Today is Robbie Burns Day, a time to think of all things Scottish. Like bagpipes. Even though they didn’t actually originate in Scotland, they’re definitely associated with it. Bagpipes were supposedly even played in ancient Egypt, and I certainly heard them in modern Egypt. (Well, relatively modern. I was there in 1979.) Descending some stairs at the Nile Hilton, I recognized the skirl of them well before the wedding party they were attached to came along. That’s because my father started playing them when I was about eight, something he had wanted to do since he was about that age. My Sassenach mother didn’t know that when they plighted their troth. She didn’t like the bagpipes, and the Sassenach side must have held dominance, because my brothers and I didn’t like them either and never aspired to take them up ourselves, although you’ll see above that one of his grandsons did, briefly, have an interest. And I accompanied Dad to local fêtes whenever his band (the Oxford Caledonia Pipe Band) was playing at one, but only because he invariably gave me half a crown to spend on various fête pursuits. To my mercenary pre-teen self , that was worth having to listen to him and his band mates tuning up in the parking lot. He very much enjoyed being part of that band, however, and later joined the Kelowna Legion Pipe Band, through which he got to go to interesting places like Holland and Japan.
For a history of bagpipes, go to: