U.S. Border Patrol Seizes Priceless Bagpipes

Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 12:00 PM

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review its rules about ivory imports after two New Hampshire teenagers' bagpipes were seized at the Canadian border, a spokesman said Friday.

The spokesman, Neil Mendelsohn, said customs agents at the Highgate Springs, Vermont, border crossing were following established laws designed to prevent the import and export of illegally harvested ivory when they seized pipes belonging to Campbell Webster and Eryk Bean, a pair of 17-year-olds who compete on an international level. Ivory harvested since 1976 is banned in the U.S.

"Our headquarters is examining this and looking at the policy and the regulations understanding that musicians do have a unique situation," Mendelsohn said. "And we try to be reasonable, but for right now the rules are the rules. Any instrument these days could be made from elephant parts that might not be an antique."

The discord started Sunday when Campbell and Eryk were driving back from Canada after a competition that served as a tuneup for next weekend's World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. Campbell's pipes date to 1936 and were played by his father, Gordon Webster, who was the 9th Sovereign Piper to Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Because Highgate Springs is a "nondesignated" crossing, they needed extra permits and inspection fees totaling $576 to carry the pipes, with their ivory projecting mounts, across the border. They didn't have the paperwork and the pipes were confiscated for a day. The boys eventually got their pipes back and are in Glasgow, where their adventure has been the talk of the competition, Campbell's mother, Lezlie, said Friday.

"It's about time they think about (amending the rules)," she said. "We are not exporters. We are not importers. We are just carrying it on our person and playing music.

Mendelsohn said the added fees at nondesignated crossings are needed to recoup the expense of inspections at the border. He maintains that the musicians knew the rules beforehand, though Lezlie Webster disputes that.

There are no "designated" land crossings in the Northeast; the nearest designated crossing is Boston's Logan Airport, meaning to avoid the extra fees and paperwork, they'd have to fly to Canada.


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Comments [2]

Q: Why do bagpipers march while they are playing?
A: To get away from the sound.

Q: If you were lost in the desert and got directions from an in-tune bagpiper, an out-of-tune bagpiper or Sasquatch, whose directions should you trust?
A: Trust the directions of the out-of-tune bagpiper. The others would be hallucinations.

I do agree with Ms. Campbell's comment provided in the story. There should be some leeway for the border officials to waive the fees in some circumstances.

Aug. 11 2014 09:53 AM
Gina Liberti from Tuxedo Park, NY

These pipes were made before the ban and while it is unconscionable to kill an animal to make an instrument, this instrument which has already been made (almost 80 years ago long before the ban took effect) should be grandfathered in. Let the kid keep his inheritance!

Aug. 11 2014 09:02 AM

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