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Your email will never be sold, and I won't burden you with tons of meaningless drivel (just an occasional spoonful!) I will keep you posted a couple times a month on upcoming shows, music releases,and the occasional free download for fan feedback! I look forward to writing you. Mike "Pops" McGee

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dear Mr. McGee:

First: Good website!

I am of Scot/Irish descent and there are questions I have and would like answered. I'm having a difficult time getting the proper history about my heritage
...why are the bagpipes played at funerals? I can't find the answer to where they started, why it is done, and when was the origination. …..where I might learn more about the tradition of playing the pipes at funerals? It is a wonderful thing..."piping someone Home"...

Thanks for your help.
Judith Bingham

Dear Ms. Bingham, I wish there were some beautiful story or even some glorious tale I could regale you with explaining why Pipes are played at funerals. The truth though is a little sad and certainly a blemish on our history.

It would seem that when the Irish and Scotts were "displaced" by the Land Clearances of the early nineteenth century many immigrated to our shores. Like most new arrivals they were less than welcome. There was great resentment against them and employment was extremely difficult to find. "No Irish Need Apply" was a sign found in almost every window. The exceptions of course were those jobs considered dangerous or not desirable, such as police officer or fire fighter.

And so it was that our fore fathers gravitated to these occupations no one else wanted. These were and remain occupations which engender a strong sense of comradeship and when coupled with a common heritage the bonding is doubly strong. They are also professions with a tragically high mortality rate. And so it was that when one of these brothers fell he was honored by his comrades in a traditional manner, which in this instance included "Piping the departed home". The soul wrenching skirl of the Pipes touched all who heard it and in a very short time they became associated with funeral services in general. From there the Pipes have gravitated to Honor Guards of every sort.

It goes without saying that this is the most solemn act a Piper can perform, escorting the Fallen to the Gates.

Warmest regards, Michael McGee


LG said...

You know, I didn't know that either. Thanks for the tidbit.

Dave said...

The highland Jacobites believed that the piper would carry a soul to the “afterlife”. That’s where the tradition of a piper playing as he walks away from the graveside began. During Medieval times a piper would play for several hours before the interment of the dead. I’ve written a brief history brushing on a few facts and a few common beliefs about how the bagpipes evolved. To see it, go to www.heathen.bagpiper.com and click on “history of the bagpipes."

Mike (AKA Pops) said...


Great article! and it addresses more than just "The Piping Home". Thanks for sharing.


Mark said...

Hi Mike, just wanted to thank you for your comment over on my blog. You've got a great site here - it's always fascinating to read about somebody's passions, especially (and it's not always the case) when they can really write too! Much of my dad's side of the family are Ulster Scots from the Belfast area in Northern Ireland, so I have rather a fondness for the pipes myself.

I actually passed through Arizona later on my travels; didn't hit Phoenix itself but I had Thanksgiving on a friend's ranch just outside Prescott, visited Jerome and Whiskey Row, and later passed through Lake Havasu City - it's a beautiful state. Pipe on, sir!

Mike (AKA Pops) said...


Thank you for the kind words. I know the areas of Arizona you speak of very well indeed. The family here traces itself back to one William McGee from Island Magee, Antrim County, Ireland, and as you might expect has a fondness for the pipes.

Have a great day,