The New Yorker magazine has published an article under the heading ‘William Barr’s Secret Passion: The Bagpipes’ with a sub heading ‘Dept. of Hot Air’. The magazine states mischeviously: ‘The Attorney General’s role in the City of Washington Pipe Band, which included Secret Service and FBI agents, may be the best evidence we have of a ‘deep state’.
It reads……’This magazine has located five individuals who attest that Barr, who has come under fire for his summary of the Mueller report, plays the bagpipes. ……Throughout the ’80s, Barr performed in the City of Washington Pipe Band—one of the top bagpipe ensembles in the world—giving new meaning to the cool-dad line ‘I used to be in a band’.
Mike Green, the band’s then pipe major, is reported as saying that Mr Barr was ‘a serious piper who started playing as a youngster in New York’. ‘I’ve seen pictures of him, ten years old, wearing a Balmoral bonnet, a kilt, a doublet, big bagpipes on his shoulder’.
Mr Barr moved to Washington in 1973, to work for the CIA and attend law school. After graduating, he joined a private law practice, then the pipe band. He was a top level player who could handle classics such as The Sheepwife and Highland Wedding and contemporary jigs and hornpipes.
The magazine goes on: ‘Playing the bagpipes is notoriously difficult. People who start out on bagpipes are like baby turtles going out into the ocean Most of them don’t make it.’
Charlie Glendinning, another member of the band, said that when they travelled over for the Worlds it cost them £20,000 and they could only come every four years.
In the City of Washington Pipe Band, says the magazine, there were members of the intelligence community and the labour unions, a Secret Service agent, and a congressional general counsel.
The magazine goes on: ‘Jon Quigg, one of the band’s drummers, remembered prepping for a performance in Barr’s office—the same space that RFK [Robert Kennedy] had occupied thirty years earlier’. He added, ‘Heady experience’.
Mr Barr stopped playing in the late 80s but would come to watch City of Washington practices with his security staff in train.
In 1991, when Mr Barr was appointed Attorney General for the first time by George HW Bush, he invited the band to play at his swearing-in. President Bush made some wisecracks in his speech saying of his bagpiping Attorney General: ‘I’m wondering if he understands that the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.’
City of Washington members still meet up for a few tunes and Attorney General Barr still likes to host piping ceilidhs with ‘pipes, fiddles, and whiskey’, the most recent one last October when he personally paid for Celtic musicians to attend.
- Read the full article by New Yorker writer Tyler Foggatt here.