The Highland Bagpipe

The low burr of the bass drone blends with tenors, while the bag extends
To fill. Then, with a gentle squeeze the chanter chimes, and expertise
Borne of long hours of practise now comes forth at last to flower and show
The piper’s skills, as fingers weave a magic pattern to achieve
A haunting musical display transporting spirit far away
To heather covered, rolling hills where bubbling burns and rippling rills
Cascade and sparkle on their way to waiting lochs, in fine display.

The piper’s fingers deftly move, producing melodies that weave
And mix a rhythmic lilting potion, stirring yet again emotions
In the Celtic native breast, recalling proud historic tests
Of courage in the face of those who sought to subjugate, oppose
The Caledonian way of life. Provoking cruel years of strife
For fearless clansmen faithful to the Saltire Cross, where many true
And brave men died for that ideal to free them from the tyrant’s heel.

And in the fastness midst the heights of mountains tall, majestic sights
Of towering peaks above the glens where stags rule in their wild domain,
The pipes give their distinctive song with ghostly echo far along
A brooding, silent landscape there, and with that poignant, Highland Air,
Many homesick exiled men could wish that they were back again
To share the clear, untainted places of their homeland, turn their faces
Back to where their hearts still stay in that wild country far away.

And when at last they’re laid to rest, no matter where, the pipes attest
To their proud ancestry and play laments to see them on their way;
While evening shadows drawing nigh and night enclosing starry skies,
The plaintive, clear seductive sound of Highland bagpipes all around
May just remind the listening ear of good times past, maybe a tear
Will briefly fall, as oft times when those magic fingers fly again,
Evoking thoughts of happy times spent in the land of Auld Lang Syne.

Not Forgetting ……

The Drummers

We bash away with joie de vivre, the noise we make, you’d not believe,
But it’s our mission and our boast, that pipers will be deaf as posts
Before we end our drummers riff. So we’ll proceed to bash and biff
Until we’re satisfied that they can’t hear a single note they play.
And then, content, we’ll take a rest, but only for a moment, lest
They think that we are finally done, when we have only just begun!
So wipe away those pipers’ tears, we’ll be here yet for many years,
Giving you the beat you need, to stop you from increasing speed!



Piper Bill
(The legend of Bill Millin, the D-Day Piper)

 The sighing surf on sand abounds, and seabirds call, the only sounds

At break of summers day, and yet, within the hour men will have met
Their destiny as war’s shrill chatter ends this tranquil scene. The clatter
Of machine guns spit their hate, as landing craft nose in to grate
Against the shingle to disgorge their human load who wait to charge
Into oncoming deathly hail, but never faltering, nerves taut, pale
Faced, leaping down into the cold wet breakers, seeking firm foothold. 

Struggling forward, arms raised clear to gain refuge ahead, so near
And yet seeming so far away as spiteful guns traverse and spray
The killing ground that lies ahead, already littered with the dead
And dying who would never see this bitter, bloody victory.
Then faintly, through the deafening din, an alien sound is heard, the thin
Melodious wailing cry of highland pipes, though bullets fly
Around him, he is unscathed still. Thus starts the tale of Piper Bill. 

Bill, who piped for Brigadier Lord Lovat, raised a special cheer
When, leaving on the previous day, took up his pipes, began to play
“Road to the Isles”, as, leaving Hamble river for this costly gamble,
Lifting spirits of the men, calling, cheered and cheered again,
Who as the Solent slipped away, all knew that on the following day
They’d face their own worst fears and doubts, prayed that when it came about
They would stand firm and conquer fear to face the perils that appeared. 

And now, amid the smoke and roar of high explosives, Bill endures
The hail of death, which all around leaves him untouched, while yet the sound
Of “Highland Laddie” fills the air as fingers on the chanter dare
To still defy the lethal storm, this awesome hell in all its forms.
Yet death and wholesale demolition, backdrop to this exhibition
Of the art of Scottish piping, even with the bullets sniping,
Will not quiet this hardy Scot, surviving mortar shell and shot. 

He marches at the waters edge, still playing, able still to dredge
From deep within his mortal soul the courage to maintain and hold
Himself upright despite the urge to run for safety, then emerge
When all is still and quiet again, escape the trauma and the pain.
But Bill is made of sterner stuff, clutching his pipes he starts to puff
And fill the bag, then with a squeeze, his hands again with practiced ease
Launch into yet another air, lifting spirits everywhere. 

And so the legend now is born, as Bill continues to perform
Beyond this strip of golden sand known as Sword Beach, where many men
Have fallen, sacrificed their all in answering their country’s call,
But in this page of history this part of France will always be
Where Highland Bagpipes played their part with inspiration, and gave heart
To all who witnessed Bill that day, who, when he crossed that beach to play,
With all his great panache and poise, gave the Highland pipes their voice.



The Piper ‘s Requiem

The Piper stood at Heaven’s gates, his bagpipes by his side,
But hesitant to enter, although they were open wide.
An angel chancing to pass by, paused, and made this demand,
“Are those a weapon of some kind that you hold in your hand?”.
The Piper groaned, “A Sassenach!” As it became quite clear
That they were present everywhere, they even had them here!

“They were regarded as such, long ago”, he then replied,
“But always made such harmonies that ever will abide
With images of heather clad hillsides with rippling burns,
Which every native Scotsman in his heart secretly yearns”.
And gently coaxing out a melody his fingers wove
A highland air so exquisite, a song of peace and love.

And as he played, it seemed there was an echo distantly,
Until he was aware of other pipes in harmony,
And into view came highland pipers playing, by the score;
He recognised his old comrades, and then, so many more
That he had played a farewell for so many years long gone,
Who came, prepared to welcome him, his race now finally run.

For though their mortal span is over, pipers will transcend
This life, their spirit wings to where we cannot comprehend,
A place reserved for them somewhere in heaven’s paradise,
Where chanters play quite easily, and drones are so precise.
Where reeds are perfect at all times and neither flat nor sharp,
And in this part of heaven, you will NEVER hear a harp.

So never fear, good Piper, you may now lay down and rest,
In knowledge that your friends considered you the very best
Example of what any man in this life can attain,
And truthfully will say that they won’t see your like again,
You leave a space in people’s lives but will forever be
One of God’s heavenly pipers in celestial harmony.