Originally created 11/28/98

Firefighter treats area to bagpipes



At the corner of Fury's Ferry and Evans to Locks roads, the sound of bagpipes is the last thing you would expect to hear.

But on occasion, residents and passers-by hear an impromptu concert.

"I've only been playing up to two years," David Butler said.

The Martinez firefighter plays his bagpipes outside the fire department's station on Fury's Ferry Road. He's grown used to honks, stares and even applause.

And, when he first started, he heard his share of cat jokes from fellow firefighters.

"It took a lot of practice," Mr. Butler, 29, said. "It's like any other instrument."

Mr. Butler -- who has Scottish ancestry -- said playing the wind instrument came naturally.

He uses the opportunity to practice his bagpipes when on duty, taking the instrument outside to give him a chance to play in front of people.

He usually only plays between 15 and 30 minutes, performing Scottish marching tunes and other bagpipe favorites, like Amazing Grace.

From time to time, he hears applause from the Smile gas station across the roadway.

Sometimes on Sundays, members of the church directly across from the fire station come outside to listen.

Residents in the area have become so accustomed to Mr. Butler's music that when the engine company responds to fires, they often are asked about the firefighter who plays bagpipes.

Even on a recent cloudy afternoon while Mr. Butler played, the driver of a lawn care truck stopped along the side of the road to listen for a few minutes before driving on.

Pam Duncan, co-manager of the Smile gas station at Evans to Locks Road, said customers often ask about the bagpipes and where the music is coming from.

As someone with Scottish heritage, Ms. Duncan said she enjoys hearing Mr. Butler play his bagpipes.

"It relieves my stress," she said. "It mellows me out."

Mr. Butler said he started playing the bagpipes for several reasons.

He became active in the Scottish Society of Augusta and decided to try his hand at the bagpipes when other members wanted to start a band. So the group started the Augusta Highlands Pipe Band.

"Another reason I felt strongly about wanting to do this, I just thought it was very traditional," said Mr. Butler, who has been a firefighter for eight years. "In big, old fire departments, they have bagpipe bands."

And besides, he likes the sound.

However, he said, bagpipes are meant to be heard from a distance.

"It's only got one volume setting," Mr. Butler said. "It's either on or off."

Peggy Ussery is a reporter in The Augusta Chronicle's Columbia County Bureau. She can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 112, ccchron@augustachronicle.com.