Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Thing About Bagpipes

I’ve always loved bagpipes as far back as I can remember. I believe it came from being an old movie buff in my teenage years and watching the pipers lead men into battle in more than one black and white film. It was the playing of the Garryowen – an Irish country song – on bagpipes that inspired the 7th Cavalry in the 1941 Errol Flynn movie about General Custer, They Died With Their Boots On.

The Garryowen is still the official song of the present day 7th Cavalry. You’ve definitely heard the song, but probably don’t know the name. Just Google or YouTube it and you’ll find yourself saying, “Oh, yeah.”

When I was the editor for the Maricopa Monitor, one of several community papers for that small town outside of Phoenix, Arizona, I was fortunate enough to cover the events of the fire department Pipe and Drum Corps, the height of which for me was a full page color spread I published one week. Dressed in full piper regalia (kilts and all) this group performed for the community and brought a certain dignity to various fire department ceremonies.

The pipes are not an easy instrument to play either and to do it while marching in time as a group is extremely impressive. When those pipes begin to trill with that distinctive wail, I dare anyone to remain unmoved. There can be joy, grief, pride and any number of other emotions evoked, whether the sounds fill a hall or hillside, by just a single piper. However, when presented by a group together as the Maricopa Fire Department had, accompanied by the drums - well, my heart was in my throat every time.

I don’t think about my own funeral much, but I have decided I'd like there to be a bagpiper. Have you ever heard Amazing Grace piper-style? Truly amazing. However, I’m not religious, so I might request the Garryowen instead.

And as much as I honor and respect bagpipers for their musical ability, Red would never forgive me if I didn’t mention the side-benefit - all those kilts. What red-blooded woman doesn’t love those?


  1. I've known since I was a child that there would be one lone bagpiper playing Amazing Grace at my funeral. Just a graveside service. Hauntingly beautiful.

    And if there's not, I'm coming back to haunt whoever was in charge of making that happen.

  2. Dear Pointless - LOL - I love your commitment!

  3. Kathy, something else you and I share, the love of the pipes. I had a friend die recently, an old soldier who finally was released from the advances of old age and infirmity. I tried to find a piper to play "Amazing Grace" (the tune of which defies religious boundaries, IMHO) at his place of business as a farewell to someone who had served his country and was kind to people and cats. I failed in my quest but would have loved to have a piper play on Johnny's behalf. He deserved a beautiful farewell.


  4. Bagpipes put out a sound that enters you- not just entertains you. I to have loved them since I was a young lad.

    And I know what they wear under those kilts. Lol.