A blowhard of the best kind: bagpipe-playing preacher touches hearts with soul-stirring music
When Church of Christ preacher Ed Smith isn't in the pulpit, he's often in demand to don his kilts and play his bagpipe, as he did at a Memorial Day program at the Henry County Courthouse in Paris. Photo: Ethan Schmidt
By Ethan Schmidt
MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
If you were anywhere near the Henry County Courthouse on Memorial Day morning, you heard the solemn sound of bagpipes saturating the square.
Once again, making his contribution to the county’s annual Memorial Day ceremony was Kentucky Lake Road Church of Christ preacher Ed Smith, 62. He was the one playing bagpipes for a crowd of about 120 that gathered on the north side of the Henry County courthouse to honor fallen U.S. soldiers.
“I grew up doing Memorial Day parades and Fourth of July parades, and when I moved to Paris, we didn’t have any parades, so I come and do this,” said Smith, who grew up in the Philadelphia area. It was there that he began playing the bagpipes at the age of 12.
Ed Smith plays during the annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Henry County Courthouse. He considers playing at such events to be an honor. Photo: Ethan Schmidt
“It is a physical instrument. It’s difficult but, not like impossible,” said Smith, who has been playing at events in Paris and surrounding towns since he moved here 12 years ago.
He wears the uniform of an experienced bagpiper. A navy blue-and-green tartan Scottish kilt drapes down to his knees, while a thick black belt bearing the emblem of his Scottish clan holds the kilt up. White spats cover his military boots, concealing a black knife in his red socks, while a red-jeweled brooch sparkles on his left shoulder.
The seasoned musician plays on a vintage set of nearly 200-year-old pipes.
“These are a historic set. When I lived in Scotland, my teacher came across these at an auction. He knew what they were and invited me to buy them. Thought I was worthy of them,” he said.
Ed Smith’s uniform as a bagpiper features polished military-style shoes covered by gleaming white spats. Photo: Ethan Schmidt
Smith has made good use of these antique pipes. Today, he can’t keep track of how many funerals, memorials and other events he performs for every year.
“Sometimes, I play with a band down in Nashville. Usually, I’m playing funerals for the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery.”
But he enjoys performing on Memorial Day in Paris.
“I’ve played for so many years and so many different places. It helps me to give back something to people who’ve given so much to me.”
Ethan Schmidt was one of 12 journalism students from Middle Tennessee State University who recently spent two weeks in the county writing stories for the Paris Post-Intelligencer.