A transcript of the talk given by Jeannie Campbell at this year’s Collogue

A quote from General Frank M Richardson:
“What other instrument can equal our bagpipe in the rallying of a clan, in incitement to battle or, in days of peace, lifting tired men’s feet along the last few miles to camp? “
The sound of the bagpipe has been heard at battlefields all over Europe, from the time that Buchan’s men joined the French forces in 1422, throughout the Hundred Years’ War, and in the wars in the Low Countries, Germany and Austria until the days of the regular Scottish units of the British Army where it is still heard to this day. Apart from giving the signals needed during the soldiers’ day, and playing the soldiers into battle, their role on long marches was invaluable, especially in India during the 19th century when soldiers had to travel long distances on foot. This was still the case during the First World War when the music helped the men to keep going and often they would sing along to the familiar tunes, using their own words. There are many stories of tired and bedraggled men who were re-invigorated when the pipers struck up. An officer in the Royal Scots, referring to the return of the battalion from Kemmel, said: "I shall never forget the effect on the men; as they struck up they fairly shouted themselves hoarse with delight. Wonderful pipes! The men get tired and would fall out, but the pipes make a unity of them. Invisible tendons and muscles seem to connect the legs of all files, and all move as one, mechanically, rhythmically, certainly. The strong are reduced to the step, the weak are braced up to it. All bear the strain and share the strain. So we go on, and the miracle is in the power of the music."
Another wrote: “I have often seen a company just out of the trenches straggling along the road too weary to think of keeping in formation, let alone in step. On the first sound of the pipes these same men would double up to their place and march along with the best of them."
In WW1 overall, the contribution of the Scottish troops far exceeded that of any other part of the United Kingdom. The total killed as a percentage of the total mobilized was:
Scotland 26.4%, Britain and Ireland 11.8%. The total killed as a percentage of males aged 15 to 49 was: Scotland 10.9%, Britain and Ireland 6.3%. The total killed as a percentage of the adult male population was Scotland 3.1%, Britain and Ireland 1.6%.
This means that many of us my age lost grandfathers or great uncles. Some families lost all their sons.
For many of those who lay dying on the field perhaps the last thing they heard would be the bagpipe, sounding through the noise of the battle. I like to think that at least they would know that their friends were nearby and they were not alone among the enemy.A century ago there was no Army School of Piping, although there were the beginnings of an army class organised by the Piobaireachd Society. Army piping was very much dependent on the attitude of the officers and the Pipe Major. If the officers supported the band and the Pipe Major was prepared to teach then a regiment would have a good band. The supply of pipers came mainly from the TA bands, the civilian bands and boys who had learned either at school, particularly in the industrial schools, or in the Boys’ Brigade or the Scouts. The volunteer companies dated back to 1859 and many had pipe bands. The volunteer battalions were attached to the county infantry regiments and wore the uniforms of their parent regiments. In 1908 the Volunteer Force, the Militia and the Yeomanry were merged to form the Territorial Force. These men were the first to become part of the full time forces on the outbreak of war.
The original Expeditionary Force landed in France with seven Scottish battalions possessing pipe bands. When the armistice was signed there were more than one hundred such units. On mobilisation the number of full pipers in a battalion was only six but there were always other ‘acting pipers’ serving who were available to take the places of casualties. Many battalions lost all their pipers more than once but there was never any difficulty getting men out of the ranks or from home to take their place. In addition to their piping duties, pipers were used as ammunition carriers, stretcher bearers or despatch carriers. Others served in the ranks until called upon to take the place of men who had been killed or wounded. Over the course of the war the one hundred battalions had more than 2,500 pipers. Of these 500 pipers were killed and 600 wounded.
The first pipers to play on French soil were the 2nd Argylls who played The Campbells are Coming when they landed at Boulogne.
Several well known composers fought during the war. John MacLellan and William Lawrie, of the Argylls, G S MacLennan and James Robertson, Gordon Highlanders, Willie Ross Scots Guards, Peter R MacLeod, Scottish Rifles, Willie Fergusson HLI, and many more, some well known and others not so well known. There were pipers and composers with the regiments from Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and even from England with the London Scottish, Middlesex Regiment, Tyneside Scottish and Liverpool Scottish. Many of the tunes are, as you might expect, military style 2/4 time four parted marches, but I’ve tried to find some more suited to the smallpipes.

 Two of the best known WW1 tunes are the Bloody Fields of Flanders by John MacLellan and The Battle of the Somme by William Lawrie. Both these composers were in the pipe band of the 8th Argylls. The name Bloody Fields of Flanders is self explanatory as so much fighting took place in Flanders. We know the tune now from the words put to it by Hamish Henderson.
The Battle of the Somme took place between 1st July and 18th November 1916. More than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in history. Throughout the long succession of actions the pipes continued to be much in evidence. In the opening attack on the Somme front on 1st July, 1916, the 15th Royal Scots were played forward by the Pipe Major, David Anderson to the old regimental tune Dumbarton’s Drums. Pipe Major Hamish McColl of the 10th Scottish Rifles was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the Somme fighting. In the attack by the 32nd Division the 17th HLI succeeded, with a loss of over 500 men, in capturing and holding part of the Leipzig redoubt, though unsupported for a considerable time. PM Gilbert of the 17th HLI won the Military Medal during this action. There’s a story that Gilbert played The Mucking of Geordie’s Byre while the soldiers were clearing out a German trench. In the advance on Mametz on the same day the 2nd Gordons were led by their company pipers and advanced incredibly quickly. An English officer in the 20th Brigade described how he ‘heard their pipes play those fellows over. It sounded grand against the noise of shells, machine guns and rifle fire. I shall never forget them.’ The Battle of the Somme is played for the lilt in Highland dancing competitions and when you see little girls in weird tartans hopping about to it nobody is thinking about the three million soldiers it commemorates.
Retreat March The Battle of the Somme PM William Lawrie

Retreat March The Bloody Fields of Flanders John McLellan, Dunoon


Retreat March The Bloody Fields of Flanders John McLellan, Dunoon


PM John MacLellan was born in Dunoon in 1875 and enlisted in the HLI in 1892. He served in Malta, then Crete and then served through the South African war, being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and composing several tunes. He left the Army in 1903 and joined his brother Neil as a police officer and piper with the Govan Police. He was back in Dunoon a couple of years later then joined the 8th Argylls TA in 1912 and was mobilised at the beginning of the war. He served under PM George Ross and then PM William Lawrie. The 8th Argylls had a second pipe band made up of officers and John composed and named tunes for some of them and for many of his colleagues as well as for the events of the war.
Willie Lawrie was born in 1881 at Ballachulish, and began his piping tuition at the age of seven, with tuition from his father. Around 1900 he joined the local Argyllshire Volunteers. He had further tuition with John MacColl and he won both Gold Medals in 1910. He was appointed Pipe Major 8th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders TA in 1912 and went to France in 1915 as Pipe Major of the 8th Argylls. For over a year the battalion’s pipers served in the trenches, and were only allowed to play when out of the line. William Lawrie made his views plain to his commanding officer. ‘What sort of life is that for a Pipe Major – living like a rat in a hole?’ At the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 the pipers were allowed to play once more, but soon afterwards Willie’s health broke down and he was invalided back to the UK where he died in hospital at Oxford on the 28th November 1916 as a result of illness contracted in the trenches. He was buried in St. John’s Churchyard, Ballachulish.

Robert Sutherland was born in Dalkeith on 4th June 1885. His father was James Sutherland, a coal miner and his mother Elizabeth came from Glasgow. He had several brothers and sisters and the family were living in Liberton in 1891. In 1901 he was a pupil and gardener at the Liberton School, along with about 100 other boys aged 8 to 15. This was one of the first of the Industrial Schools, and was founded as Dr Guthrie’s Ragged School. These schools taught orphan or destitute children a trade. Former soldiers were often employed as tutors and boys were taught military discipline. The school had a brass band and a pipe band and boys were encouraged to go into the army, especially if they had the additional skill of playing an instrument. The Liberton Boys pipe band (also the title of a tune), played at engagements all over the country which would be a great incentive for the boys as it would be a break from the dull routine of the school. John Wallace was the piping instructor at the school from about 1890. He had been Pipe Major of the Argylls and won the Gold Medal at Oban in 1901. He later taught on the Clyde Training Ship Empress from around 1898 and moved on to teach at the Caledonian Asylum sometime after 1901.
In August 1901 Robert Sutherland enlisted at Edinburgh in the Seaforth Highlanders for 12 years, giving his age as 18 years two months and his birthplace as Edinburgh. Another document dated November 1904 gives a different place of birth and states that he was attested private in the Seaforth Highlanders at Thurso. He was 5 feet 3 and a quarter inches tall, weighed 114 pounds and his chest was 31 and a half inches with an expansion of 2 inches. His complexion was fresh, eyes blue and hair brown. He was educated in an Industrial School under Home Office or Local Government Board, he was a Presbyterian, had been employed as a groom and his next of kin was his father James Sutherland. He was discharged in December 1904 for having made a miss-statement as to age on enlistment. He enlisted again in the 1st HLI in May 1905. His previous occupation according to the document was market gardener.
The HLI or Highland Light Infantry were a Glasgow Regiment, variously known as the Glasgow Highlanders, Hell’s Last Inhabitants, or the Brigton Slashers. In 1911 he was serving in India at Outram Barracks, Lucknow. In 1913 he was promoted to sergeant piper, the official rank which we usually call Pipe Major.
The 1st HLI went to France in 1914 and marched out of Marseilles in November that year with the pipers playing I’ll Gang Nae Mair to Yon Toun. They were in action at Festubert in December 1914 where the band lost five pipers killed, two wounded and two taken prisoner. PM Sutherland survived but had lost almost his entire band. The remainder were then withdrawn from the front lines and used as stretcher bearers and ammunition carriers. This tune was published in the Pipes of War in 1920 and seems to be his only published tune.


Festubert by PM Robert Sutherland 1st Battalion HLI.

There are two other tunes published in Henderson’s collection but these are by a different PM Robert Sutherland 4th HLI who died in 1899. After a year in France PM Sutherland embarked from Marseilles in December 1915 and arrived at Basrah in January 1916. He was suffering from rheumatism and was sent to India in February where he joined the depot at Belgaum. He was there until October then returned to Basrah and re-joined the battalion in the field from November onwards. In April 1917 he was re-engaged in the HLI to complete 21 years service. In January 1918 he was in Istanbul, in February at the depot in Baghdad and in March he re-joined the battalion in the field. There is an earlier story that when the Highlanders first marched into Baghdad they played Ho Ro My Nut Brown Maiden in honour of the local girls. In June he went to India for 3 months leave then returned to Basrah and re-joined the battalion in the field. In April 1919 he was posted to the 16th Special Battalion on formation in Delhi. In July he was sent to Deolali and at the end of July he embarked for home. He had two years 40 days former service in the Seaforth Highlanders, and this gave him a total qualifying service of 22 years 40 days for his pension. After he left the army I haven’t been able to discover any more about him.

maojor moir

Major Moir of Villeveque by PM John MacLellan 8th Argylls

Robert Gifford Moir was born in Alloa in June 1894 the younger son of Archibald Patrick Moir, a Solicitor and factor for the Earl of Mar and Kellie. He and his brother were privately educated. Robert was the captain of Fettes and a Clackmannanshire County cricketer as was his older brother Archibald Gifford Moir. Archibald was trained in law with the intention of taking over their father’s business while Robert was destined for a career in the Army and had been commissioned in the Argylls before the war. The local TA regiment in Alloa was the 7th Argylls. In 1914 the older brother Archibald volunteered and was commissioned in the 7th Argylls and killed in May 1915. On 26 January 1916 the Alloa Circular reported:
CAPTAINCY FOR ALLOA OFFICER. HONOURED BY THE KING.We are pleased to notice from the London Gazette that Lieutenant R.G. Moir of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders has been promoted to the rank of Captain. Captain Moir, who is the second son of Bailie Moir (Captain), Marshill, Alloa, has seen much service in the trenches, having been out since the beginning of the war. Although slightly wounded on one occasion, and having run several narrow escapes he has, so far, been lucky enough to escape without serious wounds. His deeds on the field have already been recognised, and he received some time ago the distinction of the Military Cross for distinguished conduct. Before coming north he was summoned to attend the investiture at Buckingham Palace on Friday where he received his Military Cross decoration at the hands of the King. Captain Moir, who was destined for the Army, and joined before the War received his military training at Sandhurst.

Earlier in the war Colonel Robin Campbell DSO was the commanding officer of the Argylls. He was involved in heavy fighting in May 1917 and personally led a counter attack which swept the enemy out of their positions. He was awarded a bar to his DSO and John MacLellan wrote a tune for him, a 3/4 march called Colonel Robin Campbell DSO. John MacLellan also wrote a 6/8 march for another Argylls officer also from Alloa, Lt J C Buchan VC who died of wounds on 22nd March 1918. In October 1917 Lt. Colonel James Robert Macalpine-Downie of Appin became the commanding officer. He had previously been in command of the battalion of reinforcements and replacements stationed in the UK. In an attack on battalion HQ at Villeveque, west of Saint Quentin, Colonel MacAlpine-Downie was killed on 21st March 1918, the first day of a German offensive. Major Moir commanded the remains of the battalion until they were pulled out of the line five days later, having lost C Company and suffered 542 casualties. He was awarded the DSO, ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in temporary command of a battalion. Both in attack and defence he has done consistently well, and kept his battalion up to a high standard of fighting spirit, so that they have not lost a position.’ He was wounded for a second time in August 1918 and finished the war as Major Moir MC DSO. He became commanding officer of the Argylls in 1919. During World War II he was a Brigadier. He and his wife were reported missing in Singapore and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp. He died in 1965.


Farewell to Cape Helles by William Fergusson 7th HLI

William Fergusson was born in 1885 at Arbroath, Perthshire son of James Fergusson, a shoemaker and Amelia Malloch. The family moved to Glasgow while he was a child. He was taught piping by PM Hutcheson 102nd (Govan) BB Glasgow. By profession he was a woodcarver and joiner. He joined the 7th HLI TA under PM Farquhar MacRae in 1901, and on the outbreak of war became Pipe Major of the 7th HLI in 1914, serving in Gallipoli, Palestine, France and Egypt during World War 1.
The Gallipoli Campaign took place between 19th February 1915 and 9th January 1916. Cape Helles was the landing place for troops arriving on the Gallipoli peninsula. On 12th July 1916 the 6th HLI captured three lines of Turkish trenches with pipers Peter MacNiven from Islay and W Mackenzie playing at the head of their companies. McNiven was killed and Mackenzie put down his pipes to take part in the fighting doing great damage with a Turkish shovel as a weapon. On the same day Sergeant-Piper Neil MacLeod 8th Scottish Rifles, from Glasgow was killed and the pipers of the 7th HLI led their battalion into action. Piper Kenneth MacLennan was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for playing his pipes during the attack and advancing with the line after his pipes had been shattered by shrapnel. After the drones were broken he continued to play on the chanter for some time. Piper D Cameron from Inverness played his company over three lines of trenches, with a revolver hanging by a cord from his wrist and earned a mention in despatches; and Piper MacFarlane played through two bayonet charges until two of his drones were blown off by shell fragments. In the attack on Achi Baba (the title of a tune by John MacColl), Pipe Major Andrew Buchan was killed and four were wounded. None of the pipers of the 5th Royal Scots survived the early days of the fighting in Gallipoli.
There were so many casualties among the pipers that the bands ceased to exist. Facing a long and dreary winter it was decided that entertainment was needed to keep the men cheerful so it was decided that a pipe band was the answer. Consequently under the management of Colonel Maclean of Pennycross, an accomplished piper himself, (and the name of a tune), a divisional band was organised numbering twelve pipers and six drummers - all that remained out of the wreck of the pipe bands of the 52nd Division. The band was lead by PM William Fergusson of the 1/7th HLI. The band sailed with the division for Egypt then on to the desert front and played in the long march from Kantara to El Arish, with burning sun during the day and freezing temperatures at night, then across Sinai and into Palestine. This gave rise to three more Willie Fergusson tunes Kantara to El Arish, The Plains of Gaza and Echoes of Palestine. After the war Fergusson became Pipe Major of the City of Glasgow Pipe Band which was re-named the Clan MacRae Society Pipe Band (the title of another of his tunes) in 1924. He died in Glasgow in 1949.


Sandy Strafed the Germans by Percy W A Scott.

This title refers to bursts of machine gun fire and to me that is what the tune sounds like. I have said strafe but apparently the word comes from the German meaning to punish which I think is pronounced Straffer.
Percy William Affleck Scott was born in Drummond Place, Edinburgh in 1872. His parents were William Affleck Scott and Alice Marr. His father was a commission merchant. Percy was living in Rutland Square and was employed in a bank in 1891 when he was aged 19. I haven’t traced him in the 1901 or 1911 census so he may have been out of the country. From 1922 onwards he seems to have spent some years in China, Japan, the Philippines and Canada working as a Customs officer then eventually he stayed in Canada with his Japanese wife and became a teacher. He died in Canada in 1962 aged 89. He composed other WW1 tunes, including Maids of Flanders and The London Scottish Advance to Messines. Among his many other compositions are a reel called the Scottish Pipers’ Society, and a strathspey named John Bartholomew of Glenorchard. John Bartholomew was Hon Sec of the SPS as it was then, from 1904-1914 and was an early member of the Piobaireachd Society music committee. It is possible that Percy Scott was a member of the SPS so he may have attended meetings and played in the premises where we are now.

sad am i

Sad am I by Iain MacPherson Scottish Rifles.

Iain MacPherson was from Glasgow but little is known about his early life before he became a piper in the 7th Cameronians or Scottish Rifles TA prior to the war. He served throughout the war and his son Iain told me that his father composed this tune during a quiet spell while he was in the trenches. He was feeling sad at the time and has managed to compose a sad tune although it is a reel. Another of his war time tunes was the 90th’s Farewell to France. Iain survived the war, returned to Glasgow, married and had a family. He taught all his sons to play and all became excellent pipers and composers. His son Donald MacPherson is the best known.

The Battle’s Over
This tune was composed by PM William Robb who was born in Stirling in 1863, son of Sgt William Robb of the 93rd. He joined the 93rd in his early teens and served as a piper then became PM 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 1887-91 then PM 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 1891-94. He won the Oban Gold Medal in 1893. He served 4 years as Sgt Piper with the 4th Militia Battalion HLI prior to his death. He died in Glasgow in November 1909 aged 46. He composed many other tunes and one of the best known was written to commemorate the victory of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Modder River in 1899 during the South African War. Although Robb died before the war he had a son and brother who were involved. His younger brother Frederick born in 1878 was killed in 1915 while serving with the Argylls and his son John served during the war with the HLI.

battle oer full