The story behind this bagpiper's tune

Bill Gilchrist with his bagpipes
Bill Gilchrist got his bagpipes two days before he married his wife Debbie in 1963. "It was a pretty good week for me," he said, after playing a tribute he wrote for fallen law enforcement at the cemetery where corrections officer Joseph Gomm was buried Thursday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

The rites of a formal funeral for a fallen law enforcement officer are solemn and time honored.

Thursday's funeral and burial for Joseph Gomm followed that tradition. He's the first Minnesota corrections officer to be killed on the job.

The tradition always includes bagpipes, typically the English hymn "Amazing Grace" and the melody "Scotland the Brave."

And one Minnesota piper has made the tradition his own.

Bill Gilchrist, a retired traveling salesman from Edina and a bagpiper for well over 50 years, played a song he wrote at the cemetery in Roseville.

He's among the kilted ranks of the Minnesota Police Pipe Band. Gilchrist plays for some of the state's most somber occasions, and he said that's given him some time to think. When he played at the funeral for St. Paul police Sgt. Jerry Vick in 2005, Gilchrist thought a tune should be played as the casket is lowered.

He calls it "The Thin Blue Line." And the song he wrote in 2006 was played by the Minnesota Pipe Band in Washington, D.C., at the police memorial there.

His song isn't an official Minnesota Pipe Band funeral tune. But Gilchrist stepped to the edge of the Roselawn cemetery Thursday for his own tribute to a fallen officer, piping in the rain as the funeral procession crept toward the cemetery gates on Larpenteur Avenue.

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