Tuesday, 26 February 2013

We Put The FUN In Funeral

Many years ago, before I was a wee singing fella, I was a wee piper fella.
I have always loved the sound of, and the playing of the pipes, and only recently played a tune, with great difficulty, (after a gap of nigh on twenty years!) at a gig.

As that wee piping enigma I had been chosen to represent our band at the funeral of the President of the Munster branch of the pipe band association in Cork City and three other members of my band came with me to pay our respects. We also brought a rather large funeral wreath which I had agreed to place on the coffin at the altar.

We arrived at the church and, it seemed, just in time as the priests were about to enter.
The four of us, with me in front carrying the floral monstrosity, raced ahead of the clergy to lay the wreath at the altar before the funeral mass began.
As I was nearing the altar I noticed the large framed photo of the deceased, frail looking old  LADY on top of the coffin. 
Now, last time we had met him, the President of the Munster branch of the pipe band association was a rather large, rotund and balding MAN!
We were an hour early and at the wrong funeral.

I still cringe when I recall the faces of the congregation as we walked back down the aisle, past the incoming clergy, and I still carrying the biggest funeral wreath this side of the Shannon!

I think a memo must have gone around in the priestly circles, I still get strange looks from clergy if I get too close to the flowers at funerals!


I have to share this story I just came across.


As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn’t stop for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.

I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played ‘Amazing Grace,’ the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen nothin’ like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”

Apparently, I’m still lost… It’s a man thing.


  1. Interesting wee tale here, although I am no surprised that you put your flowery size 9 firmly in it just for a change, eh? Go and get the drinks in pal, I'll be over in a minute when I have explained a few facts for the nice people.

    I wonder how many people realise that Amazing Grace was written by an Englishman who traded in slaves, therefore very rarely, if ever, played in Scotland, certainly never at any funeral service I have attended over the years.

    It was originally used by Irish settlers at funerals in the USA after the famine, a large section of which were employed in dangerous jobs such as fire fighters and the polis. Vietnam and Hollywood did the rest...

    In reality the two tunes most played at a Celtic service are 'Scotland The Brave' and 'Cliffs of Doneen'. Amazing Grace would be considered a tad twee, just as 'Danny Boy' (originally a Republican ditty that the English have never understood)is rarely heard in any pub, bar or informal gathering anywhere in Scotland or Ireland.

    Also, a little known fact is that every Hollywood movie that portrays the pipes being played at a funeral in the driving rain or snow is pish! The pipes do not play well in inclement weather, they tend to go out of tune very easily.

    Jump in here anytime wee man if you know better than me on this subject. I am always willing to learn fae those who actually walk the walk so to speak.

    I'll be in my trailer with Jack Nicholson and Kurt Russell.

  2. What a great story Map, very funny and one I've not heard before. Cheers mate.

  3. Chef; Thank you for the lesson on Amazing Grace, something I did not know.

    It was a tune rarely played by us, though often requested, along with that other tune by himself from Liverpool. Sadly it seems as though these are the only tunes some people associate with bagpipes.

    I have never heard Scotland The Brave played at a funeral, though it is indeed the tune I played recently at a gig. It is also the tune the massed bands play together at the World Championships. To be part of that, many times, has made me feel a pride that is hard to explain.

    The last funeral I attended which had a piper playing was that of my dear sister. And the tune was indeed 'Cliffs Of Dooneen'. We not only had the best piper we could find but the best in the world, my old friend Capt. M. Egan, a world champion solo player.

    Ans yes, again you are correct about the pipes acting up in bad weather. They have to be the most temperamental instrument on the planet. A drop or rise in temperature can affect tuning, so you can imagine what rain etc. does to the sound, especially when playing ensemble.

    I do have one bone to pick with you though. They would be flowery size 12's!

  4. Tempo; You are most welcome pal. :¬)

  5. Oops your first story made me cringe but grin too. That's the kind of cock up I'd do. :D

  6. Size 12's is it? Uh huh.. only if you add the size of both feet together.

  7. Joey; Ya have to laugh pal! :¬)

  8. Chef; Feet? Who was talkin' about feet? :¬)

  9. Father O'Reilly27 February 2013 at 06:17

    I am very proud of the little singing fella and his music playing abilities. As a wean he was always marching up and down the street playing a plastic glockenspiel pinned to his jersey. He got to be quite good at it until he came across an oul pram on a bombsite and it became his main interest in life. There were those of us who thought he would one day make his childer an excellent mammy. One of the joiners from the shipyards took pity on him and made him some wooden blocks for his sandals. There was no stopping him after that, his wee ginger head bobbing up and down above the handle as he pushed his wee dollies to the shops and back.

    Obviously his dung shovelling business took off with the help of his pram, some weeks he was making nearly tuppence a pile from his raking. Obviously that tall vagabond boy who befriended him used to extort protection money at nearly 68% interest from him, otherwise who knows, he might well have had a fleet of prams trundling away full of steaming dung this very day.

    Little horsey, dung-boy would often come visit my windies with stones and rocks on occasion, but I put that down to inhaling all that shite, it was never personal.

  10. Size 12 boots on 8" legs.... if it's yersel that you are thinking of as a human tripod, think again, eh?

    I'm seeing you more as the wee white plastic thing that they put in the middle of pizzas to stop the lid squashing the cheese.

  11. How embarrassing for you and your friends!! But at least you had the balls to take the wreath and leave. Did you ever find the right funeral?

    Chef's in fine fettle today, isn't he? Must be another hangover...

  12. As the Chef has stated, as popular as "Amazing Grace" is in the States (sung at my Dad's funeral) it was a long time before people understood it's true origins. In fact, they made a movie about it...

    Ah, embarrassing for you and yet, your "parade" to and from might've made a little old lady giggle from beyond the grave. :)

  13. Brilliant...Cheers from NYC for the smiles :)