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Credit: Visit Scotland/ Kenny Lam
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The Piper

By Fiona Black

Being knit into the primordial was part of my childhood. I was brought up with kilts and the Highland fling in a city surrounded by mountains. I believed we were the bravest, standing defiant like Flora MacDonald, facing our future. We had the softest lilting voices and the wildest dancers.

We hung rags at the Clootie Well where wounded Highlanders had fallen, rolled painted Easter eggs down Cumberland's stone and felt deeply the attempt to kill our culture, slaughtered, along with the dead, on Culloden Moor.

Later, studies in Glasgow, introduced me to the Highlandman's Umbrella, a railway bridge where the disenfranchised from the North could shelter from the West Coast's pitiless rain. This, and hearing bagpipes from San Francisco to Peking, inspired me to write "The Piper" to acknowledge the haunting music and the wondrous world it evokes.

The Piper

Louder than hen party banter
A single drone battles the chanter
A piper played.
Sauchiehall Street filled with a shrill lament
The music and the figure both well-kent,
It was a minor key...
It was a minor key...
Echoing the keen of his wilderness home
with scally fingers on riddling reeds
he made the sheep skin moan and bleed.
That old lament!
He held his face to the rain and sleet
he let loose with the grace-note beat
a lone lament
like a curlew calling over the loch
a haunting air!
Regiments march to that piercing wail
the keening note of the wandering Gael.
Oh, isle of my childhood, I'm dreaming of thee,
Where the beauties of heaven unfold by the sea.

He swayed as his fingers played
and the pibroch moaned as light left the day.
Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth!
When the stars came out he continued his tune,
drunken louts passed and howled at the moon
but he blew and birled that eerie wail
till at last he let the music fail,
and slept like the dead in the silent street
still hearing the skirl of the pipes in his sleep.

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