’s stunning success at the European Championships in Forres on Saturday, where they were awarded first place in their 3A grade category.
The band were only promoted from grade 3B last year.
“We played OK, but we all felt we could have done better,” said Sandy, who is himself a piper with the band.
“The weather was affecting our pipes and there were wee bits here and there that we felt might have cost us.
“We said after we performed that we would be happy to get a trophy, as you get trophies from sixth place upwards.
“No-one in our wildest dreams expected to win.”
But win they did, and as the dust settles on an explosive weekend, the Lewis Pipe Band can take a deep breath and say it slowly – EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS.
Explaining the timeline of the day, Sandy said: “We got to Forres at about midday and we were due to perform at 3.15pm.
“There were four big arenas and we were playing in Arena 4.
“This competition was a medley competition, and we played a hornpipe, a jig, a slow air, a Strathspey and reels, all of our own choosing and all to be under five minutes.
“We weren’t sure what we were up against as we were on first, and this was our first competition as a 3A band.
“What we have done in previous years is take the critique sheet we get from the judges and work on that for the rest of the year.”
All competitions were wrapped up by 5.30pm, when every pipe band gathered as one to hear the results.
“There were 127 bands so there was a lot of people,” said Sandy.
“They started announcing the results from the beginning of the juniors’ drumming competitions, so we had quite a wait.
“But we had some refreshments with us to keep our nerves at bay!”
When the results of their competition were announced, Sandy says the reaction was ‘incredible’.
“We were just hoping to have done well, but when they said we had come first, everyone was dancing, jumping and screaming.
"We were absolutely delighted.
“Three of the four judges had given us first place. That is mind-blowing.”
Sandy reckons the band’s rapid rise to success is down to two people in particular.
“We are led by Pipe Major Peter Mackay and our leading drummer, Ross Macdonald,” he said.
“These guys know their stuff, and they know how to push us and make sure that we are working to the best of our ability.
“The band works hard to do our best for them. We are like a big family – everyone gets on with each other really well and I think that is something that is very much in our favour.
“Another thing is that all the tunes we play are chosen by Peter Mackay, and he always tries to incorporate a Western Isles flavour – either the tunes were written by people from the islands or they have a connection to the islands.
“Being from Lewis, we want to have tunes that represent the island.
“Some of the judges commented on how melodic and musical our set was. That is testament to our Pipe Major’s ability to pick the right tunes and get the best out of everyone to make us play as well as we can.”
After a weekend of much-deserved celebrating, the band’s focus is now on the World Championships, which will be held in Glasgow in mid-August.
“The Worlds are a different ball-game altogether with more than double the amount of bands that were at the Europeans,” said Sandy.
“But we will carry on working hard, as there is no point in being complacent.”
He added: “I know it’s a cliché, but winning the European Championships really does put Lewis on the map.
“We are getting noticed around the world, and there has been some nice feedback on our Facebook page from other bands getting in touch to congratulate us.
“Although there is rivalry, there is a lot of respect too.”
* Comhairle Convener Norman A. Macdonald has this afternoon congratulated Lewis Pipe Band on their stunning achievement.
He said: “On behalf of the Comhairle I would like to congratulate The Lewis Pipe Band on what is an amazing achievement. This was the band’s first appearance at grade 3A level so to win it at the first time of asking is particularly impressive, beating nine other pipe bands in the process. Those who represent our islands in national competitions continue to show that through real commitment, desire, and no shortage of skill, that they can match the best.
“Well done to all concerned.”
Sandy Gomez and Pipe Major Peter Mackay