My introduction to bagpipe music was via a long-playing record my father brought home when I was very young. It was called Highland Pageantry, featuring The Black Watch. I loved it! You can imagine my excitement then when the Transvaal Scottish Pipes and Drums, South Africa’s oldest pipe band, paraded through our platteland dorp during what was then known as the Cotton Festival. I was enchanted!
I was still in primary school when my parents had dinner at a neighbouring farm. To my delight – and immense curiosity – decorating the dining room wall was a set of bagpipes. The (from my very youthful perspective) old man duly took them down for us to look at and to wonder over. Somehow, I could never picture him actually playing the pipes.
Little did I know that in due course one of my sons would become a piper; that kilts, sporrans, glengarries, ghillie brogues as well as pipes, drones and chanters would become significant parts of our lives. He regularly practises playing his bagpipes at our home; the stirring music sets the pulses running and uplifts my soul.
Of course bagpipe music is not all about marching. There are jigs, strathspeys, reels, hornpipes and slow airs as well as the hauntingly beautiful piobeareachds that can move me to tears or send me down a contemplative road. The names of tunes have also always intrigued me as there is so often an interesting story behind them. Whether the tunes are familiar or not, I find Highland Gatherings and Pipe Band concerts are uplifting and to be enjoyed to the full.