When James McGowan – better known as Piperjames or Pipey – was asked to pipe Angus Buchan onto the stage at the Mighty Men Conference (MMC WC) in March 2011, a new tradition was forged.
And from that moment the accomplished, veteran piper enthusiastically took on the calling of “War Piper for Mighty Men”, piping “Uncle Angus” onto the stage at various MMC events – most recently at the Karoo Mighty Men Conference (KMMC) in April, 2015.
But Pipey who is heading up the committee which is hosting the 2015 MMC WC in September says a new chapter in Mighty Men is about to dawn as he intends officially handing over the mantle of War Piper for Mighty Men to David Fick, 17, a “young Blood warrior” who will be inducted at the KMMC in 2016.
“I first met David two years ago at Mighty Men Karoo. He came to me to say hello and tell me that he too was a piper and that he had his bagpipes with him and could he please come and play them for me.”
Pipey was impressed by the young man’s eagerness to play and could see that he was being well schooled in the rudimentaries of piping at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, and that he “had a good handle on the instrument”.
At KMMC 2015 David played for Pipey again outside the Mighty Men Tartan Tent and Pipey was struck by how much his playing had advanced and by his “impeccable manners”.
Pipey says that there and then – even before he later heard how “Uncle Angus” had prophesied over David many years before – the Lord laid it on his heart to bring him into a special place as the new, up-and-coming War Piper for Mighty Men.
Sharing his own testimony, David says that some months after he was born in Zimbabwe in 1998 his parents met Angus Buchan after a church service in Gweru. Buchan emphatically told his father that the infant David was a blessing from the Lord. The family left Zimbabwe in 2002 because of farm takeovers. In 2009 his younger brother, Tim, died in a fatal motor accident in which the rest of the family were badly injured. David was in a coma for five days after the accident. The family was also given a month to vacate the Eastern Cape farm where they were staying because of a land claim ruling.
“The accident changed my life. Suddenly, I was an outcast with my friends because I had to go for remedial lessons. I struggled at school. I was very lonely without my brother. He was my best friend. In all this time, we were part of the Baptist Church and everyone was very good to us, but I felt lost. I was unable to play contact sport, which I had always been good at, which further isolated me from my peers,” says David.
David, then in Grade 7, began piping lessons, practicing hard to catch up with other boys who had started 6 months ahead of him. The piping development pleased his mother, Jessica, who after watching the St Andrew’s College Pipe band perform a Retreat Parade when David was 5-years-old, had dreamed that one day her sons would play in the pipe band.
Opportunities to bless others
“Piping gave me something I could do that I was good at. It gave me opportunities to bless others and I played at every opportunity,” says David who joined the pipe band in his Grade 8 year.
“I received Most Improved Player for two years running and a Merit the year after. Last year, we traveled to the World Championships in Edinburgh, where we came 3rd overall in one of the competitions, which is outstanding for a school band. We also played in the Commonwealth Games parade while we were there,” he says.
“I have always believed that God would use my piping to glorify Him. I played for the frail care home in Port Alfred and saw the tears running down people’s faces. One lady, who hadn’t said a word to anyone for years, stood and wept as I played Amazing Grace.
I played to my mom in the private hospital’s high care unit on New Year’s Day in 2013 after she had a neck operation. The music struck a chord in so many peoples’ hearts and I was asked to play in other wards.
“I was baptised in the sea on a freezing cold day in April 2013 in the Wild Coast by my Uncle and my Dad, who were both with us at the 2015 KMMC, and The Lord has worked in me and through me in various ways, and He has used the talent that He gave me to play the bagpipes for the extension of His Kingdom, and I thank Him for that. I absolutely love the bagpipes; they have become part of me over the past few years, and by the grace of God I have been able to do as well as I have, and He has opened doors that I didn’t even know were there to be opened, and I have made a habit of giving the praise that I get from others who benefit from my playing to the Lord, because He gave me the talent, and I am eternally grateful.”
On his new MMC role he says:”I am extremely privileged to be able to take over as War Piper for MMC, and I look forward to it, and what the Lord has in store for me in the future. I have not yet fully realised the full meaning of what The Lord has placed before me, but I will Praise Him, because of what He did for us on Calvary. Hallelujah!”
Piperjames says he will bless David with enough Mighty Men Tartan to make a new kilt for his new role and will also prepare him for what lies ahead.
Preparation for new role
“I feel it only right that David be educated as much as possible and to the importance of what a piper stands for, especially in the ‘spiritual’ sense and I will see to it that he knows as much as he possibly can before his inauguration in April 2016.
“It has been an absolute honour for me to pipe for the troops in this amazing army, but 37 years, yes 37 years of ‘non stop’ piping will gradually come to a rest. I will pipe only as the Spirit leads me after MMC WC and no more,” says Pipey whose illustrious piping career began in the United Kingdom where he got to play at Queen Elizabeth’s dinner table, the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles and the Edinburgh Military Tatoo (as the lone piper).
“I have piped the length and breadth of this nation not only with and for Mighty Men, but also as a member of the South African Defence Forces (when I first arrived here in South Africa) as I can be seen in the Uniform of South Africa at the State Opening of Parliament some years ago with old comrades (See photo above: Pipey is at the right, front). That in itself was a huge honour for me, for the people of South Africa took me into their hearts and my salvation to my Saviour Jesus Christ was found here in this beautiful land too. My pipes carry the name of my five daughters, each name inscribed on the pipes. They too, my children and Ina, my beautiful wife, for she is also embedded in my music, have blessed hundreds of thousands along the roads to glory too.
“Now a new dawn has arrived for me to carry the Gospel in a different way; re-born with a new vessel, something that I am slowly working towards (all in God’s good and right time) and which I am sure you will hear all about, as we all continue to march to the glory of God, being dedicated ‘Kingdom Workers’ for Him and for Him alone.”