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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - August/September 2003
The Piper

September 30, 2003

Dear Editor,

The unidentified piper pictured on page 21 of Section A The Family Tree August/September 2003 - Volume XIII Number 4, is my husband!  What a surprise to see him in The Family Tree!

He is Edwin S. Robinson, Pipe Major of the Southwest Virginia Highland Pipes and Drums, and we live at 6676 Blacksburg Road, Catawba, Virginia 24070-2512.

I have attached an article which describes an experience Ed had last summer while piping at the committal of a firefighter.  It was a very moving experience and  it illustrated the connection that exists between Scots and Native Americans.

I request that you consider my article for publication.  I will be happy to supply another photo of Ed if needed.

Thank you very much.


Valarie K. Robinson
6676 Blacksburg Road
Catawba, VA 24070-2512
(540) 384-7241

And here is the article...

( by Valarie K. Robinson)

My bagpiper husband had an ethereal experience last week.

He was hired to play at the committal of a fallen firefighter from a small Virginia town where this beloved, vibrant man had succumbed to an attack of flesh-eating bacteria, a devastating blow which was very quickly fatal. He was 57 years old.

Dozens of fire engines and other vehicles had gathered for the funeral by the time my husband Ed arrived . The chapel overflowed with firefighters and grieving community members.

The service was poignant. It began as expected but lengthened as the preacher expressed the communal grief which this death had evoked. Some mourners offered remarks.

As the ceremony went on, Ed decided to ask the funeral director for directions to the cemetery where he was to play and was invited to follow the flower car. It was apparent that it would take a long while for all of the firefighters and other mourners to reach the site, there was such a crowd.

The deceased was to be carried in an antique fire engine in use as a hearse, a very moving touch.

So Ed left, following the flower car up hill and down , along country lanes surrounded by pastures, in the shadow of mountains, on and on. He said he thought he'd never been in such a remote part of Virginia and knew that the fire trucks would take a long time to wend their way. He meandered along in the midst of lush green countryside and soft mountains which comfort a passerby by their presence.

It was an exquisite day with a gentle breeze , not too hot, not too cold.

Eventually the country cemetery appeared on a ridge all by itself, very small and surrounded by a fence.

Upon settling himself down by the small cemetery Ed decided to warm up his bagpipe and await the funeral procession.

He played several tunes in the peaceful solitude.

Soon two mortuary workers who'd been unobtrusively off to the side approached and said that bagpipe music sounds like Native American flute music.

Ed asked, "Are you Native Americans?

"Yes, I am Cherokee, from this area".

And, "I am Lakota, from South Dakota."

Conversation followed. The listeners commented that ancient Scots and Native Americans had much in common including the fact that  they both painted their faces before they went into battle.

The Cherokee mentioned that he had heard a piper at a funeral in a nearby town, in fact the one where Ed's university is located.

He went on to say that an eagle had appeared and circled overhead as that piper played, and this was very significant, very important.

Ed agreed, knowing that the eagle is a powerful creature in Native American beliefs who is in direct contact with the Great Spirit as he soars overhead. The presence of an eagle was impressive, rare and moreover, astonishing that he should respond to pipe music.

Their conversation was interrupted at this point by the arrival of the antique fire engine at the head of the long funeral procession. The burial rites were about to begin. It was time for Ed to play.

As the pallbearers shouldered the casket Ed struck up "My Home is in the Cold, Cold Ground" and led them from the fire engine to the graveside where the mourners waited for the final service to begin. The casket was placed at the graveside and Ed stepped off to the side, silent.

It was time for the preacher's final blessings and prayers.

Finally, to mark the last stage of this sad journey, Ed played "Amazing Grace" several times, walking slowly from the canopied area to a place apart from the mourners. He played while the family and friends exchanged remarks and then prepared to leave their loved one in the country cemetery.

The Cherokee and Lakota approached Ed once again, after the bagpipe music ended.

The Cherokee asked Ed,

"Did you see the eagle that was circling overhead as you played just now?"


"He came to bring you honor."


Ed knew then that as he was honoring the fallen firefighter he was being honored himself.

An eagle had appeared in response to his music.

And later that evening his eyes glistened as he recounted his experience to me, and my eyes glistened in response.

Return to December/January 2004 Index Page


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