Edinburgh's Pied Piper
Alumnus Ross O’Connell Jennings is piping his way around the world, making friends and occasionally creating confusion along the way.
Aged 13, Ross had his first encounter with bagpipes at school, and signed up for lessons immediately. Just over a decade later he has piped in over 35 countries.
After studying the pipes devotedly at school, Ross turned to other interests - Footlights and the Savoy Opera Society - when he came to Edinburgh.
I wanted to try everything else out and I’m definitely glad I did because it seems to have made me a more well-rounded person, which I suppose is one of the benefits of studying in Edinburgh.
On the road
Ross took a year out before university, and so had not planned to travel after graduation. However having started his piping journey, he is now aiming to turn travelling into a career by increasing his social media following and blogging about the places he visits.
Connections made at Edinburgh have helped him along the way, as he has stayed with university friends in France, Switzerland and Tunisia. Travelling in a kilt and sporran has mean that he has attracted a certain amount of attention, too. Almost everywhere he has been, he has bumped into Scots.
When I was travelling from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea I stopped off at a petrol station and within minutes I had met a bunch of scots who were living in Jerusalem, and was asked to play at a wedding the following month.
A fish out of water
The familiar sight of bagpipes naturally attracts those who recognise them. But the strongest reactions tend to come from those bewildered by the sight and sound of them. In Tanzania this resulted in a group of local ladies laughing him out of their village. He was also chased out of the Vatican City by police when he tried to pipe in St Peter’s Square.
On other occasions Ross has been the surprised party - in Japan the bagpipes were widely recognised by members of the public, and one man even took him to his studio to show off his own home-made pipes, made from a gym ball and various tubes.
Through documenting his travels, he hopes to encourage others to follow in his footsteps and see more of the world.
It’s amazing how music brings people together and how easily the sight of a man in a “skirt” and the noise of bagpipes puts a smile on even the grumpiest of policemen.