Weekend Wandering: The Lone Piper

 

When I need a break from the outrage of the day, I look for something out of the ordinary.

The Lone Piper is a Scottish tradition that began with the clan chieftains that took their piper with them to battles and then the Highland regiments that came later. The United States Air Force has a lone piper.

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md., –The keening, melancholic sounds of a bagpipe are carried through the wind of the Potomac River at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, District of Columbia.

Gold tassels of the bagpipes tangle in the strong breeze, a man in a U.S. Air Force Airman battle uniform slowly paces the grassy riverbank, the water gently lapping at the rocks. In the distance across the river, the skyline of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia can be seen.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind sound,” said Tech. Sgt. Adam Tianello, U.S. Air Force Band Ceremonial Brass Band bagpiper. “A griping sound of enticing melodies on top an ever-constant soothing drone. It’s a sound no other instrument has.”

Tianello’s role as the Air Force’s bagpiper is a solitary one as he is the only one with the official job title.

He added that there are bagpipers in different units and branches but none in the official capacity that he has.

Tianello explained his role in the Ceremonial Brass band is to honor the veterans of the Air Force at Arlington National Cemetery and to be there for their families and friends attending the funeral.

“By far it’s the most inspirational thing that I do,” added Tianello.

Pipe bands in the American military formed after World War II, after military personnel witnessed the pipes and drums of the British and Commonwealth forces.

Although most Americans are familiar with hearing Amazing Grace from a piper Going Home is more commonly heard at military and civilian funerals in Scotland.

An interview with a lone piper for Queen Elizabeth, a soldier that served two tours in Afghanistan.

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  1. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    One of my cousins has a distant relative in New Zealand with Maori ancestry.  He plays the bagpipes – curious combination.  He spent some time working at the NZ embassy in DC and his piping was in high demand.  He did various ceremonies and parades for a number of organizations.  Great guy.

    • #1
  2. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    Mad Gerald (View Comment):

    One of my cousins has a distant relative in New Zealand with Maori ancestry. He plays the bagpipes – curious combination. He spent some time working at the NZ embassy in DC and his piping was in high demand. He did various ceremonies and parades for a number of organizations. Great guy.

    Wherever the British went, bagpipes, melodions, tin whistles and the like found their way to the locals. There is a great tin whistle tradition in South Africa called kwela. It “evolved in the 1950s. It features a distinctive skiffle -like beat, with jazzy underpinnings and has gained popularity the world over for its bright melodies, upbeat rhythms and vibrant sound.” (link)

    • #2
  3. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Doug Watt: The Lone Piper is a Scottish tradition that began with the clan chieftains that took their piper with them to battles and then the Highland regiments that came later.

    Famously, Lord Lovat had his personal piper, Bill Millins, pipe the troops ashore at Sword Beach:

    Millin is best remembered for playing the pipes whilst under fire during the D-Day landing in Normandy. Pipers had traditionally been used in battle by Scottish and Irish soldiers. However, the use of bagpipes was restricted to rear areas by the time of the Second World War by the British Army. Lovat, nevertheless, ignored these orders and ordered Millin, then aged 21, to play. When Private Millin demurred, citing the regulations, he recalled later, Lord Lovat replied: “Ah, but that’s the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”

    Millin played “Highland Laddie” “The Road to the Isles” and “All The Blue Bonnets Are Over The Border” as his comrades fell around him on Sword Beach.[1] Millin states that he later talked to captured German snipers who claimed they did not shoot at him because they thought he had gone mad.

    Millin, whom Lovat had appointed his personal piper during commando training at Achnacarry, near Fort William in Scotland, was the only man during the landing who wore a kilt – it was the same Cameron tartan kilt his father had worn in Flanders during World War I – and he was armed only with his pipes and the sgian-dubh, or “black knife”, sheathed inside his kilt-hose on the right side.

    Lovat and Millin advanced from Sword to Pegasus Bridge, which had been defiantly defended by men of the 2nd Bn the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry (6th Airborne Division) who had landed in the early hours by glider. Lovat’s commandos arrived at a little past one p.m. at Pegasus Bridge although the rendezvous time in the plan was noon. To the sound of Millin’s bagpipes, the commandos marched across Pegasus Bridge. During the march, twelve men died, most shot through their berets. Later detachments of the commandos rushed across in small groups with helmets on. Millin’s D-Day bagpipes were later donated to Dawlish Museum. A set of pipes he used later in the campaign, after the originals became damaged, were donated to the now “Pegasus Bridge Museum”.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Then there was Mad Jack Churchill.

    • #4
  5. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Then there was Mad Jack Churchill.

    Hadn’t heard of this man. Just read the Wikipedia entry on him. Holy cow!

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Then there was Mad Jack Churchill.

    Hadn’t heard of this man. Just read the Wikipedia entry on him. Holy cow!

    You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie! Here’s one of my favorite presentations on him:

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Then there was Mad Jack Churchill.

    Hadn’t heard of this man. Just read the Wikipedia entry on him. Holy cow!

    You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie! Here’s one of my favorite presentations on him:

    That was Jack’s second appearance in a movie. He was a friend of Robert Taylor. Robert Taylor had the title role in Ivanhoe. The production had no need of a piper.

    They did need archers, though.

    That’s him in front, I believe. He’s the only one in that frame who ever killed a Wehrmacht sergeant with a longbow.

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival (View Comment):
    He’s the only one in that frame who ever killed a Wehrmacht sergeant with a longbow.

    Yep. Priceless.

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    In a coincidence, this just dropped today:

    • #9
  10. Boney Cole Member
    Boney Cole
    @BoneyCole

    Jeb Stuart had his personal banjo player, who accompanied him everywhere. I wonder if he played at Stuart’s funeral. 

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    That made my eyes fill up. Thank you. 

     

    • #11
  12. She Member
    She
    @She

    I do love the skirl of the pipes.

    Many years ago (I suppose, actually it was in 1968) my family and I took a small travel trailer up to Nova Scotia for a few weeks in the summer.  My brother was an infant, which is why the year is fixed in my mind, and we meandered the province, up and down, from Yarmouth, to Truro, to Halifax, to Cape Breton.  At some point (IIRC it was at a provincial park somewhere near Antigonish) we were awakened by a lone piper.  It was wonderful.  Naturally, Dad went out with his camera, angling for a photo and a chat.  The guy was a Japanese native who had absolutely no connection to Scotland at all, but who’d learned to pipe, and who got up early every morning to give it a go.

    Argh.  Can’t find the photo which (IIRC) has a lamp-post growing out of the man’s head, as was the case with so many of my parents’ photos.  If I find it, I’ll post it.

    Meanwhile, this is discouraging: Pipe down! Royal Regiment of Scotland’s bagpipers to play hour later after complaints:

    For more than half a century, villagers in Ballater, Aberdeenshire have been woken up at the crack of dawn by bagpipers at the local Army barracks. 

    But a senior officer from the Royal Regiment of Scotland has now put an end to the tradition, ordering his troops to instead play one hour later at 7am after receiving several “polite” noise complaints from disgruntled residents.

    Soldiers from the regiment’s Balaklava Company 5th Battalion, who also guard the Queen at Balmoral during the summer, will no longer play at weekends. 

    Major Robert Weir, the battalion’s commanding officer, said he hopes the break with military tradition demonstrates “my desire to integrate with the local community at the expense of my own orders”.

    Ugh.

    • #12
  13. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    She (View Comment):
    Many years ago (I suppose, actually it was in 1968) my family and I took a small travel trailer up to Nova Scotia for a few weeks in the summer.  My brother was an infant, which is why the year is fixed in my mind, and we meandered the province, up and down, from Yarmouth, to Truro, to Halifax, to Cape Breton.  At some point (IIRC it was at a provincial park somewhere near Antigonish) we were awakened by a lone piper. 

    IIRC at the Truro Welcome Center there was a piper to welcome one and all to Nova Scotia. Does that jibe with your memories, @She?

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    She (View Comment):
    For more than half a century

    They should be used to it by now.

    • #14
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