Bagpiper's pipes stolen less than a week before Highland Games

Bagpiper's pipes stolen less than a week before Highland Games
Bagpiper's pipes stolen less than a week before Highland Games

Bagpiper Jeff McCarthy during the Inauguration of the Place de Vimy at Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Park in April 2017. McCarthy's bagpipes were stolen from his car on Monday afternoon. Peter McCabe / MONTREAL GAZETTE

A well-known Montreal bagpiper’s beloved — and expensive — instrument was stolen on Monday afternoon, less than a week before the annual Montreal Highland Games.

Jeff McCarthy was enjoying a leisurely afternoon at Oka National Park when he realized upon returning to his car that it had been broken into.

“I made a beeline to the trunk, and the set of bagpipes I love so much were gone,” he said.

The bagpipes, which McCarthy said are worth close to $4,000, were missing, along with two pipe chanters, a tuner and various tools for bagpipe repair.

“I was completely flabbergasted and really angry and panicking,” he said.

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Bagpipes have been a big part of McCarthy’s life since he began playing them in 1989. He said the stolen bagpipes “absolutely” have sentimental value to him. He’s played them at weddings, funerals and parades, as well as military and veterans events as part of The Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment of Canada.

“It’s a set of pipes that has put a lot of time in, and has seen a lot of action, and has made a lot of people happy,” McCarthy said. He thought it would be the last set of bagpipes he would ever buy, he added.

“I really believe the person who stole them didn’t know what they were stealing.”

McCarthy said he reported the incident to the Sûreté du Québec, who told him they would not pursue the case unless the bagpipes were found in a pawn shop or online.

If the pipes are put up for sale, a strong network of people around the world will be watching, according to the president of the Montreal Highland Games, Brian MacKenzie.

“The bagpiping world is very close in many areas,” MacKenzie said. “Whether here in Montreal, in Scotland or many other regions of the world. People are finding out all about these bagpipes through the network.”

He added that the games won’t be affected by the stolen bagpipes.

Upon finding out they were stolen, McCarthy made a Facebook post alerting his community about what had happened.

Eleven hours after McCarthy published the post, it had been shared almost 1,500 times, with 159 reactions and 119 comments. People in Ottawa, the Eastern Townships and even Scotland expressed their support and willingness to keep an eye out for McCarthy’s pipes.

This year, McCarthy will be playing at the Highland Games with his backup set of bagpipes, which he thinks are not as good as the stolen set.

He said he is still looking forward to this weekend’s games, though. This year is the event’s 40th anniversary, and the games will take place on the Douglas Mental Health Institute grounds in Verdun.

“It’s an awesome get-together of all the different people in the Scottish community,” McCarthy said. “It’s a Montreal vibe … It’s food, it’s fun, it’s music, it’s sunshine, it’s fresh air.”

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