Award-winning Katie Robertson has wowed crowds with her bagpiping in Dundee city centre, despite facing difficult health conditions.
The Carnoustie resident, who uses a wheelchair, picked up the pipes just five months ago, when kind busker Liam Eaton offered to find a set for the teen and tutor her.
Katie, known as the ‘Wheeled Piper’ online, has since become a regular performer in the city centre — though she is due to get major spinal surgery in the coming weeks.
Mum Jane Robertson said: “The minute she got those pipes, her life changed.
“I’m so proud.
“It’s strange because before, people would look at Katie in her wheelchair and then quickly glance away.
“But now they’re looking at her for a different reason. When she’s busking, I’m standing back in the crowd and I can hear people saying ‘wow look at her’.
“She is really changing people’s perceptions.”
At the start of October, the teen was given the honour of leading the pipe band down Reform Street in their first performance since before the pandemic.
Katie also recently found out that she had placed first and second in two piping categories at the Royal National Mod.
The musical youngster set up an Instagram under the username ‘thewheeledpiper’ and is gaining more followers by the day.
Breaking down barriers
“She went from two to 200 followers overnight,” said Jane.
“She has received hundreds and hundreds of messages all across the world and its just been so positive.
“One message was from a woman in Australia in her 60s. She used to pipe but doesn’t anymore as she’s in a wheelchair.
“She reached out to Katie and said ‘you gave me the courage to try again’.”
Katie has also been followed and shared by her heroes, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.
Next week Katie will undergo spinal fusion surgery and recently had 11 steroid injections in her hands for her arthritis.
The Carnoustie teen cannot use her index finger on her right hand, so she learned to play the pipes reversed with her hands upside down.
But Katie will not be held back and said this is only the beginning of her musical journey.
“I honestly don’t know where it will take me, but I’m never going to stop piping,” she said.
“I’m addicted to piping.”
Mum Jane said finding out she needed the operation only spurred Katie on more.
“Katie found out she needed spinal fusion last year while she was still learning the chanter at school,” she said.
“She was desperate to progress onto the pipes before the surgery.”
However Covid-19 hindered the tuition of wind instruments, so one day Jane and Katie approached busker Liam Eaton in the city centre.
Within three days, the local musician had found Katie a set of pipes and taught her a lesson outdoors on a rooftop.
“She was so happy as she didn’t know would be possible for her to play the pipes,” said Jane.
“Liam is the guy who made it all happen and it has totally changed her life.
“Now she has lessons once a week and practises an hour or two each night.
“Two months ago, she entered the Royal National Mod. Liam had said to put her in but warned that newcomers never get placed — it’s just about getting out there.
“Then she came first and second in her categories.”
‘Addicted to piping’
Now Katie regularly busks in the city centre. The bagpiping enthusiast has been out every day over the last week as she has been off school.
Jane said: “The surgery was meant to be two weeks ago, but it got delayed.
“Katie is planning to bring her pipes so she can pipe for the surgeon.”