Lifting Spirits in a Difficult Time

Posted On Monday March 30, 2020
[Photo provided by Dave McGonigal] Williamsburg PS Teacher Dave McGonigal was inspired to learn how to play the bagpipes by his father Ed McGonigal.

Williamsburg PS teacher performs outside a Whitby retirement home amid a new era of social-distancing

“I thought it would be nice to pop by and lift their spirits during such a difficult time,” explains Dave McGonigal, a Grade 4 Teacher at Williamsburg Public School in Whitby. Every Remembrance Day, McGonigal plays the bagpipes in the school assembly. Afterwards he shares details about how the instrument works with his own students, and plays a few extra songs for them.

Amid the ongoing preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, McGonigal wanted to do something kind for residents and employees of a local retirement home, while still maintaining the required social-distancing. 

On March 20th, McGonigal walked the exterior perimeter of Taunton Mills Retirement Home in Whitby, playing the bagpipes for those living and working inside the building.

He says the residents and workers reacted emotionally with surprise, delight, and appreciation. According to McGonigal, some residents also said that hearing the music transported them back to their youth.

A Musical Family

“I have played at various senior homes in the past with my son Brett (a Grade 12 student at Anderson CVI) who plays the piano. I know that many seniors adore the bagpipes,” enthuses McGonigal.

McGonigal has been playing the bagpipes for 40 years and says his father, Ed McGonigal, was the one who inspired him to begin learning, and to keep playing all these years later. “Unfortunately, my Dad passed away from cancer two years ago, but he’s the reason I began playing the bagpipes. He also encouraged me to play for others who enjoy the unique sound.” 

He adds that his Nana, who sadly passed away last year, also loved the sound of the bagpipes. Before she passed, he would visit her retirement home to play for her.

As for what prompted McGonigal to lift the spirits of residents and workers at Taunton Mills Retirement Home, he notes, “I think most people love to help others, when given the opportunity. It was my turn.”

Appearance on The National

McGonigal was recently featured on CBC The National’s March 23rd broadcast. To see his clip, click the link below: