January 01, 2010

Bagpipes: instant celebration machine

Chapmen billiesHappy New Year to all, and here’s hoping that 2010 is a great one for everybody.

There’s probably not a person out there who’s at times at a loss for what to do on New Year’s Eve. Statistically, those who hit the town for big public countdowns are few, and rare with those, ahem, of a certain age. A piper-friend of mine said that his daughter ridiculed her parents for not having any New Year’s Eve plans, when of course the solution is right under his blowstick.

Pipers have it easy, if they want it. The ability to play the pipes is a license to hold a celebration virtually any time, any place. At least in Toronto, everyone likes the pipes. I can’t remember meeting anyone here who says that they dislike the instrument, and in fact most non-players enthusiastically say that they LOVE the sound and almost always connect it with an emotional memory: a wedding, a funeral, the 48th at the Leafs’ home openers, the sound of a piper playing across the lake at their cottage in August, or even New Year’s.

Where I live we like to invite a few drouthy neibors over for a cup of kindness, and then seconds after midnight go outside for a round of “Auld Lang Syne,” “Scotland the Brave” . . . and then inevitably, by request, a reprise of “Auld Lang Syne” on the street. People come from their houses, glasses charged, wishing everyone the best. Last year it was minus-17° for a risky one-minute, in-and-out, blackwood crackling performance; this year a balmy 3° kept folks around for a good half-hour. The pipes at New Year are now an annual tradition.

At least once a year, the tone of your pipes can be guaranteed to ring – ring in the New Year, anyway – fou and unco happy. Orrabest.


  1. When my brother and I were in the Black Watch cadet pipe band in Montreal, we would go marching up and down the street at midnight. French or English didn’t matter – everyone wanted more. It was usually quite chilly si we weren’t out there for too long! Even though we were obviously under age, there was no end to alcoholic drinks that were offered.


  2. I heard when attending the Kilsyth Thistle Pipe Band, that there’s a custom there that pipers go through the town at midnight playing. I wonder if it dates back to Aggie Wallace’s time.



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