Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 15:34 UK

Amateur pipers star at Olympics

Mains of Fintry Pipe Band in Beijing
The musicians were among thousands of performers at the opening ceremony

An amateur pipe band from Scotland has performed four songs at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

The 16 musicians from the Mains of Fintry Pipe Band were asked to perform by Chinese officials who spotted them during a tour of France.

Watched by billions of TV viewers across the world, they played Scotland the Brave as European athletes entered the National Stadium.

The band originally thought the invitation was a practical joke.

Due to a strict confidentiality agreement, the Dundee-based band, which is listed only as being Grade Four, was banned from telling anyone prior to the event.

The were sent an e-mail by ceremony organiser Kexin Zhang in September last year after they were spotted performing in France.

But it took them a few weeks to respond to the invitation because they assumed it had been a wind up.

The musicians, who range in age from 13-63, describe themselves as focusing on friendship and family and by their own admission rarely compete in national championships.

Piper Eddie Wighton, who has played with the band for seven years, said he was stunned by the original offer.

We didn't even have a full set of uniforms never mind the funds to accommodate a trip to Beijing
Piper Eddie Wighton

He said: "Never in a million years would I have imagined that we would have an opportunity like this.

"It has been like winning the lottery. It seemed too good to be true but we looked into it a bit further and started to get excited."

Pipe Major Richard Smith, who has been playing for over 30 years, added: "It is a great honour and a pleasure.

"My only trouble has been selecting 16 members to play from our band of 26 - no easy task but I was a very popular man for a time."

Local businesses and community groups got together to ensure the band, who are a registered charity, were kitted out for their debut.

'Very proud'

Mr Wighton added: "We didn't even have a full set of uniforms never mind the funds to accommodate a trip to Beijing.

"We got busy writing off to everyone we could think of for support and were amazed at the response.

"People we so keen to help and really pulled out all the stops for us."

The band arrived in Beijing a week and half ago and have been practising in the Bird Nest stadium.

Mr Wighton added: "Since our arrival in Beijing we have all had a fantastic time. The city is amazing and the people are fantastic.

"We have been practising every day and have had the full dress rehearsals inside the National Stadium.

"What we have seen of the opening ceremony has been spectacular. The amount of people involved is staggering.

"We are very excited about the opening night and we are very proud and honoured to be here representing Scotland at the Olympics as well as being officially here to represent the European continent."

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