More than Just Hot Air?: Oral History, Cultural Rhetoric, and the Preservation of Lexington’s Scottish Bagpipe Heritage

  • Rachel Dixon University of Kentucky


Though Lexington, Kentucky, is an extremely diverse city, few residents actually know the unique histories behind the ethnic communities that enrich it. When I discovered the oral history of Scottish activist and pipe band founder William “Bill” Reid in my writing course, I was amazed that such an incredible tale of cultural preservation in the Bluegrass could go unheard. The following essay contextualizes Bill Reid’s story with primary-source interviews of family members and musicians and analyzes those histories through Kenneth Burke’s theory of identification, as outlined in A Rhetoric of Motives. This case study argues how the continuance of Reid’s pipe band stands out as a symbol of the cultural rhetoric used to forge unique ethnic identities across the states and highlights a rhetorical pattern of identification useful to scholars studying modes of assimilation and acculturation.