Great Scot! Now Mattishall ex-plumber Andy’s playing on the pipes

He who paid the piper used to get the ballcock in his downstairs loo mended.

These days, Andy Carr will service your oil-fired heating boiler for a reasonable fee. But, if you're lucky, you might be able to call a tune into the bargain.

That's because the Norfolk-based record company executive turned plumber turned heating engineer has fulfilled his boyhood dream by learning to play the bagpipes.

And this weekend, Andy, 58, hopes to overcome first-night nerves when he performs his debut official public engagement - at a late, late Burns Night do in his home village of Mattishall.

You won't hear the faintest hint of a Scottish lilt in Andy's voice - he's an East End boy, raised in the Hackney area of London.


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And yet he is mighty proud of his north-of-the-border roots - Mum was originally from Dumbarton, Dad from Glasgow and from the clan Kerr - and the young Andy grew up glued to the black-and-white telly whenever Andy Stewart and The White Heather Club came on.

He loved the skirl of the pipes at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, too, but since he couldn't read a note of music the prospect of ever learning to play like the pipers seemed to vanish in a Scotch mist.

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And then things changed a few years ago, thanks to a tea-break natter with his pal, motor engineer Ian Gardiner, of nearby Clint Green.

'We were just sitting having a cuppa and I said to Ian that playing the pipes was something I'd always wanted to do,' he recalled.

The pair of them sent off for the cheapest chanters - pipes without the bags - they could find and then started to practise... and practise.

'We'd heard of the City of Norwich Pipe Band and that they'd teach people, so we went along to one of their meetings at Hethersett High School,' said Andy.

Ian decided in time not to pursue the hobby, but Andy persevered. And, after the band's Dereham-based pipe sergeant John Welton took him under his wing, his playing progressed - and how!

Whenever possible he practises on the full bagpipes, otherwise he uses a chanter in the summer house of his home in Welgate, Mattishall. 'The neighbours haven't complained. A few people have heard me and say it sounds good,' he said.

And he keeps a spare instrument in his van, just in case the opportunity arises for a brisk tune in between jobs. 'I know one or two places that are nice to stop at for a practice,' he said.

Andy will pipe in the haggis at Tabnabs Tea Room in the village on Saturday. The Burns Night celebration features a seven-course feast.

Andy worked in the music business, including stints as a record company sales representative and export sales manager, before changing career completely, moving from London to Norfolk in 1992 and setting up on his own as a plumber. He later moved into boiler servicing work.

The father of four is proud that he has found a performing niche in a musical family: his garden designer wife Elaine used to work in classical music for Decca and is a musician and singer, and his youngest children Jemima and Toby play saxophone and trombone respectively. But he has just one more ambition to fulfil. He explained: 'I know I haven't got time now to be a really great piper, but I'd just love to be able to be good enough to go marching with the band.'

To reserve places at the Tabnabs event call 01362 850082. More information about the City of Norwich Pipe Band from Mr Welton on 01362 696608 or visit www.norwichpipeband.net

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