Air pipes

Ali and his pipes break the silence of PTSD

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The cry of seagulls, the buzz of Tarbert’s seafood being landed and the clank of the rigging of yachts at the marina were joined by a new sound – Skirlness.

Ali Duff – perhaps better known as The Hairy Piper – takes on a daily challenge for a cause close to his heart.

To raise money for the armed forces charity Poppyscotland, Ali will play his bagpipes, streamed on his Facebook page, during the 30 Days of April – a mission he has dubbed “Skirlness”.

In addition to raising money for the charity, the goal is to make a lot of noise to raise awareness and break the silence around post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health among armed forces veterans.

Ali spoke honestly and with feeling about his reasons for taking up the challenge.

“I am a veteran with PTSD from the conflict in Kosovo,” he explained, “where I served as a gunner in the 32nd Royal Artillery Regiment.

“A few years ago I became suicidal and my wonderful partner Siobhan and I lost our bed and breakfast business due to my mental health and inability to work to help with running costs.

“We become homeless on Christmas Eve 2017.

“With the help and support of Poppyscotland, the Association of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families and other veteran charities, we found a house in Tarbert and received the keys on February 14 2018.”

Ali continued, “Upon moving, I started playing the bagpipes again after 25 years away and found that my mind was improving through the power of music, so I wanted to share that experience. “

“With Siobhan’s encouragement, we set up The Hairy Piper Facebook page and played every day during lockdown for the first month, then I started fundraising for Poppyscotland.

“I’ve raised over £3,000 so far with individual appeals through our Just Giving page and our giving help.

“Now I want to reach £3,000 on my Just Giving page by Armistice Day, November 11, and I will continue to work towards that goal for as long as possible.”

And that’s where Skirlness comes in.

Launching Skirlness on April 1, Ali posted on Facebook: “On this day in 1973, John Lennon and Yoko Ono formed a new country called Nutopia; it is the hymn being the silence.

“Well, today I’m going to form my own little world called Skirlness and it’s going to be anything but silent, because for the next 30 days I’ll be making a lot of noise for PTSD awareness and the mental health of our veterans. “

But it’s not as simple as it seems. “I suffer from post-traumatic stress, so some days it’s harder for me to perform in public,” Ali said. “Sometimes memory plays tricks on me and can get on my nerves, but I get there in the end.”

And, technical issues aside, the fundraiser is off to a good start, and so far Ali has performed at his home, where his support dog and family member Brochan enjoyed himself, and at the memorial in Tarbert’s war.

Ali is now considering extending Skirlness to 70 days in remembrance of the Falklands War.

Later this year he hopes to visit all the war memorials across Scotland to pipe up for the cause and to pay tribute to the dead, but added: “With the price of petrol rising, I will have to change my car for a more economical model before leaving.

The Poppyscotland charity has been supporting Scottish veterans, women and their families since 1921. Whether a veteran is dealing with a life-changing battlefield injury, psychological trauma, financial hardship, homelessness or turned to drug addiction as a way to cope, Poppyscotland is here to help.

To support Ali and Skirlnesssearch the Just Giving website for “Ali Duff Hairy Piper” and scroll down to find the page.


Ali Duff – aka The Hairy Piper – will fill Tarbert’s air with Skirlness to benefit Poppyscotland, a charity close to his heart. no_a14TheHairyPiper01