A man stands at attention facing the cenotaph in Victoria Park. He wears a tartan kilt and tie and horse hair sporran. Ribbons of matching tartan flow from his bagpipe’s drones, gently ruffled by the morning breeze.
After a pause, he raises the pipe to his mouth, inflates the bag, and begins to play.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
The music fills the park, silences the birds, and flows like water down side streets, pulling morning walkers towards the cenotaph. In they come - a mother with two children and a dog, a dad with his sons, a man on a bike and another on a motorized scooter.
On this calm, quiet Virden morning, they followed the sound of bagpipes like children to the pied piper.
After an impromptu concert of bagpipe classics like Amazing Grace and Over the Sea to Skye, the piper lowers his instrument and visits with his audience. Curious kids ask questions, admire his sporran, and pose for pictures.
Then the piper must leave.
Dan Jardine is from Brookdale, just outside Brandon. He’s here because he has a gig in Virden - not performing but preaching.
Jardine is a lay worship leader in the United Church and in summer, he travels to rural parishes that need him.
Every Sunday before church, he dresses in the Jardine tartan and takes his pipes to the central park in whatever town he happens to be. There he plays until it’s time for church.
Jardine has piped and preached all across western Manitoba from Virden, Reston and Pipestone over to Holland and up to Plumas, Glenella and Langruth, westward to Birtle and Miniota.
Pipes and drums
It all began in the late ‘80s when Jardine was raising his kids in Brookdale. A Shriner from Brandon invited him to join their pipe and drum corps.
“I had always loved the bagpipes so I said, ‘Sign me up! There’s just one catch: I’ve never played before. I’m not even musical!’”
The undaunted recruiter, a Scotsman and career piper, taught Jardine the bagpipes. The two played together with the Brandon pipes and drums band until it folded.
These days, Jardine belongs to the Winnipeg Shriners but, “I only get to play with them once a year because of the distance. So the vast majority of my piping is solo.
“I do this (playing in parks) for my own satisfaction and to honour the fallen soldiers.”
Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.
As a history buff, he’s read about the horrors of the First and Second World Wars and been touched by them, particularly the tender age of the men whose names are inscribed on each small town’s memorials like the cenotaph in Virden.
“A lot of these fellows were in their late teens, early 20s, young guys. I’m very respectful of the sacrifice they made.”
What is he thinking about during those still moments standing at attention before the cenotaph?
“I’m awe inspired at that time. I feel honoured to be present here, honouring the fallen. I find it very, very moving.”
Dan Jardine has two more Sundays in Virden. You can usually find him in the park with his pipes by 10 a.m.