Doug Yates Bagpiping. Providing first class bagpipe music to the South Carolina Lowcountry for Weddings, Funerals, and Special Occasions. Follow this blog to find information about his chronicle journey with the instrument and his lessons.
I’ve always maintained there exists a binary relationship with respect to most people’s reaction to bagpipe music: either they love it or they hate it. In my experience, the former are usually very gracious and make an effort to tell me how much they appreciate the sound, while the latter, in another display of graciousness, tend to keep their annoyance to themselves.
Sometimes, enough is enough, though, for those who find the skirl of bagpipes abrasive to the maximum; and this was clearly the case when someone in Edinburgh called the police to put an end to this man’s playing:
A few things to note (pun intended) when you watch the video accompanying this story:
**The piper’s heavy reliance on the principles of reason, despite being in shackles, an unsurprising behavior given his location the cradle of the Scottish Enlightenment
**The piper’s resolute politeness in the face of his detention: “I’m gonna go through this procedure.”
**The Scottish sense of humor bubbling through, even when it surely isn’t intentional (e.g The piper: “What else am I going to do for today? He stopped me playing my bagpipes; what else am I going to do?” And then, the piper’s buddy: “You’ve stopped us making a living!”)
**The pervasive influence of soccer (football) on every country besides the United States: a ‘yellow card’ warning…too good!
**The enormous gulf separating British policing and it American counterpart
I read a heartbreaking story about two young American pipers, Campbell Webster and Eryk Bean, who lost their vintage pipes at the US/Canada border after competing at the annual Maxville/Montreal games in Canada games earlier this summer.
Many vintage bagpipes are adorned with elephant ivory, a purely cosmetic enhancement that has no effect on the sound of the instrument. Obviously, no ivory has been used in the making of bagpipes since it has been outlawed in the commercial world, but owners of vintage pipes are entitled to maintain these instruments much like the owner of, say, an antique hairbrush with an ivory handle.
In order to maintain legitimacy, the vintage bagpipe owner gets a permit by registering the instrument with CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora). Both Webster and Bean had such permits and dutifully presented them to customs officials at the border. However, there has been a worldwide crackdown in ivory trafficking, including the symbolic destruction of six tons of contraband in Denver. As former gold medalist Jim McGillivray presciently observes in a comment at the bottom of the Pipes/Drums article from which this sad story originates, one wonders if the whole drama originated because the two honest kids volunteered information about their pipes to the officials when what they should have just said nothing unless asked. But who knows?
I can relate somewhat to this story, in that about seven years ago our home was robbed, and among the many things that were taken from me were my bagpipes. In fact, the set that I am playing on the front page of this site are no longer with me. Campbell Webster’s father is Gordon Webster, a player of distinction. For many years, he was the official piper to Queen Elizabeth II. The pipes he handed down to his son, those that were ultimately seized by an overzealous border official, were full of history and significance. Mine, by contrast, were made to order, a set with nowhere near the same history. Yet, the feeling of violation was profound. I am sure Campbell and Eryk, as well as their parents are ‘gutted,’ as the Scots would say. My heart goes out to them.