Thursday, September 11, 2014

Around Aberdeen: The Legend of Shite Piper

Earlier this year, I talked about Shite Piper. During my time in Aberdeen, Shite Piper was a popular topic of conversation, because he was ubiquitous, and he was bloody awful. I already posted some of the comments that some of my friends and I came up with. Here's what the Internet has had to say about him over the years (mainly here and here):
"Scottish piper my erse! Useless American eejit"

* * *

"There's a tartan-clad guy that stands on Union Street in Aberdeen from around 12-6 PM almost every day, and can't play the pipes to save himself. It sounds absolutely horrendous (he can't hit the high notes) and my heart genuinely goes down to anybody who works in any of the shops or offices within three hundred meters of him. I want to throttle him just waiting at the traffic lights for thirty secs, never mind the whole day.

I'm guessing that councils can't tell buskers to GTF if they can't actually play the thing correctly?"

* * *

"WHAT??? Is this the guy that stands on the corner of Union Terrace? He's absolutely terrible."

* * *

"X Factor and that piper should be barred for crimes against music."

* * *

"Hang on, this Will Daniel guy is deemed talented? I always thought he was really awful, but it's hard to tell with bagpipes."

* * *

"That bagpipe guy is awful!"

* * *

"Get rid of that piper that stands on the corner of Union Terrace. If he really played that often, the term "practise makes perfect" is utter bollocks - like him."
There are a couple of clips of Shite Piper on YouTube: here and here. In all honesty, though, you don't really get the impression of just how bad he was. I can't remember a single occasion in which he was playing on key. My favorite, though, is this one (turn your volume up):

By way of a friend, I learned his name: Will Daniel. Here's his Facebook page. He once put up an advertisement on Gumtree, which is sort of like Scotland's version of Craigslist, except without the personals section. His Gumtree listing is mostly lost to history, but Google's preview retains a snippet, which reads: "My name is Will Daniel, and I am a piper in Aberdeen. I have played for weddings, parties, and some... " William Daniel ("Will" to those who knew him) was actually from Georgia, and arrived in Aberdeen as early as October 2011, according to one of those videos. He'd recently appeared in a couple of photos posted to Flickr (here and here). He was interviewed in early 2013 - while I was in Aberdeen - about an Aberdeen City Council plan to introduce auditions for local buskers. According to the STV article:
Mr Daniel, who moved to Aberdeen from Georgia in the USA took to piping on the busy high street after finding it difficult to get a job.

He said: "I'm out here five hours each day and I'm still looking for work."
So what that tells me is that, despite his inability to play the pipes, he stayed in Aberdeen for at least three years, playing the pipes on the corner of Union Street and Union Terrace.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have the unfortunate duty of bearing sad tidings: Shite Piper can no longer be counted among the living.

A few days ago, I received a call from GBU-16 asking if I had heard anything about Shite Piper lately. She said that she had walked past his regular spot - right here, next to the statue of Edward VII - and seen a wreath with the name "Will" on it. She told me that she'd seen him recently, leaving his spot for the night, and he was apparently stopping for breath after about every ten steps. Another friend tagged me into a conversation about him, which featured the following exchange:
"Oh no! The spot was looking rather gloomy and quiet these few days i walked past it. May he rest in peace."

"What happened? Is he deid?"

"Unfortunately so."

"How? That's very much a shame."

"Don't know. Just heard through a friend, and now people are starting to put flowers by the statue."

"Not meaning to disrespect the poor chap, but 'how'?! Seriously?"

"He was looking less healthy with each data that passed. Sometimes he looked blue."
I don't know much about him, as I only spoke to him once - he approached me one afternoon, fairly soon after I'd arrived in Aberdeen (maybe January or February of 2013?). He'd seen my American flag patch on one of my every day carry bags, and asked where I was from. I was stunned to learn that he was an American from Georgia and had served in the U.S. Navy. According to that STV article, he was thirty-nine years old in January of 2013, which means that he'd be either forty or forty-one by now.

Unfortunately, I can't be gracious about Will Daniel's performances, as his piping was awful and, apparently, didn't improve at all despite his playing for five hours daily for at least three years straight. I also find it peculiar that he would have stayed in Scotland for so long, despite his inability to find another job. That alone is peculiar, because Aberdeen is one of Scotland's most prosperous cities. Regardless, he was friendly to me the one time that we spoke, and he appears to have left behind some Aberdonians who thought well of him as a person. What's more, he deserves some credit for doing something that many folks never do: chasing that dream of playing the pipes in Scotland.

Fair winds and following seas, Will. You may have been a shite piper, but here's hoping you've gone on to an eternal reward.

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