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Highland dancing . . . Outside the Oamaru Opera house where Janice Hayes (right) was piping for Katie Murphy (11) in her highland dancing competition over the weekend. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

If you have been to any local Highland dancing competition in the past 45 years, you have almost certainly heard Janice Hayes play the bagpipes.

The Oamaru woman has become a mainstay of North Otago and South Canterbury competitions, piping at about 12 to 15 events a year.

“I do it for the love of it. I really enjoy seeing new kids come through,” Mrs Hayes said.

“Quite often these days I had piped for their mothers when they were competing.

“You become their friend, not just the piper.

“Quite often I have kids come up to me in the street and have a chat.”

Mrs Hayes started to learn the bagpipes 53 years ago, when she was taught by Jimmy McGregor, of Kakanui.

“I always loved the instrument from when I was young, and when my parents asked if I wanted to learn I was very keen.”

She said the key to playing for the dancers was to be reliable and keep a steady tempo.

“You don’t need a whole lot of volume, just make sure it’s in time for the dancers – sometimes I speed it up to help the young ones.”

As well as playing at dancing competitions, she has been involved in the North Otago Pipe Band, travelling all over New Zealand to compete in pipe band competitions.

She has also been chief of the North Otago Scottish Society and is a life member.

Ten years ago, she attended the Edinburgh Tattoo and used the opportunity to visit parts of Scotland where she has family connections through her mother.

“I watch [Edinburgh Tattoo] on TV, but to actually be there was great.

“I have made some great friends through the pipe band over the years. They are all nice people.”

Katie Murphy, who has been ompeting in Highland dancing competitions for a few years, said it was good having someone she knew play the pipes while she danced.

“I always look for her when I compete.

“She is my favourite; when I compete elsewhere, the other pipers play differently, and I prefer to have Janice.”