A Kirkcaldy company has played a key role in helping a champion bagpiper from Northern Ireland resume his passion for the pipes following a devastating disease.
Andrew Shilliday, 33, feared he would never play again after being diagnosed with systemic sclerosis, an autoimmune disease which nearly killed him and robbed him of all his fingers and thumbs, his left leg, half his right foot and some of the sight in one eye.
But Andrew’s friend John Elliott, who owns Kirkcaldy-based reed and chanter manufacturing company G1 Reeds, has stepped in to develop a specially-made pipe chanter to get the Northern Irishman back doing what he loved the most.
Using the new equipment, Andrew, from Dungannon, has been helping out with the Tullylagan Pipe Band and also rounded off a visit to Scotland this week by playing a concert in Kirkcaldy.
“It’s been a long road back but with the help of John and the team and a positive attitude I’m back doing what I love,” he said.
“I hope that if people in a similar position hear my story it can inspire them to do the things they love once again.
“There is always hope, regardless of the situation you find yourself in.”
A former member of 15-time world champion pipe band Shotts and Dykehead, Andrew studied piping at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and became bagpipe instructor for Highland Council.
In 2011 he had a persistent cough and after a scan of his lungs, it was discovered he had serious fibrosis.
In June 2012 he was diagnosed with systemic sclerosis, which eventually saw him lose most of his fingers and part of his legs.
After hearing of his friend’s ordeal, John, who used to play alongside Andrew in the Shotts and Dykehead band, said he was only too happy to develop a specially-adapted pipe chanter to get Andrew playing again.
“Andrew had to learn how to walk again, and as you can imagine his loss of fingers made his passion of playing the pipes very difficult,” John said.
“However, Andrew’s love for pipe bands never subsided at all and he learnt how to drum to continue playing in pipe bands.
“Andrew spent a long time trying to be able to play bagpipes again and recently got hold of an electronic chanter with holes in different positions to accommodate his amputated fingers.
“We at G1 Reeds have developed a pipe chanter in order to get Andrew back up on the full Highland bagpipes again and he visited the workshop this week to fine-tune it.
“His positive, never-say-die attitude has been astonishing.”