Chicago Firefighter Desperately Searching For His Stolen Bagpipes

DNAINFO.COM – MORGAN PARK — “Douglas Crowley is still searching for his bagpipes in garbage cans and alleys throughout the Southwest Side.

Crowley, of Morgan Park, said a gray backpack containing his instrument was stolen from the back seat of his Honda CRV sometime between Sunday night and early Monday morning.

“They probably opened it [the backpack] up and saw all these sticks and tubes and thought they had an antique vacuum cleaner or something,” said Crowley, a Chicago firefighter.

Crowley said he parked in front of his house at 2541 W. 109th St. late Saturday night after returning from the Ignite The Spirit Firefighter/Paramedic’s Ball in the Loop. He usually parks in the driveway or garage, but said the “new driver in the house” changed his plans.

Instead, he left his car on the street. A nondescript backpack containing his bagpipes was in the back seat, covered up by a hooded sweatshirt. He and his wife also had a bag containing their formal clothes, shoes and make-up in the car.



On Monday morning, Crowley’s wife went to take their children to school and noticed the rear passenger window had been smashed. The bagpipes, along with their overnight bag, were gone.

“It was just bad luck,” said Crowley, adding that nobody else on his block has come forward to say they were also robbed that evening.

Replacing the bagpipes won’t be easy. Crowley said the “sweat equity” involved in learning to play a set of bagpipes is priceless. The instrument was customized to his style of play.

The backpack containing his bagpipes also carried several special tuning attachments used to play indoors and outdoors, as well as specific tubes for playing in a group or as a soloist, Crowley said.

Thus, he valued the stolen bag at $5,000, though he said a new set of bagpipes typically retails for about $1,800.

He’s hoping the thief opened the bag and threw away the contents nearby. Even if his bagpipes were found beneath a mound of smelly garbage, Crowley said he’d prefer to clean them up and play them rather than learn a new instrument.

But thus far he’s been unable to find his bagpipes. In addition to his own efforts, Crowley reached out to neighborhood garbage collectors from the Department of Streets and Sanitation and various local Facebook groups looking for leads.

“I was pretty aggressive about going after them,” he said.

Crowley began playing the bagpipes seven years ago. He did so intent on playing with the Chicago Fire Department Pipes & Drums. For Crowley, this was a way to give back to the city department where he’s worked for 17 years.

He expects to continue playing even if his instrument needs to be replaced. Several friends have offered to take up a collection to buy a new set of bagpipes for Crowley.

He declined the offer, saying he’ll file an insurance claim if the instrument doesn’t turn up.

“There are way more people in far greater need than me,” he said. Full article continued….

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