Press Releases

Not your typical laddie on the pipes

Bagpipes, heavy metal and a passion for tattoos

Kirsty Macnicol
The Southland Times
June 24, 1998

The tattoos were real and he was not wearing a wig.

Derek Ballantine, alias Braveheart in the City of Invercargill's Pipin' Hot II Edinburgh show earlier this month, is far from the sterotypical bagpiper.

The 26-year-old meat worker rejoined the pipe band this year having quit eight years ago in favour of a heavy metal guitar career - "hard rock" he calls it.

A proficient solo piper since the age of 13, Ballantine won virtually every B-grade event in the country but found the pressure of competition too intense.

In 1990, he banished the pipes to under the bed, taught himself the guitar and grew his hair long.

Then about four years ago he got the first of many tattoos.

"I was the first person in Invercargill to have both armpits tattooed," Ballantine said.

In fact most of his upper body is adorned.

In January this year, he was approachd by band leaders to take up piping again. There was no promises but if he made the grade, a trip to the prestigious Edinburgh Military Tattoo was in the offing.

Ballantine put his electric guitar aside, practiced hard and ended up playing in the team that won the national grade two championship in March.

The Braveheart role of the successful Pipin' Hot II was anothe challenge that brought together his "two completely different social scenes."

Invercargill Tattoo Club members and workmates from the Lornville beef boning unit were there to cheer him on, alongside proud family members who openly prefer the skirl of the pipes to distorted guitar chords.

Rather than choosing one ahead of the other, Ballantine is now looking at how he can marry his two lifestyles.

Before heading to Scotland at the end of next month, he intends getting a large clan crest tattooed on his stomach.

And if time allows, he reckons some type of celtic tattoo would be the perfect souvenir to bring home.

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