Friday, March 2, 2018

Bagpipes Part 3: Aye Love a Parade

I’ve been writing this humor column every week for almost 17 years. During that time, I’ve had a secret wish to see one of my columns go viral. I envisioned someone reading a column one day and saying, “Wow, this is really funny!” and then posting it to social media, where it quickly spread around the world. In a matter of hours, the congratulatory emails would come pouring in.

Well, a few weeks ago I wrote a snarky column about bagpipes, and it indeed went viral.

Here’s a little word of wisdom, kids: Be careful what you wish for.

Someone did read that essay and said, “Wow, this is really…” but the sentence did not end with the word “funny.” And it was posted to social media and quickly spread around the world. In a matter of hours, the emails did come pouring in, but they weren’t exactly congratulatory, unless a secondary definition of the word congratulatory is: “wishing someone’s eyeballs get pecked out by angry crows.”

It didn’t go over very well, to say the least, and many correspondents encouraged me to learn a little bit about a subject before launching into mockery mode. I’ve never let ignorance stop me from bloviated before, but this time I thought it might be a good idea. So, I sent an email to the Police Pipes and Drums of Waterbury and explained that I’d like to learn more about bagpipes, meet some of the guys, and sit in on a rehearsal.

The first response I got was: “We were alerted to your column. We are considering your request.”

You know how sometimes you really can’t tell a person’s tone of voice with just an email? This was not one of those times.

Later in the day, I received a much friendlier note, which invited me to attend their next rehearsal. I started thinking, “Hmm, this could be a set-up. My family may never see me again. If they kill me, I at least hope one of them plays at my funeral.”

I arrived at the rehearsal with much trepidation, but they quickly put me at ease. It turns out they are a terrific bunch of guys and gals. We laughed a lot and they displayed a great deal of compassion and forgiveness. (The fact that I walked out of there under my own power is proof.)

I spent time chatting with Pipe Major Angus MacDonald, a burly and bearded young man with tattoos and a Harley-Davidson jacket, and who is absolutely passionate about bagpipes. His father and grandfather were pipers, and he was named after a famous bagpipe player.

The Police Pipe and Drums of Waterbury were formed about a quarter-century ago. In 1992, Waterbury police officer Walter Williams was murdered in the line of duty. Pipers were summoned from New York City to play at his funeral. Afterward, some local folks decided Waterbury should have a bagpipe outfit, and so the group was created.

They’re now entering the busy season. They will be marching in St. Patrick’s Day parades on March 3rd in Waterbury and March 11th in New Haven. And on the 17th, the big day itself, they are scheduled to participate in something called the “St. Patrick’s Day Shenanigans Pub Crawl” in Waterbury. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but it seems to me it’s difficult enough to play the bagpipes, let alone do it with a pitcher of green beer in your hand.

During rehearsal, I quickly discovered they are very, very talented. That is not an easy instrument to master. When they played “Amazing Grace,” it brought a wee tear to me eye. 

Go to the parade on Saturday and watch them. Maybe I’ll see you there.


  1. I was wondering if they let you give the pipes a try... that would be fun!

    1. Hi Regina. No way, it looked way too difficult. I didn't even want to try, and I'm sure they would not want me slobbering all over their instruments.