Seized bagpipes to be returned to piping pair

New Hampshire Union Leader
August 04. 2014 8:30PM

Campbell Webster plays his father's antique bagpipes with ivory and silver mounts at a competition earlier this year in Delaware. The bagpipes, as well as a set owned by Londonderry teen Eric Bean, were seized by U.S Customs at the port of entry in Champlain, N.Y., when the teens were returning late Monday night from competitions in Canada. (Courtesy)

Campbell Webster planned to leave today with his father’s bagpipes — the exact set his dad used to play before Queen Elizabeth every day for five years — for a competition with the world’s top bagpipers in Scotland.

But after a weekend competition in Canada, the Concord teenager watched the U.S. Border Patrol in Vermont seize his instrument along with his friend’s on Sunday because parts contained ivory.

“I did take those same pipes to Canada and back in February to play at my grandmother’s funeral and had no problem at all,” the teenager said Monday.

“They’re saying we’re not going to get them back,” Lezlie Webster, Campbell’s mother, said Monday afternoon. “Really devastating.” That all changed a few hours later, when Mrs. Webster heard from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife official that the bagpipes would be released overnight or today.

“This story has a happy ending,” she said Monday night.

The two teenagers had carried certificates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to verify the ivory wasn’t taken after a ban was enacted in the 1970s.

The two teens, including Eric Bean, 17, of Londonderry, and family members spent the night Sunday in Vermont, so they could try to get their instruments back Monday from the border crossing at Highgate Springs, Vt., before the teens flew to Scotland today.

But the news wasn’t promising.

Campbell, 17, had decided he would have to use an instrument offered by a company in the United Kingdom.

“Every thing is pretty much judged on your sound when you are competing,” he said. “These are such outstanding bagpipes...”

The Webster family contacted Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office, who promised to try to resolve the issue.

“Our office is in touch with the families and the appropriate federal agencies. We’re hoping for an expedited solution,” said Shaheen Press Secretary Elizabeth Keningsberg.

Attempts were unsuccessful to reach U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which issued the certificate verifying the ivory’s date.

Last Wednesday, the day before the Websters headed to Canada, Mrs. Webster found out she might have needed an amended form of some sort that she couldn’t obtain in time and was warned the bagpipes could be seized.

Campbell Webster’s antique bagpipes were manufactured in 1936 in Scotland and belonged to his father, Gordon Webster, 55, a renowned bagpiper who was 9th Sovereign Piper to her Majesty the Queen of England Elizabeth II and former Pipe Major of the Scotch Guard 1st and 2nd Battalion.

“I have been all over the world and never had a problem with people taking my bagpipes,” Gordon Webster said.

The Webster bagpipes are worth about $10,000, although Mr. Webster said they will always remain in the family.


Union Leader Staff Writer Pat Grossmith contributed to this report.

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