Last Black Watch Piper to Play at President Kennedy’s Funeral Dies

The Dundee’s ‘Courier’ newspaper has reported the passing of Bruce Cowie the last Black Watch Piper to play at the 1963 funeral procession of former US President John F Kennedy.

Piper Bruce (78) was aged 24 when he took part in the march through Washington from the White house to St Matthew’s Cathedral in 1963 (see pic above). PP readers can re-visit our extensive feature on these few tragic days here.

The paper reports: ‘Bruce Cowie [left] from Kirriemuir was one of nine members of the Black Watch pipes and drums invited to play in the cortege at the 1963 funeral of JFK, at the special request of the President’s wife, Jackie.

‘The proud grandfather and great-grandfather, who continued to play the pipes until recent years, died just hours short of his 78th birthday, and almost four years on from taking to the stage in a 50th anniversary commemoration of the poignant day which claimed the popular President.

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‘Born in Dundee, Mr Cowie served nine years with the Black Watch, learning to play the bagpipes after joining the regiment. As the world was left reeling by the killing of the President, the letter came through from Jackie Kennedy requesting that the band and their pipe major play at the funeral.

Pipers of the Black Watch at Arlington State Cemetery

‘The 51st Highland Division and the Old Rustic Bridge were among the tunes they performed, and as the President’s coffin was taken up the steps of the White House the bagpipers peeled off from the procession, playing the Green Hills of Tyrol and After Battle [sic].

‘“It was a hard thing to explain how I felt at the time, and it was only afterwards that there was a realisation that you were part of history,” Mr Cowie said in 2013. His widow, Anne, said: “He always maintained that he wasn’t one of the best pipers in the band, but he was a smart piper and for the President’s funeral they wanted the smartest pipers.”‘

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