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I come from a family of firefighters. My Mom, Dad, and Stepmom either were or are still firefighters, and my Dad was actually the chief of our local volunteer company for a good stretch of my childhood. I also come from a family with a severe gallows humor problem (a defense mechanism, perhaps?). Case in point: I happened to drop by my Dad's house one day and the movie Backdraft was on TV. A funeral scene was playing, complete with bagpipes, and as a sensitive little fireman's daughter, I choked up immediately. "You know," my Dad said, "when I die, I want bapipes at my funeral." Tears welling in my eyes, I said something along the lines of, "Because of the firefighter's tradition?" "Naw," said Dad, "I just want one more chance to be loud and obnoxious."

All joking aside, though, he did confess that he thinks bagpipes at firefighter and police officer's funerals are a really beautiful tradition (and definitely not an obnoxious one, though no one will argue that they're loud), and I happen to agree. Indeed, it's one of those traditions that has become so ubiquitous that the very idea of bagpipes has become associated with both respect and mourning. Learn more about the reasons bagpipes are played at funerals - it's a fairly ancient tradition, and I'm glad that it's still being carried forth.

Image (c) Joe Raedie / Getty Images, 2001


February 13, 2009 at 1:18 pm
(1) chris says:

Well, another reason why that is what is played is because the USA has nothing of its own. Think about it, and everything came from abroad unless it’s about Indian drums and chants. But as it is concerned with the “official” USA population, everything is borrowed. So they chose bagpipes over… I don’t know, Austrian violins.

February 16, 2009 at 12:04 am
(2) worldmusic says:

Sure… American culture is an immigrant culture. But it wasn’t by accident that bagpipes became the instrument of choice – firefighters weren’t Austrian, generally, they were mostly Irish.

November 1, 2009 at 9:35 am
(3) andrew says:

If the tradition is of Irish origin, why is it that the Scottish highland bagpipes are played during funerals instead of an Irish type?

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