A funeral with two mourners and one piper to bid farewell to an 85 year old gentlemen
There’s no doubt that funerals at this time are difficult for many families whilst working within UK Government guidelines which allow for just 30 people only. However there have also been many times for families all over the UK that loved ones from overseas have been unable to join due to travel restrictions and during 2020 I have played at some very small and intimate funerals for a variety of reasons including the above and I attended one such funeral this week.
I have played the bagpipes at funerals for forty years since I first played at my own grandmother’s funeral when I was 15 years of age. Over the years I’ve understood how important it is for families, as it was for my own family at my grandmother’s funeral, to give your deceased family member a sterling send off and help the family feel they’ve done their best to honour the person and celebrate their lives.
As well as families booking bagpipers for special send offs, there are other funerals where the request for a piper has come from the deceased directly rather than the family, as was the case today in South London.
The deceased I learned got to a ripe old age of 85 years and the event was attended by his two neighbours. He had organized the whole thing himself. He wasn’t Scots or Irish but just had a love of the bagpipes. His two neighbours told me that he was just a lovely man, a quiet man and their relationship with him was just a typical over the garden fence variety. Small talk and comments on the daily weather. I asked them if he would have expected more to attend his funeral in usual times and one neighbour said perhaps not.
After hearing a little more about the gentleman, I watched for the hearse to arrive at the crematorium and when the hearse came through the gates my bagpipes were singing. I played only 4/4 Marches and for this occasion, I didn’t play any usual laments, they just didn’t feel fitting. I felt that perhaps he would have like a tune with a bit of a lift and so played the Battles O’er and The Dawning of the Day.
After some further exchanges with the two mourners, I packed the pipes away and reflected on the big sound of the bagpipes and their ability to mark an occasion whether it’s a full pipe band or a solo piper playing to a small gathering, as we are seeing more and more during Covid times.