Friday August 29, 2014




Learning a faith lesson from a long-dead piper

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I stopped at the piper today. Though I’ve noticed the bronze statue outside Chilliwack’s stately City Hall on previous visits to the city, I’ve never made time to pause. This morning’s sunny walk seemed the perfect opportunity.

The WW1 soldier stands tall on a concrete pedestal, frozen in mid-stride. Pipes to lips, he plays a silent tune, his face serene but determined. I wished I could hear his song, especially after reading his story, engraved in brass on the plaque under his feet.

“Piper James Cleland Richardson, V.C. 16th Battalion C.E.F. Victoria Cross Citation

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when prior to attack, he obtained permission from his Commanding office to play his company “over the top.”

“As the company approached the objective, it was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire, which caused heavy casualties and demoralized the formation for the moment. Realising the situation, Piper Richardson strode up and down outside the wire, playing his pipes with the greatest coolness. The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire with such fury and determination that the obstacle was overcome and the position captured.

Later, after participating in bombing operations, he was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and prisoners. After proceeding about 200 yards, Piper Richardson remembered that he had left his pipes behind. Although strongly urged not to do so, he insisted on returning to recover his pipes. He has never been seen since, and death has been presumed accordingly, owing to lapse of time.

“London Gazette Supplement, 22nd October, 1918

“James Richardson was the son of David and Mary Richardson of Chilliwack.”

As I stood readiing, morning commuters rushed past City Hall, pushing toward a timely arrival at work or appointments. I had an appointment too, but I didn’t move. The young  piper’s memory deserves far more, but standing in silence for a brief moment seemed the least I could do.

Like the biblical story of David and Goliath, young James wielded an unlikely weapon against the enemy. No landmine, no machine gun, no grenade; just a few pounds of wood and cloth brought to life by his own courage and breath. Enough courage to loan to his comrades the strength needed to gain a vital victory over their enemies, for that day at least.

His boldness astounds me; as does the fact that the young piper eventually lost his life while going back to fetch his forgotten instrument. He knew its value: for his battalion, his intimate connection with those pipes meant the difference between victory and defeat; lives lost and lives gained. He dare not leave them behind.

The Bible is to Christians what those bagpipes were to the piper: when under attack, a weapon sharper than any manmade one and exactly what’s needed to play those around us, “over the top.”

How well do you know God’s Word, or have you left it behind entirely?


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