Recently, I wrote a rather scathing column about bagpipes. [See: http://merrycatholic.blogspot.com/2018/02/neighbor-wanted-pipers-need-not-apply.html] Other than a few parades and brief scenes from movies, my entire experience with bagpipes has been this: two different neighbors over the years would shatter the tranquility of warm summer evenings by practicing their pipes outdoors, less than 50 yards from my house.
In my column, I wrote what I thought were some clever and humorous comments about bagpipes. But soon after I discovered two things: first, I’m not nearly as clever as I think I am; and second, there is a vast fraternity of bagpipe enthusiasts around the globe who DEFINITELY do not think I am as clever as I think I am.
Within about six hours of that edition of the paper hitting the newsstands, approximately 15,000 pipers on six continents wished to see my head on a platter. Wow, social media can be quite an amazing thing.
I fully admit I have a bad case of snarkolepsy (which is the ability to be sarcastic, even while asleep). Sometimes that is helpful, sometimes not. This instance was definitely the latter. Therefore, I now would like to offer a sincere and heartfelt apology to all those who were offended by my bagpipe column. To paraphrase one of my good friends, forgive me, for I knew not what I did.
In the wake of my column, I received many passionate email messages. By the way, every note I received was extremely well written. I don’t know if you have to be an English major to get involved with bagpipes, but these folks’ composition skills are top-notch.
Anyway, one sweet woman told me about her husband, who was an experienced piper. Now that he is deceased, there is a great void in her life. As she explained, “Believe me, when this music is taken away from you, it leaves behind an emptiness beyond imagining.”
Another message came from a gentleman in the U.K. who is the “Ex Piper Sergeant of Her Majesties 3rd Regiment of Foot, The 1st Battalion Scots Guards.” Whoa, how did he ever fit that on a business card?
This man, unlike some other writers, was a bit more gentle with me. Instead of accusing me of malice, he (correctly) accused me of ignorance. Some of his more interesting comments included, “Irish Regiments playing this instrument? NO!!!” and, “Please! BRAVEHEART is not a factual film and there were no bagpipes at that time!”
He did refer to my column as “inane scribbling,” which I think is a clever phase, and would make a great name for a rock band. But in the interest of accuracy, I compose my essays on a laptop computer, so the phrase should be “inane typing.”
One writer accused me of being a “a narrow minded, elitist, racist, cultural purist,” and asked why I thought it was okay to attack “another ethnic group as long as they have pale skin?”
Well, in my defense, the idea of insulting a particular ethic group, however pale, never entered my mind. I was harsh toward a very loud inanimate object, yes, but attacking an entire culture? No way. Also, since my ancestors came from County Kerry, and I am the palest person you’ll ever meet, if I did attack a culture or heritage, I attacked my own.
To remedy my obvious lack of knowledge regarding this topic, I have made arrangements to meet with members of the Police Pipes and Drums of Waterbury. They promised if I learn to identify various parts of the bagpipes — including the bass drone, tenor drones, and chanter — they will refrain from shoving those items up my nose.
I’ll let you know how it goes.