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Transatlantic twin city swap as pipe band sisters trade one Dundee for another

The McDonald twins.
The McDonald twins.

A pair of identical twins will swap one Dundee for another next month when they arrive in Tayside to begin their studies at the city’s art school.

Brianna and Shanna McDonald are leaving their homes in West Dundee, Illinois, for the west end of Dundee, Scotland so they can study for identical degrees at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

The 20 year old sisters already share a love of Scotland having visited several times to take part in the World Pipe Band Championships and World Irish Dancing Championships.

They will continue both pursuits after they take up their places on the graphic design course at DJCAD, part of the University of Dundee.

Their dad Shawn has recently moved to the Highland village of Plockton for work and it was his bagpipe instructor who suggested the girls might consider studying in his hometown.

Shanna said: “Brianna and I are drummers but our Dad is a piper and his instructor, Adrian Melvin, is from Dundee originally and his family still live in the city

“When we were in the senior year of High School we started looking for somewhere to study and he recommended Dundee as he knew the art college was very good. The more we thought about it, the better a fit it seemed. The degree was what we wanted to do, the campus looked great and it allowed us to pursue our passion for pipe bands.”

She added: “This isn’t just about the experience of studying abroad, which is great in itself, but also connecting with our heritage and becoming part of the pipe band scene in Scotland.”

West Dundee, a suburb of Chicago, was established in 1835 and named two years later when settlers held a lottery to determine who would name the village. A resident called Alexander Gardiner won and named it in honour of his Scottish hometown.

Brianna and Shanna’s great grandmother came from Glasgow and they know of other ancestors from both Scotland and Ireland.

They have already joined the grade one Glasgow Police Pipe Band, recognised as one of the best in the world, and have held online rehearsals with their new bandmates.

Brianna said: “There are a lot of really good bands in and around Dundee but we have been at grade two for a few years and we really want to push ourselves onto the next level.

“Over the summer there are four or five major championships in addition to the Worlds, and it is very hard to make it over for all of them due to the costs involved so we are very excited that we will be able to compete in all the circuit competitions now.”

The girls’ elder brother Ian is also an accomplished drummer while their mother Lynn became involved in the pipe band scene by proxy as she has taxied her family to practice and competitions. Eventually she was persuaded to take up bass drum and complete the family band.

Brianna and Shanna have been awarded the top level of Global Excellence Scholarship.

They will travel to Scotland next week and quarantine with their father in the Highlands before moving to their student accommodation.

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