It’s pretty remarkable for anyone to find something that they love to do and Robert’s love of playing the bagpipes started with a trip to the Bedford Boys Ranch when he was about ten years old, that’s where he first saw the North Texas Caladion Pipes and Drums playing. He turned to his dad right then and there and said, “Dad, I want to learn how to play the bagpipes.” His dad may have thought it was a passing fancy but Robert’s drive and determination proved that he was very serious. He sought out the best instructors he could find and practiced for hours at a time. He laughs and says, “I know I drove my brother and family insane practicing non-stop sometimes.” But that is also why he’s one of the best!
McCallion speaks very highly about one of his teachers, Pipe Major Don Shannon from Dungannon, Northern Ireland. “He really taught me everything I know and I give him a majority of the credit for any talent that I might have. I definitely look up to him as a mentor and I feel privileged that I was able to learn from him and now can also call him friend,” says McCallion. “The bagpipes have helped shape my life and helped me with the path I’ve chosen including landing a job as a firefighter,” he added. About 8 years after picking up the bagpipes he was asked to play at a funeral for the father of a Westlake Lieutenant. “He asked me how much I charged? “I said, nothing, but I would really appreciate it if you could help show me how I can become a firefighter.”
Lt. Kirk Gable said, “You’re in luck, we have an EMT training program that starts tomorrow in Weatherford and I’m the teacher.” McCallion signed up and completed that course and continued to work towards becoming a firefighter and play the bagpipes. He was offered a full scholarship to Lyon College in Batesville, AR, one of the best known bagpiping schools in the U. S. Later he left Lyon to pursue a Bachelors degree in Business Administration at the University of North Texas, but that’s not all. He met his future wife Jenny at UNT.
McCallion really means it when he says, “I can attribute everything I have through playing the bagpipes. It gave me every opportunity and led me to everything I wanted in life, travel to the UK, my career as a firefighter and my wife Jenny. What more could I ask for,” said McCallion. Well for starters he and Jenny are expecting a son in August and they have already picked out a name, Liam Seamus.
McCallion gets a big grin on his face as he talks about his son. You can see the pride welling up in him and not a lot compares to that. But he says he feels so fortunate for all that he has. He has a lot of great memories playing the bagpipes in World Class competitions in Scotland and the United Kingdom; being hand-picked by bagpipe bands to play in places that he thought he would never get to see; not to mention the thrill of taking top honors in many competitions in Scotland. McCallion says, “The bagpipes can take you on such an incredible journey, it’s been phenomenal.”
McCallion says, “locally, the circle of bagpipers is small, but we are like one big family and my friends across the pond are part of my extended family. And of then, of course, there’s my firefighting family.”