If you hear the distinctive horn of a bagpipe in the next week, don’t worry, you haven’t stepped through some standing stones and been transported to Scotland. Although, I rather think I would be okay with that.
In the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, Ed Gallagher can be heard throughout Paso Robles playing traditional Irish tunes on his bagpipes for the second year in a row.
Starting Mar. 1, Gallagher began his bagpiping tour, visiting a different Paso Robles location or neighborhood on select days throughout the week, starting at about 5 p.m.
Gallagher learned to play the bagpipes about 19 years ago and has been playing them for several years around neighborhoods and at Paso Robles City Park during St. Patrick’s Day and even during Christmas.
“When I turned 52, I thought you know what, let’s give it a shot–it was probably one of the more difficult instruments I have had to deal with,” Gallagher said.
According to Gallager, who is already musically inclined and plays the guitar, there are more moving parts to be aware of when playing bagpipes.
Scottish Highland bagpipes have been played in Scotland since the 15th Century. More notably, bagpipes were used as a musical instrument of war to inspire Highlanders going into battle.
Throughout Scotland, bagpipes were played during special occasions and later began to replace the harp as the clans’ music of choice.
Gallagher is considered an intermediate piper, and as impressive as we all think his piping sounds, he says he can still hear every mistake he makes.
Growing up, Gallagher was a “Navy brat” and moved around a lot. When his family lived in Upland, California, that was when Gallagher was first introduced to bagpipes.
Upland High School is “Home of the Highlanders” and had their bagpiping band, which at the time Gallagher remembers was all women pipers.
Around that same time, Gallagher remembers playing football with some neighborhood friends, and a piper would always tour the neighborhood playing his bagpipes. Gallagher and his friends would follow the piper, watching and listening to him as he played.
And ever since then, the idea to learn how to play the bagpipes stuck with Gallagher. It took a few years, classes, and a bagpiping camp in Flagstaff, Arizona but Gallagher finally learned to play the bagpipes.
For 31 years, Gallagher worked as a Paso Robles City Planner. In 2014, Gallagher retired, and Warren Frace filled in his position as Community Development Director for the City of Paso Robles.
Prior to working for Paso Robles City, Gallagher spent four years in the U.S. Navy.
Some of the tunes Gallagher plays are Danny Boy, The Rakes of Mallow, Mo Ghile Mohr (My Great Hero), Four Green Fields, Slane (Be Thou My Vision), and Shipping Up to Boston.
“Only one time in my history have I ever gotten, please don’t do this,” said Gallagher.
Last year, Gallagher had a trip to Scotland planned, which was obviously postponed. This year though, Gallagher hopes to go to Scotland and plans to bring his bagpipes with him to play a few tunes in the country for which the bagpipes are the national instruments.
Gallagher has made three trips to Ireland in the past, where he was able to play his smaller set of bagpipes.
“The best place in my memory was on top of Cadillac Mountain in Bar Harbor main. We were there on Columbus Day in 2011. The big thing to do on Cadillac Mountain is to go up and catch the sunrise. It’s the first place the light hits the United States that time of year,” Gallagher said.
As Gallagher walks through the neighborhood piping, doors start to open, people come out to take photographs and ask their neighbors, ‘What on Earth is this?!’ all with smiles on their faces.
Even during the pandemic, some people join Gallagher on his walk, following along just like he did as a kid when he followed that first piper who inspired him to keep the tradition alive, of course, all at a safe distance.
Below are the remaining dates and locations to see Gallagher play the bagpipes:
- Fri. Mar. 12 at 5 p.m.
- Turtle Creek Park on Brookhill Drive
- Sat. Mar. 13 at Noon
- Paso Robles City Park
- Sun. Mar. 14 at 3:00 p.m.
- Mandella Park on Fairview Lane
- Wed. Mar. 17 at 5:00 p.m.
- Rosemary Drive, Katherine Drive, and Ginger Lane