".. and there he did, in a handsome room to that purpose, make us drink and did call for his Bagpiper; which, with pipes of ebony tipped with silver, he did play beyond anything of that kind that ever I heard in my life. And with great pains he must have obtained it, but with pains that the instrument doth not deserve at all; for at the best, it is mighty barbarous music. (Samuel Pepys, 1688)"
|Piper George Findlater VC|
'Crikey! They're well weapon!' Not my words, but those of Roman emperor Justinian when his mighty legions were battered senseless in an aural-stylee by this fine instrument of war. For that dear friends is what the 'pipes are. Officially a weapon of war since the '45 rebellion - or something like that - anyone captured with a set was ritually bitch-whipped by the dastardly English.
Some say they came to these shores by way of the Romans (which sort of contradicts the rubbish that I've just typed) who in turn got the idea from Arabia. It's even said Nero played his pipes and most certainly not a fiddle as Rome burned. Nae matter laddie. They're recognised (and associated with) the World over as a Scottish thing.
As the notable Jewish poet Rabbi Burns once said 'Can ye nae feel yer blood freeze a tha' soond?' And freeze blood did. From the bloody field at Waterloo to the sandy wastes of El Alamein; from the heights of Dargai to the rocky peaks of Tumbledown, the skirl o' the pipes has struck dread in to the hearts of many a foe unfortunate enough to hear the approaching sound of their demise.
Nothing stirrs the soul like the sound o' the pipes. Whether played as a haunting lament, a joyous reel or a stirring march. Just ask anyone who has ever heard them... but not the Germans ... or the French ... or the Russians.
Also played with much aplomb by the following:
- Gurkhas (These guys play at a staggering - almost drug-induced - 140 paces per minute.)
- Irish (Naturally.)
- French (Really? Yep, in Brittiany, since apparently they're Celtic.)
- Jordanians (They're pretty good too.)
- Spams (Hi' I'm Angus McKinnon III jr... and I'm Irish!)
- South Africans
- New Zealanders
- Polish (Polish pipes look like a cow with a tree growing out of it!)
It's safe to say that they're a worldwide phenomenon (do do be doo doo) - certainly so amongst Her Maj's dominions. No self-respecting police force is without its own pipe band either - including (curiously) that of Tokyo... those crazy Japanese!