Bagpipes - The Tartan Menace


Hello, I'm Roland Trotsky. I'm forty-eight, I live in St Ives and I've got a pet hamster called Nigel - but that's enough of the biographical chit-chat. Let's talk about bagpipes - more specifically, let's talk about how we're going to get them off our streets.

You may have noticed, perhaps while out shopping in your local high street, certain tartan-flavoured people soliciting money in return for blowing into an instrument that resembles a bag of spanners with a series of vacuum cleaner attachments sticking out of it. Firstly, these people are usually not Scottish. Secondly, although bagpipes are commonly described as a 'musical instrument', I'll be damned if I can think of anything less musical than the toneless, spleen-rending whine produced by one of these accursed things. Have you ever heard a tune being played on one? ...Yes? ...Liar! A tune has rhythm, it has structure, it has... it has... well, it has a tune. The only sound you will ever hear emanating from your average bag of pipes is a depressing, droning, monotonous groan, which beats irritatingly on your eardrums for five and half minutes then just suddenly stops for no apparent reason.

Not that I have a problem with them stopping - I find the sudden cessation of their godawful racket a blessed relief. I have a problem with them being allowed to start in the first place. Who told these tuneless irritants that they're welcome in our shopping malls and town centres? Where do they come from? Is there a minibus that deploys them at strategic locations early on a Saturday morning, and do they meet up afterwards for a debriefing in which they discuss how many old ladies they've scared out of their wits, and how many children have been reduced to tears?

Imagine what would happen if I decided to put on a skirt and stand on a street corner, blowing into a bag of offal and wailing uncontrollably. I'll tell you what would happen - I'd be dragged around the back of the newsagent's by the filth and given a swift kicking, that's what. Yet these tartan terrors can get away with it in the name of 'culture'. And here are a few other things you may not know about bagpipes:

Puts a different complexion on it, doesn't it? At this point you're probably asking yourself why such a dangerous piece of kit is allowed to be paraded around our streets, unlicensed and unchecked. This question becomes all the more pertinent when you consider the history of the instrument. When the Jacobites came marching down from the Highlands during the eighteenth century, it was the pipers who were sent in first to scare the doings out of the English. And it worked. The English quite rightly thought that whoever was capable of wringing such a dreadful, tortured squeal out of anything - be it living or dead - was clearly somebody to be reckoned with. Of course, as soon as the Redcoats developed earplugs the Highlanders were sunk but, even so, whenever an English soldier happened to glance up and see that dreadful tartan sack he was struck with mortal fear.

So a set of bagpipes is actually a weapon, and a pretty devastating one at that, which is why they must be stopped before someone gets hurt. To that end I am spearheading a campaign to get these nasty and malicious instruments of torture decommissioned. If you'd like the join the battle to keep this unholy racket off our streets, write to us at the following address:

We Want to Stop These Damn Bagpipes
112 Tartan Avenue
Sao Paulo

And then, once every last one of the blasted things has been destroyed, we're going to make a start on banjos.

TOMORROW: How to kill bagpipes.

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