We are pleased to announce that we will be joined by a quartet and soloist from George Heriot’s School on 20th January under the guidance of Willie McIntyre.
Heriot’s has many famous piping alumni and a prizewinning band that rivals the best juvenile bands in Scotland.
It promises to be a fine start to 2015.
Compliments of the Season to all..
The Society will resume on Tuesday 20th January and not the 6th as previously announced. An email will be circulated to the membership confirming this. The meetings will be fortnightly thereafter.
Well that was the year, that was. And what a great year it was.
To celebrate the final evening of the year we had a ‘big band’ night and around 20 pipers and piperettes took to the floor. Not bad considering Scotland was in the midst of a minor gale. We even had a couple of pipers who had not played before, perhaps feeling more at ease in the group environment?
So how did it go? Magnificent of course. Chanters all well balanced, drones rock solid and not a note error to be heard. Ok, not quite, but it was a bit of fun and as you see Lachie Dick was in the festive mood with fairy lights on the cords. The the P/M tried to bring order but some were having private drinking bets on the mistake count. They lost count…………
As an attack was perhaps a bit of a challenge the band started with rolling into the traditional band 3/4s-to settle the pipes and nerves you understand. Faye Henderson had brought along ‘sister power’ support and Fiona was keeping her right with the traditional settings, (especially the 6/8s :)
After a few more tunes, pies and a pint or two the band were ready to tackle the MSR. Hugh Kennedy, Maggie Cameron and Bessie MacIntyre. Fortunately Hugh, Maggie nor Bessie were present to hear the tribute but for a first attempt it wasn’t that bad. 4b or not 4b that is the question? Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the drones and blooters of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of practice………………….
As the band rested and settled down to a well earned beer Harry McLaughlin kept us going with an excellent solo spot. Harry has grown about 6 inches since he was last at the Eagles and he has had a busy piping year in both the solo and band arenas. Harry is star of the future and it was great to see him and his dad down in Edinburgh despite the aforementioned weather.
And that was that. 2014 done and dusted. Thanks to all who played during the year, not least those who stepped up to the plate to play the 20ish piobaireachds that we were treated to throughout the year.
Who knows what 2015 holds? Plenty of ideas were floating about. Hopefully more of the same so have a great Christmas and New Year and please come along next year for a tune.
For our last meeting of 2014, we are having a big band night on Tuesday 9th December.
Bring your pipes and we will all play a few tunes together. Standard repertoire.
Bring a guest/friend/lover. The bigger the better (for the band at least).
We found ourselves upstairs for the first half of the evening and while the room warmed up the PM gave a few tunes to break the ice.
Coats were still on when Andrew Allison took to the floor and in went a new Colin MacLellan reed-set up by the man himself. After a few tweaks and the usual tape palaver we were off and running. While settling the pipe down Andrew played some 3/4s including the little heard 13th Frederick Street.A Don Bradford tune? Very unusual and a great tune.
Next for shaving was Lachie Dick. Lachie had recently been home to Uist and he found an old pipe book under a mattress. Apparently there were other books there as well! Lachie treated us to some of the new material found in said book starting off with the 2/4 March, The Hills of North Uist composed by Callum Campbell. He then went onto give us an excellent flavour from the book and Uist piping in general, including The Cat and the Dog, Boys of Harris-a lovely slow air and The South Uist Golf Club to name a few.
As the aroma of the pies wafted up the stairs it was time to decant back down stairs and have a break. The room was nice and cosy and the coats were cast aside.
The post pie piper was Andrew Gray who was on a new set of McCallums, straight off the shelf. This new ‘band pipe’ was rock solid from the off and Andrew was quickly into his stride playing the MSR The Highland Wedding, The Top of Craigvenow and John Morrison of Assynt House. The ambience got the better of Lachie Dick who was brought to book by the Hon President for nodding off during the reel. Sound asleep. Such is the life of a trainee Doctor. However he was not alone…………….
The final player of the evening was a very welcome guest Matt Fraser who bought along his girlfriend, April Sinclair from Melbourne. Matt is from Mosgiel in New Zealand but has been on these shores for some time now. He has had a very successful 2014 competitive season rounding it off with some top prizes in London.
Matt settled into his stride quickly and the pipe was first class. Well balanced and a mellow in door quality that was very pleasing on the ear. He was quickly into the big stuff giving us the MSR, Major Manson at Clachantrushal, The Shepherd’s Crook and The Man from Glengarry. Very musical. Matt then gave us a very nice performance of MacDougall’s Gathering, a tune he has just learned. The pipe held well and had the required effect on some of the audience.
This was a fantastic conclusion to the night.
The beauty of the Eagles is that Matt was able to chat with Tom and Iain Speirs, Colin, and the like, about the different styles this tune can be played and I am sure he took away positive feedback. Haste ye back Matt.
And that was the evenings evening. Our final night of 2014 will be on Tuesday 9th December when we will have a ‘big band’ night. A call will be put out to all Eagles with pipes and their friends to come along and have a wee tune together. We need to refresh our Facebook cover photo so the more the merrier. The tunes will not be far from the standard massed band tunes but Douglas Gardiner will let you all know in due course. Please come along, bring the pipe and a friend.
See you then,
Greig Canning got the evening under way and he was in excellent form. Greig, due to band commitments with Inveraray, does not make it along to the Society as much as he would like, however he is playing this Sunday in the Scots Guards KO competition and took the opportunity to run through some of his repertoire. Greig is up against Steven Grey, a fellow band member, so perhaps there will be a small side bet? The first round of this excellent event kicks of at 16.00hrs Sunday, 16th November at the Scots Guards Association Club in Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh.
The next performers were a quartet from Fettes College led by P/M Seamus O’Bagighill. (also an excellent fiddle player) Cameron Drummond has recently taken over there as principal instructor and the boys are heading up to Aberdeen to take part in the annual CCF competition this Friday. The group also included Matthew Sung, Torquil Roy-Lewis and David Maitland-Biddulph. The boys warmed up with some 3/4s before playing a very musical medley. It is very pleasing to see the high standard of school piping with many now competing at the major pipe band events. This was a very welcome addition to our evening and something we hope to repeat in the near future.
The post pie piper was Peter McCalister. Peter put together a small program of music relating to past events and provided an informative hand out that is included below. During his performance he played Flowers of the Forrest and the members present observed a minutes silence. Peter conclude this marvellous salute to the past with the Urlar of Lament for Red Hector to the Battles. Peter’s pipe was, as usual, first class and he has had a very successful competitive season. Congratulations Peter and many thanks for the excellent tribute.
The Bloody Fields of Flanders (P/M J MacLennan, DCM)
The total number of military and civilian casualties in WWI was over 37 million. There were over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. About two-thirds of military deaths in WWI were in battle, unlike the conflicts that took place in the 19th century when the majority of deaths were due to disease.
“Flanders”, like “The Western Front” or even simply “France,” were terms sometimes used to describe the entire conflict that the troops in the trenches had to endure. The official Battle of Flanders is a prolonged one in 5 separate parts, incorporating many other names, now infamous:
- 1st Battle of Flanders (October – November 1914) = The 1st Battle of Ypres – a battle fought during the Race to the Sea
- 2nd Battle of Flanders (April – May 1915) = The 2nd Battle of Ypres
- 3rd Battle of Flanders (July – November 1917) = The Battle of Passchendaele/3rd Battle of Ypres – an Anglo-French offensive.
- 4th Battle of Flanders (April 1918) = The Battle of the Lys (4th battle of Ypres)/Operation Georgette – second part of the German Spring Offensive.
- 5th Battle of Flanders (September – October 1918) – The 4th Battle of Ypres – a Belgian-French-British offensive during the last Hundred Days of the War.
The recurring name of Ypres demonstrates the frustration of both armies who were fighting repeatedly over the same patch of ground, where thousands had died before them. My own great-uncle Harry died there, and is remembered to this day by our family as a great loss – being young, charming, unmarried, and an only son.
Major Byng M Wright’s Farewell to the 8th Argylls (John MacColl)
The 8th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was a Territorial force, mobilised at Dunoon on the outbreak of WW1. They travelled to training at Bedford via Dunblane in August 1914 and embarked for France in May 1915, ending the war south of Leuze, Belgium.
Their list of battle honours in WW1 is very extensive:
- 1915 – Festubert
- 1916 – Somme, Pozieres and Ancre
- 1917 – Arras, Scarpe, Pilckem, Ypres, Menin Road and Casmbrai
- 1918 – Somme, St Quentin, Bapaume, Rosieres, Lys, Hazebrouck, Bethune, Marne, Soissonnais-ourcq and Terdenois
Casualties for a single battalion are hard to calculate – overall the Argyll’s lost nearly 7000 men in the War, though the total number who served is unknown: many battalions were disbanded and absorbed into other units, as the number of men left alive became too small to allow a battalion to continue.
A war diary is available on the net to see details of each day as it was recorded by hand – attached is a copy of page 1. Some details are hard to decipher, but at Bedford there is a suggestion in the bottom right hand corner that the “latrines were inadequate, no screens provided”, and at very end “an outbreak of …… ……. occurred”. The hard-to-read words might be “squalor fines” but that does not seem to make sense – alternative suggestions from Eagle Pipers are welcome.
Capt Colin Campbell (P/M Donald MacLeod)
There are so many famous soldiers with this name that it would be hard to pick which one Donald was referring to. I see the suggestion on the Eagle Piper’s website, here are some more ….
- Colin Campbell, born 1766, (later Lieutenant-General) who ran away from Perth Academy age 16 to join a vessel bound for the West Indies, then sailed for India as a midshipman, and was appointed a lieutenant in the Breadalbane Fencibles in February 1795. He served under Wellington in India, Denmark, Portugal, Spain and France, becoming Wellington’s commandant at Waterloo. He and Wellington were the only two men on the general staff to escape the day uninjured.
- Colin Campbell (later Field Marshal and 1st Baron Clyde 1792-1863) who rose from humble beginnings, led the Highland Brigade in the Crimea and was in command of the ‘Thin Red Line’ at the battle of Balaklava. Later he commanded the relief army in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. His nickname was “Sir Crawling Camel” (for his methodical but very effective approach).
- More likely it is another 20th century person personally known to Donald.
Cabar Feidh (arr. John MacFadyen)
“Cabar Feidh gu Brath” (the Deer’s Horns for Ever”) is the motto of the Queens Own Highlanders, coming at the end of their regimental toast:
Land of the hills, the glens, and the Heroes;
Where the ptarmigan thrives
And where the red deer finds shelter.
As long as mist hangs o’er the mountains
And water runs in the glens,
The deeds of the brave will be remembered.
Health and success forever
To the lads of Cabar Fèidh
Cabarfeidh gu brath!
The Flowers of the Forest
Although the original words are unknown, the melody was recorded in 1615 in John Skene of Halyard’s Manuscript as “Flowres of the Forrest”, although it might have been composed earlier. Several versions of words have been added to the tune, notably Jean Elliot’s (1735) lyrics below. She published it anonymously and it was at the time thought to be an ancient surviving ballad. However, Burns suspected it was an imitation, and together with Ramsay and Sir Walter Scott eventually discovered its author.
Due to the content of the lyrics and reverence for the tune, many pipers will only perform it in public at funerals or memorial services. I myself have refused to play it at times, when requested to do so outwith these events.
The first verse of the song contrasts happier times with grief at the losses at the Battle of Flodden, 1513. Estimates of Scottish casualties in this dreadful battle vary between 5,000 – 17,000, including the King, James IV.
I’ve heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Lassies a-lilting before dawn o’ day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
“The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away”.
Dool and wae for the order sent oor lads tae the Border!
The English for ance, by guile wan the day,
The Flooers o’ the Forest, that fought aye the foremost,
The pride o’ oor land lie cauld in the clay.
HMS Renown was the lead ship of her class of battle-cruisers of the Royal Navy built during the First World War. Renown, and her sister HMS Repulse, were the world’s fastest capital ships when they were built.
Renown did not see combat during WW1 – but frequently conveyed royalty on their foreign tours and served as flagship of the Battle-cruiser Squadron, when the ill-fated HMS Hood was refitting.
In WW2, Renown was involved in the search for the Admiral Graf Spee, participated in the Norwegian Campaign, the search for the German battleship Bismarck, the Battle of Cape Spartivento, several Arctic convoys in early 1942, and transporting Winston Churchill and his staff to and from conferences with various Allied leaders.
Transferred to the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean, she supported numerous attacks on Japanese-occupied facilities, in Indonesia and various island groups in the Indian Ocean.
Renown was sold for scrap in 1948.
Turf Lodge (P/M Angus MacDonald)
In the shadow of Belfast’s Black Mountain lies the Turf Lodge housing estate, which for most of its 50-year history has been the scene of much poverty and social unrest. Originally, the estate was built to house people from the overcrowded terraced housing of the Lower Falls. It was not unusual for these old one- and two-bedroom houses to accommodate twelve people.
In the beginning, residents were delighted with their new houses. Sadly, it soon became apparent that all was not as idyllic as the residents thought. With no shops, schools, public transport or even any roads – and a population of young families with children – life could be tough.
With the onset of the Troubles, the impact on Turf Lodge was immediate. Residents’ narratives have been recorded:
“Turf Lodge literally blew up, emotionally and socially and every other way.”
“I remember going to Mass and seeing men standing on the corner with machine guns.”
“Every male over sixteen was screened [by the Army] in Turf Lodge within an 18-month period – either in the street or going to the houses – so everybody knew the inside of a barracks.”
The British Army famously bought one of the top flats in a tower block in the middle of Turf Lodge, and set up an observation post there.
Over 3500 people died in the Troubles, and many more (possibly over 100,000) were injured.
Lament for Red Hector of the Battles
And from the Troubles of 1970’s Belfast … to myth and legend in Scotland: warfare does not seem to have gone away much, during human history. Red Hector (Eachainn Ruadh) died in the Battle of Harlow (near Inverurie) in 1411.
The 6th chief of the MacLeans of Duart, Hector early distinguished himself by daring exploits, and was noted as being one of the best swordsmen of his time. He became so celebrated as a swordsman, that many knights came from distant parts to measure weapons with him.
Red Hector was lieutenant-general under his uncle Donald of Islay during this, his last, battle. He was ultimately slain by Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum in a ferocious hand-to-hand struggle, which was described as ‘a noble and notable single combat,’ at the end of which both men lay dead. Hector was carried from the field and buried on the Island of Iona. Thereafter the MacLeans of Duart and the Irvines of Drum began a custom of exchanging a sword each year, on the anniversary of the battle.
The Battle of Harlow made a big impression on the people of Scotland at the time, and for generations afterwards, being very bloody (1400 men died in a short space of time) and yet with little consequence for either side. The tune therefore may have been composed some time after the event, but still it must be one of our earliest piobaireachds.
Next up was Donald McLeod who tapped into the evening’s emotion by starting with the HLI Crossing the Rhine by Donald Shaw Ramsay and The Heights of Cassino by PM Dan MacRae – 2 classic 6/8 marches inspired by WW2.
‘The Battle of Monte Cassino (also known as the Battle for Rome and the Battle for Cassino) was a costly series of four assaults by the Allies against the Winter Line in Italy held by Axis forces during the Italian Campaign of World War II. The intention was a breakthrough to Rome.
At the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans holding the Rapido, Liri, and Garigliano valleys and some of the surrounding peaks and ridges. Together, these features formed the Gustav Line. Monte Cassino, a historic hilltop abbey founded in AD 529 by Benedict of Nursia, dominated the nearby town of Cassino and the entrances to the Liri and Rapido valleys, but had been left unoccupied by the German defenders. The Germans had, however, manned some positions set into the steep slopes below the abbey’s walls.
Fearing that the abbey did form part of the Germans’ defensive line, the Allies sanctioned its bombing on 15 February and American bombers proceeded to drop 1,400 tons of bombs onto it. The destruction and rubble left by the bombing raid now provided better protection from aerial and artillery attacks, so, two days later, German paratroopers took up positions in the abbey’s ruins. Between 17 January and 18 May, Monte Cassino and the Gustav defences were assaulted four times by Allied troops, the last involving twenty divisions attacking along a twenty-mile front. The German defenders were finally driven from their positions, but at a high cost.’
Donald then played An Eala Bhan and Tha mi Duilich, Cianail, Duilich. He stopped and gave us a bit of background on the tunes and what they meant to him. He did this after every set of tunes and it more than added to the ambience of the evening.
‘Both tunes were written by North Uist Bard Donald MacDonald (Domhnall Ruadh Choruna) – so called because his great Grandfather fought at the Battle of Coronna in 1809 during the Napoleonic War. ‘
An Eala Bhan’ (The White Swan) talks of his longing for his first love back in Uist whilst suffering the hell of trench warfare. Whilst ‘Tha mi Duilich, Cianail, Duilich’ (I am Sorry, Mournful Sorry) is an angry, sorrowful reflection of seeing his friends and so many other men killed in the trenches. Donald survived the war and died in his native Uist in 1967.
Donald continued with the MSR-Knightswood Ceilidh / Susan Macleod / Sound of Sleat.
‘Donald Macleod of course wrote the first two tunes. He was captured along with the rest of the 51st Highland Division at St Valery in 1940. This rearguard action almost certainly occupied the advancing German forces long enough to enable the evacuation at Dunkirk to take place.
The captured troops were placed on a forced march back to Germany but by all accounts this was fairly shambolic, allowing men to slip away. Donald Macleod self-effacingly said that he was thrown back as a tiddler (on account of his height). However, many Gaelic speaking soldiers slipped away and managed to avoid detection by using the language when challenged and were apparently mistaken for Romany Gypsies by German forces. Donald made his way back home and subsequently played on the assault craft over the Rhine in the final advance into Germany.’
Donald ended with An Ataireachd Ard (The Ceaseless Surge of the Sea)
‘My own great uncle Kenneth Macleod joined the Royal Navy in 1915. He was washed overboard and drowned off Ireland in December 1916. One of 4 brothers, the other 3 survived service although another uncle, Murdo, was gassed. My Grandfather, William Macleod, born in 1900, joined the Seaforths but fortunately just missed active combat service. I still wear his Seaforths cap badge with pride to this day whilst competing.
Great Uncle Kenny was seldom more than a name from the far off past, a bronze plaque from King George lying dusty in a cupboard, one young face in a book ‘The Record of the Men of Loch Broom 1914-1918’ which documents the terrible destruction of an entire generation of men from a small highland community.
The tune conveys a great deal more than words ever could. Tha mi duilich gu dearbh.’
As Donald put the pipe away it was clear that this had been a very personal tribute. Thus without further ado we had the evenings piobaireachd, The Groat, played by Duncan Beattie. Duncan has also had a very successful competitive season rounding it off with an outstanding haul in London. Duncan has assured us that he will be along more often next year. That would be most welcome.
The final player of the night was Andrew Gray who started with Flett from Flotta and The Battle of Waterloo. He then kicked into some fast and furious light music that lifted the spirits and sent us off into the night with a spring in the step.
What a marvelous evening!