An Answer to FFEG

<p><em>’Just finished watching the BBC coverage of the Edinburgh Tattoo. It was as entertaining as it was when Mrs FEEG and I were there in person 10 years ago. Absolutely stunning.

There is still one question that arises from it, though. When you are in Auld Reekie, the atmosphere around Festival time is great except for all the “bagpipe buskers”.

So, my question for Mr Mackie is, “Why is it that bagpipe solos sound like a particularly sadistic version of cat strangulation, whereas a massed pipe and drum band is one of the greatest sounds on Earth?” ‘</em>

A fair question, FEEG and one which I have often pondered of a summer evening as my homeward bus sits at the junction of Waverley Bridge and Princes Street snarled up in the interminable Embran pre-tram delays. That spot is one of the mercifully very few where licensed bagpipe playing by a succession of inept pipers clothed in many and varied versions of what they fondly believe to be ‘The Garb of Old Gaul’ as in the regimental march of Her Majesty’s Scots Guards is allowed.</p><p></p><p>

Not that they play that particular tune very often. Their repertoire usually runs through uninspired performances of ‘Scotland the Brave’, ‘Highland Cathedral’, ‘Mull of Kintyre’ and a few other hackneyed, over-played and often over-blown standards. May their reeds rot in their chanters and in all of their drones!

I don’t blame them. There are easy pickings to be made from eager tourists clamouring to have their photos taken next to a man with bare knees aping the example of Old Nick in ‘Tam O’Shanter who, according to our Rabbie, ‘screwed the pipes and gart them skirl’.

I do blame Mel Gibson  in ‘Braveheart ‘ for this Outlander  belief that all of us Jocks are blessed with sheer animal magnetism. Don’t blame him too much, of course. You just can’t fight the truth.

In fact, our corner-hogging licensed pipe-screwers would probably make the same money even if we fitted silencers to their bagpipes. I’ll write to the Council suggesting it once I’ve finished composing my ten volume epistle to them about the bloody trams.

Down the road from me there is a Scout Hall where aspiring young pipers practice If you think that solo bagpipe playing is bad, you should try living with apprentice solo bagpipe murdering.

But with respect, you are wrong. I’ll give you the buskers and I see where you are coming from and why you might choose to hold your ears in pain. But the lone piper on the battlements of Embra Castle at the end of the Tattoo still raises my hair and hackles in the right way every time.

And there will always be this particular lone piper for me.

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3 responses to “An Answer to FFEG

  1. I do so agree abou the lone pipers v the massed bands. Though occasionally, a lone piper in the distance can have a magical eerie quality. Holidays in NI when I was a child were punctuated by the sounds of individuals and bands practising for the marches. If you forget the sectarianism for a moment, those bands were an amazing sight and sound. In London, a lone piper plies his trade on Westminster Bridge, charging tourists to photograph him. What will he do after 7th September when your countrymen and women look like they choose to leave the Union?

    • Col. the Hon Alastair Campbell, a noted piper in the Highlanders Regiment, whilst the UK’s Military Attache in Kuwait, did us the honour of playing the pipes at our farewell dinner in 2000, hosted by our ambassador to Kuwait. He played “The Sands of Kuwait” and “Highland Cathedral” in full Highland dress, on an island in the middle of the swimming pool in June – when outdoor temperatures were hovering around the 45C mark. When played properly, they are superb. At a recent dinner to mark the retirement of the General at Fort George who chaired the Highlanders’ Museum Trustees, I was sitting beside the Regimental Pipe-Major who played for us on that occasion – a Liverpudlian! “What’s a Liverpudlian doing in the Highlanders,” I asked him in my ignorance, and was given much needed lesson on the role of the Liverpool Scots in supplying recruits to the highland regiments. There are of course bagpipers in heaven, as proven by the stained glass window in the Fort George Garrison Chapel – image attached – the only Bagpipe-playing angel in Christendom possibly![image: Inline images 1]

  2. We don’t do bagpipes in the west.
    You know why I’m here, don’t you? You didn’t think I would disremember today?

    Happy Birthday John.

    I expect there will be a particular Beatles song that will be sung to you later.

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