Book Review

by Kort E Patterson

The Complete Piper,

An Unconventional and Irresponsible Guide To Piping

C.F. Rogers, R.S.V.P., A.P.B., P.M.S., & A.K.C.
Published by The Int’l. Society to Abolish E Doublings
Copyright 1993, 50 pages

This weighty tome was submitted for review by the author, one of our Canadian members. I was at first concerned I was unqualified to address this topic, of which the author obviously has a deep and personal interest and understanding.

Outside of brief exposures during parades, my sole experience with bagpipes was back in high school. I lived 6 miles from town and rode one of the late buses home. Regulations back then required students to remain on school property, and so I was trapped for half an hour every day while somewhere off in the distance, the school’s sole piper allegedly played his assemblage of wood, reed, and animal parts. The multiple intervening solid masonry walls between the piper and his captive audience probably suppressed the more dangerous effects, but what filtered through was still roughly akin to fingernails on a blackboard.

The accompanying note offered that “some of the humor is a little esoteric, but for the most part is understandable by the non-piper”, so I ventured hesitantly into the task. The book turned out to be a most enjoyable and irreverent treatment of bagpipes and those afflicted with the need to play them. As a non-piper, I found more than enough humor and insights into an ancient and somewhat obscure instrument and subculture, to read through to the end.

The first chapter, “The Rather Bawdy History Of The Great Highland Bagpipe”, starts with a tale of questionable veracity but with an appealing ring to it. Originally developed as “Scottish warpipes”, the tale recounts how the instrument was eventually partially civilized and became the modern bagpipe:

“... The MacCrimmons were a rowdy lot, and were practicing some of the aforementioned compromising and pillaging on the neighbors when E’en had the misfortune of being caught in the hayloft with the wife of his adversary. The offended party hollered for the bodyguard, and a jolly good fight was soon in progress.”

“While attempting, rather clumsily, to defend his hide, E’en accidentally ran his sword through the expansive gullet of the neighbor’s prize hog. Immediately after being skewered and prior to dying, the porker put up such an ungodly, terrifying racket that it raised the mens’ neckhairs like the hackles of a frightened cur, caused sturdy farm women to faint dead away, and ten sheep to suffer miscarriages. The entire brawl came to a screeching halt in mid-clout. It was as if the hands of time had been magically halted.”

“Donald Mor, being a bright and ambitious fellow, was the first to rouse himself, impale the lord, claim his land and marry his wife. E’en stood there, struggling to remove his sword from the thrashing swine.”

“Donald was heard to ponder aloud as he rode off on his new horse, ‘Why, if I could duplicate that sound, I would be the richest man in all of Scotland!’ So the enterprising young man went home and butchered a sheep, tore apart his plumbing (it is a little know fact that Donald also invented the first flushing toilet, but was denied fame because he disassembled the unit before the patent office could verify the contraption), lashed the crude wooden pipes to the bloody remains and called it a bagpipe.”

While the book concentrates primarily on the bagpipe and its effects on the lives and well-being of both supporters and adversaries alike, Rogers does digress into a few corollary issues - such as kilts and Scottish men. “While the occasional Lord might wonder aloud about what the Scotsman wore under that unbearable scratchy garment, it was soon noticeable that the ‘Lady of the Manor’, as well as an assortment of peasant women, would merely blush and give each other secretive looks.”

Rogers addresses a number of care and maintenance aspects of bagpipes, including a checklist to determine the true personality of your pipes. A chart then offers suggestions on how best to care for your pipes. The advice ranges from “keep it warm and safe and tell it how much you love it”, to “take it to a crossroads at midnight, set it ablaze and run for your life.”

While Rogers does give more than adequate recognition to the less than favorable aspects of bagpipes, it’s clear that the author is deeply afflicted with admiration for the instrument - and those who share that affection.

No address is provided for the Int’l Society to Abolish E Doublings for those seeking to enjoy this fine literary work. However, those seeking copies or interested in communicating with fellow pipers, may find answers by contacting the author.

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