By Jamie Salter
Jason Finn comes from a large family of bagpipers – all six-foot tall Scotsmen from the Highlands.
His family immigrated to Australia but the Scottish culture remained with Jason’s granddad playing the bagpipes at most family functions.
Jason was the only grandchild who took up the skill, taught well by his granddad.
He now plays the instrument at weddings, funerals and Anzac Day services across Casey and Cardinia.
“It’s a really hard instrument to learn and you’ve got to start when you’re young,” Jason said.
“It’s like walking backwards while juggling; you have to blow, play, march and keep the tune in your head.
“Every Sunday, we would go visit my granddad and would get out the bagpipes. As kids, we were always naughty and would pull at the tassels on his bagpipes,” he laughed.
In 1992 on Father’s Day, the bagpipes were officially handed over to Jason just three days before his beloved granddad died.
But the tradition lives on with Jason, who played the instrument in the Australian Army Reserve when he joined the school of piping and field ambulance at the age of 17.
Jason spent three years in the Army Reserve before he decided to pursue his studies in nursing.
The bagpipes continued to play a pivotal role in his life when he started busking to pay for university.
“I came straight from country Brisbane to the big smoke and I was living in my car, playing bagpipes in the park,” he said.
“A man came up to me out of the blue and gave me all the money he had in his wallet and said, ‘Go and get a busking permit, you’ll do well.’”
Jason began to do street theatre across Australia, performing at Sydney Opera House among other key tourist sites.
His busking success helped to pay for his university fees, along with airfares to visit his fiance in Perth, after sparks flew at a church youth conference in Geelong.
Jason was playing at funerals, weddings and Anzac Day services and said it was a good opportunity to share his culture.
“My other grandpa was an ex-serviceman and he always said Anzac Day was important,” Jason said.
With his church group, Jason encourages young people to attend Anzac Day events to help them develop an understanding of the significance of the day.
“A lot of young people that come along get to feel what it is to be patriotic and learn how important it is to just have a day to remember those who paid a huge price for our freedoms,” he said.
“I’m pretty religious and try to help young people grow up to be better people.”
Since about 2008, Jason has been playing the bagpipes in at the Kooweerup RSL and was instrumental in getting a New Zealand flag flying for Anzac Day services.
The bagpipes have even made an appearance at Jason’s work when he played the instrument for a fellow nurse with Scottish heritage for her birthday.
After finishing his studies, Jason was working in emergency and critical care nursing at Royal Perth Hospital.
He has worked in Victoria and has been a nurse for about 27 years.
He said in his profession, he had to learn to think on his feet.
“I have to make decisions based on a brief assessment and in critical care; usually the patient I’m working on is very sick and needs a lot of extra care and I have to be ready for the unexpected to happen,” he said.
“Being a big guy in emergency, they loved me because sometimes some of the patients get a bit rowdy and they need someone with a stern presence there.”
Jason genuinely cares and always puts his patients first.
“Sometimes they’re having the worst day ever and I’ve always tried to be mindful of my fellow man,” he said.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Jason has worked on the frontline in intensive care.
“It’s been very sad that so many people have passed from Covid-19. I personally lost a colleague to Covid-19 who was a very great nurse.”
He said although night shift makes it difficult to commit to playing the bagpipes socially, he still plans to play until he’s 80 years old.
“I’m starting to get arthritis in my fingers but I hope to keep playing – the bagpipes have been a very big blessing for my life.”