Brian Catania is a proud and passionate member of the Gibraltar Re-enactment Society, marching down to Casemates on Saturday mornings providing a smart, eye-catching, poignant attraction not just for tourists but for the local populace also. “Absolutely, you can feel the hairs on your body stand on end when onlookers clap as you march past. It’s a wonderful feeling,” Brian declares.
At a very young age he recalls loving the music of military bands, listening to albums purchased from Teuma’s Music Store in Main Street – later Mango etc. The Scottish regiment’s blaring sound of the bagpipes particularly grabbed his attention… “Well, later on I did follow the popular trend of forming a pop group called Moon Flame and I was its singer, but that was short-lived and I was really attracted to going down to Casemates or the Convent instead, to watch and listen to the military bands, something I truly looked forward to attending with my dad.”
However, it’s all very well keeping the bag full of air, making sure your drones are clean – all five of them – and fiddling with the chanter to produce tear-jerking tunes like ‘Amazing Grace’, but bagpipe playing doesn’t provide enough to keep the wolf away from the door! So, ‘on your bike and get yourself a job’, to put it bluntly.
The blaring sound of the bagpipes particularly grabbed his attention.
“Of course, I’ve had a number of jobs. I worked as a processor at the Gibraltar Chronicle first and then… do you remember the days of sweeping the streets manually and then flushing them from water bowsers? That was long before we had the modern equipment you see around these days. Well, I used to do that, working in the Cleansing Section of the Public Works Department – as it was known then. Then I moved to my present job as a Refuse Collector working for the Gibraltar Industrial Cleaning Company where I’ve been employed since 1990.”
It’s pretty much the norm for parents to want to see their children get on in life attracting good jobs, maybe even going off to university and returning to the Rock, but either way finding what is generally looked upon as ‘a decent, highly regarded, reputable job’. That’s a fact of life; it’s the way it is, isn’t it? You want the best for your offspring. So, does work as a waiter, bar person, or refuse collector address the above? I remember someone telling me he used to warn his daughter if she didn’t study she would end up getting a job in the Emporium, which was a sort of department store in Main Street (now Mothercare) …and she did! So that was a point I wanted to bring up with Brian. Did he feel his job as a Refuse Collector was demeaning and/or humiliating in a small community such as ours?
That’s a fact of life; it’s the way it is, isn’t it?
“Well, my dad used to say those things also. ‘You need to get a good, honest, proper job like a teacher, for example’. He would always come up with things like that, but I have to say I don’t have a problem with my job.” And picking up after us lot is an honest, proper job which is certainly a necessary service in our city (as is working in a department store!). Refuse Collectors are essential, undertaking a task that goes hand in hand with any job of work, be it a lawyer, school master, tug boat captain, waiter, ice cream vendor or street cleaner. It’s an important job that’s required and involves hard work.
How would it be, if our streets were left unattended? We’ve experienced it in the past!! “The only issue with our job,” Brian points out, “is to do with some individuals – not all – placing unsealed bags or overfilled ones at the point of bursting open, out for collection. Also, there are those who place bags in the street after 10pm and we get the blame for leaving them behind, when we’ve already done our rounds.” So we, the citizens, need to do our bit also! It might also be a good idea if they started their evening shift earlier to remove all those cardboard boxes put out by shops and stores at about 7pm when they close and not have them remain there, providing an eyesore all evening and through the night… one to think about!
But the man has a passion, a real passion for everything military – whether listening to, or watching military bands, learning about their history and Gibraltar’s military past, marching down Main Street and, playing the bagpipes. “I joined St John Ambulance when I was about eight years old and played the bugle there. As well as playing with the Re-enactment Society, I’ve played with the Gibraltar Band and Drum Association, also as a piper at private functions, like weddings, funerals and of course, the popular Burn’s Night. We’ve taken part in battle scenes in the UK and Spain with our re-enactment group and performed the Ceremony of the Keys for them also, as we do here.
By and large, the re-enactment members take their Saturday morning stint and other functions they’re called upon to do, very much to heart and take great pride in what they do. We have five or six different uniforms which we rotate every two months and we’re 13 strong. Just recently, we performed a first; our new Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel asked for us to ‘halt’ outside the Convent for an informal inspection and a chat, providing us with an aperitif ahead of us marching down to Casemates. We were thrilled and felt that was a kind gesture for him to have asked us to do that.” Of course, it has to be noted that the majority of the re-enactment members have served in the military, especially during the days of compulsory conscription.
The bottom line is Brian loves it, as the others do, and at 55, after 10 years of taking part of re-enactment engagements there’s no sign of him giving up bagpipe playing (he’s had great help from Gib’s top bagpipe blower and tutor Tony Galliano), drumming and dabbling in other instruments. “And we mustn’t forget, being extremely grateful to our wives, partners and other family members,” Brian declares, “for putting up with our absence, especially as our work usually involves weekends.”
So back at home, bagpipe cleaning and a little maintenance is called for, supper, early to bed and rest, only to rise again three or four hours later to once again tackle the refuse left outdoors on our streets – yes, an essential and necessary service taken on by our refuse collectors who also were the beneficiaries (lest we forget) of well-deserved lockdown claps a few months ago!
So, as a final thought, with Christmas coming around again in a few weeks and all the rubbish that accumulates from homes and shops that you and I put out… Who we gonna call? …Refuse Collectors!