Twelve clansmen and one bagpiper make a rebellion.—Sir Walter Scott

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The Piper Came to Our Town: Bagpipe Folklore, Legends, and Fairy Tales

Selected and Edited by Joanne Asala

ISBN-10: 1880954036 | ISBN-13: 978-1880954034

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The Piper Came to Our Town

The Piper Came to Our Town is available from most major online booksellers.

The bagpipes have a long and noble history stretching back thousands of years. In various forms and by different names, they have been played across Europe and the Middle East, and in such diverse places as India and the Americas. The Piper Came to Our Town is a collection of over seventy stories, tales, anecdotes, and legends of pipers, running the gamut from the ordinary to the supernatural. You will travel from the battlegrounds of Africa to faerie caves below the earth and meet pipers urging troops to victory, fighting off man-eating cows, and even creating new worlds. The Piper Came to Our Town will delight fans of bagpipe music, lore, and tradition, as well as anyone who likes a good folk story.

Excerpt from “The Piper and the Pooka of November”

The only tune that Rory MacCathian could play was An Rogaire Dubh, “The Black Rogue.” He would hold himself straight and fill the elk hide bag of his pipes with air, then he would play it loud and bold or, if he was in the right mood, he could play it soft and slow like a lullaby. He played it to the best of his ability and on every occasion that presented itself—and there were many. Rory used to earn his living by playing for the lords and kings of his province. How they loved to make sport of the funny little man! However, he never seemed to take mind or even notice.

That was Rory’s problem. He was a half-fool and as dumb as a doorknob. He loved music (and who in Galway did not?) but try as he might he was unable to learn more than one tune, and that one tune was The Black Rogue. Often he would play it at dances where the young girls would crowd ’round him, flashing their bright smiles and blinking long lashes over their eyes.

“Rory, Rory,” they would tease, “d’ya know The Wee Weaver? D’ya know The Raggle Taggle Gypsy?” Oh, Rory would grin and nod his head, blushing like the fool he was, and then he would strike in his drones and play the requested tune. Only he would have to break off after a few clumsy snatches. “I—I’ve forgotten it,” he would mumble and blush again. However, if anyone requested The Black Rogue, why! He would get the best darn version of The Black Rogue that money could buy!

Late one November night Rory was walking home from a house where there had been a grand wake with dancing and music, and he half drunk from poitín. It was a dark, wet night, and probably the worst time of the year to travel for, as any babe in the crib can tell you, November is the month when spooks and faeries and all sorts of sheoguey beasts walk the bog lands. But poor Rory was far too drunk to let that bother him much.

Or so he told himself.

Weaving down the road, Rory was taking one step backward for every three forward, and singing himself a little tune. After an hour of steady travel the deepening gloom and the cold were beginning to chill his bones, and when he reached the little covered bridge he felt a wave of sadness wash over him. What he needed was some cheering up! He was still a good five miles from the warm hearth of his mother’s house in the next village, so he decided to play himself a little tune. What tune? You need to ask? He placed his pipes under his arm and filled the elk skin bag with air.

Joanne Asala, third from left, played bagpipes with the University of Iowa Scottish Highlanders.

Joanne Asala, third from left, played bagpipes with the University of Iowa Scottish Highlanders.

From behind the piper loomed a dark shape. It folded its wings softly and on two legs crouched behind a rock. When it emerged again it crawled belly to the ground on four legs. It grinned, and with its sharp teeth gleaming in the moonlight, pounced over Rory’s head and landed on the ground before him.

“Rrrrrrooooaaaarrr!” it growled, and the very earth shook at the sound.

“Awk!” shouted the piper and tumbled on his backside, staring with wide open eyes at the great fanged beast before him. It looked rather like a wolf, or a bear, or a giant rat or a—well, Rory squinted closely, it was at any rate quite furry. Its body was long and muscular like a cat’s, but as tall as a Shetland pony’s. Rory didn’t think there were even cats that big in Africa! Light danced off the creature’s huge paws and the piper saw that they were clawed. Or were they paws at all? He blinked. They now looked like webbed duck’s feet.

Rory decided he must have had more poitín than he thought…

“This collection of stories will truly delight any serious devotee of bagpipe music, lore, or traditions and certainly Celtic buffs will enjoy this anthology of pipe stories just as much. This volume comes very highly recommended.”—Robert Rodriquez, Canadian Folk Music Bulletin (refers to the original edition)

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