Grace MacIntosh Plays Bagpipes

His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.

  • Genesis 4:21

And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.

  • 1 Kings 1:40

When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house [Jairus in Mark and Luke] and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.”  But they laughed at him.  After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.  News of this spread through all that region.

  • Matthew 9:23-26

Our grandson, our younger son’s oldest, has started playing bagpipes.  He has learned so much in just a couple of months of lessons that they are considering him playing in a Christmas parade along with a girl who is a few years older and has been playing for about three years.  Facts that have not escaped the young lady.  Okay, he lives in a musical family, and he already plays the keyboard, guitar, flute, and drums and maybe more things.

I dedicate this post to Logan, or as we call him Lolo.  I am working on something like his little brother – along the lines of “Lolo, the slo mo hobo who rode in the loco from Kokomo on the down low” – work still in progress.

My parents were afraid that I would go crazy with Scottish lore once I learned of my predominant Scottish ancestry.  They knew me pretty well.  Once I heard that my mother had traced my father’s mother’s line, Henderson, back to Scotland where Alexander Henderson, known as The Divine, had lived, I was hooked.  My mother’s mother told a legend passed down in the family from a soldier in the American Revolution.  He claimed to be the son of a “son” of Rob Roy MacGregor, probably Rob Roy was his uncle or Sir Walter Scott discounted the son who had “died” in battle.  The legend was that he was severely wounded.  They feared the English would desecrate his body, so they carried him to Ireland, where a doctor saved his life.  He stowed away on a boat, bound for America, thus no record of going to America, and then changed his name, afraid of being discovered – and thus, I can never claim Clan Gregor ancestry.  The only trace of him was that he was a witness at his son’s wedding, the son who fought in the American Revolution, with his changed name.  And there were other connections to Scottish clans through great-grandmothers and such, like Anderson, and lowlander Scots, like Purdon.

So, my wife and I learned of the highland games at Stone Mountain in Georgia.  When we arrived, we heard a single bagpipe playing in the parade field far away from the parking lot.  The parade field was next to the athletic field where they were tossing the caber (think flipping telephone poles, end over end).  As we got closer, the volume increased; not just from proximity, their volume was swelling.  When we arrived, we saw the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard, standing in the tree line.  You could hardly see the empty field, except for the drum major, as the “guardsmen” lined all viewpoints to the field.  Then, at the climax where the drums start booming, they all marched to the center.  They were playing Highland Cathedral.  I have not found the arrangement that I heard that day (a new band leader, a new arrangement it seems), but the following is from the same group of pipers and the arrangement is similar.  The one that I heard had French horns helping with the swell, and it is etched in my memory, a moving experience. The recording does not do live bagpipe music justice. As the swell of the bagpipes consumed all sound in the area, it was just as the 1 Kings Scripture above states, the ground shook with the sound.

Oh, the title needs to be explained.  There is an old Scottish joke, but not more than a couple hundred years – probably more recent – about how little Gracie MacIntosh, daughter of a piper and in the family line of many great pipers, went to school to learn the pipes.  When she got home after her first lesson, she was very excited.  She said, “Daddy, I learned a tune.  I shall play it for you, and you can tell me what the tune is if you recognize it!”  She played so beautifully that her father broke down in tears.  When she finished, she looked at him with expectant eyes, hoping she had played well enough for him to recognize the tune.  Then, her father, although choked with emotion, wiped away his tears and said, “That’s amazing, Grace!”

Of course, Amazing Grace sounds a little different with a band of pipers.  Again, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard.

I really like bagpipe music.  I got a chanter and learned one song.  Obviously, my son’s talent, and that of his children, did not come from me, although I can sing tenor, a little, and I used to plunk an occasional tune on the organ.  I think I can plunk the melody for Swingin’ Shepherd Blues, but my memory is fading, and the fingers are out of practice.

And while my mind goes down one more rabbit hole, will the Good Shepherd play the Swingin’ Shepherd Blues as He guides His flock, and with the pipes?  In this video, Moe Koffman is playing the flute, an instrument that our Lolo also plays.

As for the Scriptures above, the Genesis 4 verse mentions a son of Cain, who seems to have children who were musicians, the first musical family.  In 1 Kings 1, Adonijah, a son of David, has established himself as king, with king David still alive.  Not the first of his sons to do so, but Nathan the prophet, the priests, and king David anoint Solomon as king, heralding him as he proceeds into the city, riding on a donkey (sound familiar?), and accompanying the shouts of praise for king Solomon are the “pipes.”  But the pipes can be used for mourning.  Jairus’ daughter had already died.  They had called for the pipers to play mournful tunes, until Jesus arrived to tell them to go away.

Have you noticed that the pipes, in one form or another, have been around since the dawn of time?  I am taking the Biblical record at its word, about 6,000 years, two generations after Adam, having a musical family.  God has understood the need for music, and music has been part of our history since the beginning.

I have often said that I wanted Blessed Assurance sung at my memorial service, at least the first verse, but now that we have a piper in the family…  Both Blessed Assurance and Amazing Grace talk of the Glory of God when we will be in His presence forever.  Ah, I can hear the tunes now.  It fills me with Joy, Peace, and Love, and for a moment, going home is at the forefront of my mind.  Yes, the right kind of music can bring us closer to God.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

13 Comments

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  1. I love bagpipes, probably due to that scotch/ Irish running in me veins 😉
    Such that I’ve always told my husband I want a piper to play at my funeral.
    When I was a seniority high school we use to hang out at a British pub – (the drinking age back then was 18)
    Think darts, witbred beer on tap, an older lady playing the piano as guests sang waltzing Matilda … but on Thursday nights the Atlanta bagpipe and drum corps met at the pub to practice-I loved it!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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