1980 Vanuatu Pipe Band

A few days before the Independence parade I took Barak Sope, the crooked Deputy PM-elect, down to Tanna from Vila. This very active smoking volcano island was leaning towards another politician for their electorate.

Anyhow in the interests of something? General Ted Diro told me to take him and 10 PNG Pacific Islands Regiment bandsmen to Tanna to show the flag. The disgruntled locals had dug a ditch across the centre of the grass runway but on arrival I figured the Nomad could land safely on half the length.

It so happened today was the grand-final of the entire national inter-island soccer league. Probably the reason Sope chose that day to go. Hundreds had been arriving by boat for a week prior. There was no town on Tanna only villages and trade stores.

Sope obviously had a plan so I left him to sort it out with the Pipe Major and walked up the track through the coconuts to the football field. I suppose there were around a thousand people there on makeshift bamboo grandstands. The grand final has just started refereed by a neutral Frenchman flown in (by helicopter) from Noumea. The cheering was as good as the MCG AFL final.

The Band warms up on Tanna before the march into the coconut plantation.

Slowly, above the noise of the crowd I heard the rising sound of the pipes and drums approaching. A few looked behind them down the track but most ignored it.

From the opposite side of the field I saw marching out of the trees a puffed up Barak Sope followed closely by his personal pipe band. Not missing a beat he proceeded to march onto the field.

The action was down the other end and it took a short time before the ref saw this gay pageant invading his match. The crowd started to go wild though I was unable to decipher whether they were for or against this unexpected turn of events. Maybe they thought it was their own version of the Rosebowl half-time entertainment?

Undeterred the players continued their game skillfully guiding the ball past this moving obstacle. The ref was blowing his whistle at the entertainers and angrily waving them off but signalling to the players to carry on.

By the time the whole show degenerated into a milling shambles of drummers. pipers, players, whistling ref, shouting Sope and a thousand voices I could hardly stand up and certainly could not see from the tears rolling down my face..

The upshot was someone moved a motion for Sope and his band to leave forthwith. It was carried on the voices. He retreated in a huff.

I found the organisers and managed to point out the PIR band were gullible pawns in Sopes game and organised for them to come back at official half time to do a few numbers appropriate to discord and mayhem. They were very well received without the politician who was back sulking in the aircraft wondering how many votes he had lost.