MEMBERS of two Bolton pipe bands are marching to a different tune after a merger.

Bolton’s Winter Wonderland in Victoria Square has reverberated with the sound of the Highlands over the last few weeks as the new Bolton Caledonia Pipe Band took part in its first public engagements.

Although the band was only launched recently, its roots go back far longer.

It was formed by the merger of two organisations, the Bolton Scottish Pipe Band — which had existed for 41 years — and Bolton and District Pipe Band which was 25 years old.

The new set-up is based at the Ukrainian Club in Castle Street, The Haulgh, and includes both Scottish ex-pats pining for the sounds of home as well as local bagpipe enthusiasts from Bolton.

Bolton Caledonia is still so new that members all still wear their old tartans, although they will all be replaced with a common tartan early in the new year.

New band secretary and leading drummer Alec Bingham said the merger began while he was secretary of Bolton Scottish, after he asked the district band to provide some extra drummers to help them out with some engagements.

Mr Bingham then met Steve Drever, the district band secretary, and discussions started about turning two small bands into one big band.

The pair are now two of five Scots in the 24-strong band.

Edinburgh-born Mr Drever, now the band’s assistant secretary, said: “Having two small bands in the one town when together we could form a larger band made no sense — merging seemed the sensible thing to do.

“We have the foundations and building blocks in place to produce a band that Bolton can be proud of.

“A lot of people who join just like the sound of the bagpipes.

“We’ve got a lot of bookings at the moment and a few people who want to join.

“Since the merger it’s been booming.”

Ayrshire-born Mr Bingham, aged 56, who has been playing the pipes since the age of 13, said: “Over the months that followed the two committees got together and presented proposals to both sets of players. The new band has already secured a hectic schedule for next summer’s season including a trip to Ayrshire where we will test our skills against our Scottish counterparts at the pipe band competition at the Ardrossan Highland Games.

“The band will adopt the original tartan of the district band, The Black Stewart, and the name Bolton Caledonia Pipe Band will be emblazoned on all the drums.”

The band is currently on the lookout for a new pipe major and anyone wishing to take part or learn a new instrument is invited to the group’s practice nights at the Ukrainian Club on Mondays from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

Mr Bingham added: “Anyone who wants to play the pipes or the drum is welcome.