Bagpipes, Friends and Celtic Connections

I have dear friend named Rob R.  I haven’t had many true friends in my life of 60 years.  I consider him to be a true and trusted spiritual friend.  And I love him in the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  Arne Garbourg once uttered, “To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they have forgotten“– Rob sings that same song in my heart, each time he puts fingers to his keyboard.

Rob introduced me to the bagpipes back in 1997 when he was the associate music pastor at our local church in Kelowna.  He played his pipes for the entire congregation one Sunday morn — and I was hooked!  He didn’t know this back then, but I’m almost certain his musicality imprinted a desire in me that never waned; even after all these years, after the many miles, after much change and deviations and internal gyrations, I still hold this deep desire to learn to play some form of the Scottish pipes.

Like my friend Rob, I’ve always felt a strange yet compelling connection to Scotland, it’s culture and especially it’s traditional music.  And I suppose it’s this “connection”, a pseudo-Jungian collective unconscious bond, that keeps Rob in my mind and in my heart.  “Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another…” George Eliot reminds us.

Today as I sat and listened to some pipe tunes on YouTube, I chose to have another listen to yet another amazing soul, Martyn Bennett, who left us for his place in heaven back in 2005, at the tender age of 33 years.  As I watched him make love to the SSP’s he played in the video, I was reminded of how I felt that fateful Sunday morning when Rob played his heart-rendering tunes.

My thoughts took me to  a place of wonderment — reflecting if this connection we call friendship is indeed as tenuous as it is precious.  As I think about how many years I have left on this planet, I’m mindful that true friendship is like sound health. The value of it is seldom known, until it be lost.

The tune Martyn Bennett played in his haunting video is titled “MacCrimmon’s Lament” [or Cha Till MacCruimean (MacCrimmon Will Never Return) in the Ancient tongue] which intriguingly holds very special meaning in my psyche, methinks.  You see, unlike back in 1745 when Donald Ban MacCrimmon had a premonition of his own death (which indeed occurred shortly thereafter at the Battle of Moy) and felt inspired to compose this lament [to my awareness, it’s the only instance I know of where a person composed their own lament], I have never beheld such premonitions.  I reckon my days are numbered — but I know not when they will run out.  But I find a strange sense of solace in this knowing; as long as I have amazing souls in my life like Rob (and Martyn, I reckon).

I pray that even though Rob and I live a half a world apart, our spiritual friendship will eventually bloom and grow.  And in this way, I also pray we can share together our love of things Scottish, and of the bagpipes, and of the music that speaks to us in way mere words cannot express.

A poet I’m not – so I’ll end this blog post in the words of James and Thoreau, “Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.” “The most I can do for my friend [Rob] is simply be his friend.”  I praise God for him and his friendship; and will pray that I can finally become the friend to him that he has always been to me.

In case you’re wondering what I was on about above, here’s some links for you to listen to:

MacCrimmon’s Lament (M Bennett)

Margaret Bennet’s Folk Story around MacCrimmon’s Lament