When Customer Service Assistant Ashley is not at work in The Cumberland’s Kingstown branch, she’s usually touring the country with her pipe band along with her twin sister.
Colleagues know all about her musical talents, but little do they all know that she has won national and international titles.
The 33-year-old has worked at The Cumberland for 13 years and for all that time she’s been drumming all over the country with the Royal Burgh of Annan pipe band.
How long have you been playing in a pipe band?
“I’ve been playing the snare drum since I was 12 years old along with my twin sister, Colette. There are currently about 15 drummers in the drum corps and roughly about 25 pipers in the band.”
What do you enjoy most about touring the UK?
“I absolutely love it. There is no other hobby like it. It has been a hard slog at times throughout the years…Like when you go away to a competition and put in lots of hard work and end up coming last! There are a lot more highs than lows though.
“It’s really enjoyable when you’re marching through towns, playing concerts and the last few years we’ve done really well on the competition scene.”
How successful has the band been in competitions?
“We had an exceptional 2018 – We finished first at the World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green, as well as first at the UK and British championships. Hence we went from being a Grade 3A band to being Grade 2 – it’s like being promoted.
“Our first year at this level, last year was also pretty good and we’re always trying to get better.
“The aim is to eventually get to Grade 1, which is the main goal and that will mean a lot more hard work!”
What do your colleagues think about your hobby?
“All my colleagues think it’s a bit strange, especially when they see pictures of me travelling all over dressed up wearing a kilt and a shirt and tie.
“But they’re really supportive and they always ask how we got on in the competitions.”
How much of your spare time does the band take up?
“Most of May, June, July and August each year is packed full of competitions and events so this is when I get extremely busy. We aim to practice as a band twice a week all year round as well.”
What sort of impact has the lockdown had on the band?
“This year has obviously been really strange; All competitions and events have been cancelled and we haven’t been able to have a band practice since March.
“Usually we would practice every Tuesday and Thursday night. We’ve tried doing things via Zoom and WhatsApp. We’ve changed a few of the tunes during the pandemic and have been recording ourselves playing the new tunes- it’s not an ideal situation to learn something in this way.
“Fingers crossed practice should be able to start back up in the not so distant future. Hopefully we can all practice in the same place together very soon.”
How has it been working in a branch through the pandemic?
“When the pandemic first began it was all quite frightening. Catching the virus was a real threat and quite a number of colleagues had to stay at home because they were shielding or caring for family.
“However, I work with such a great team of people we all pulled together to work extremely well during this time. We were kept really busy which took our minds off the pandemic. As banking and access to money was defined as a critical service we were classed as keyworkers during this period, and we were proud to help do our bit to keep things going.
“The business brought in a range of measures really quickly to help keep us and our customers as safe as possible. It’s quite strange working behind a screen, and seeing customers wearing masks and hand sanitiser, but it has eased a lot of worry and helped us to keep doing what we do best – providing a great service for our customers.”