Music in the Army,
In clan warfare the piper had been a key figure. He played on the actual
field of battle, In 1760 In defence of Quebec, General James Murrays
Highlanders were being beaten back, The pipers on being ordered to play,
the Highlanders returned and formed with great determination. we have
lots of stories of Pipers on the field of battle. There was George
Clark, at Vimeira in 1808 playing on the ground long after he had been
wounded in the groin. John MacLauchlan, the first man to reach the top
of the walls at Badajoz in 1812. He was killed in the following year,
while playing at Vittoria. Kenneth MacKay who played the old pibroch
Cogadh no Sith around the outside of the British Square at Waterloo, and
many many more.
Some writers seem to have assumed that
the piper playing on the field chose a particular tune that would be
know to the men: even a prescribed signal tune for the charge. In later
times, regiments did in fact specify tunes for this purpose, but whether
anyone remembered them in the heat of the moment is another matter.
After the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir in 1882. The Piper was asked what tune
he had played as they charged forward. He said, "I just played
"the Braies of Mar", and then anything that came into ma heid"
On manoevres, or in camp, however, tunes were laid down for the various
standing orders. The earliest know list of such tunes, dated 1778,
contains five pieces, all of which can be identified as pibrochs.
Gathering. was Coagive na Shea "War or Peace". Revellee was
Glais Vair. "The Finger Look". The Troop was Boadach na
brigishin "The carles with the breeks". Retreat was Gilly
Christie. "The raid of Kilchrist". and the Tatoo was Molly
defshit Mahary, "Mary's Praise".
They all knew that "The paramount
duty of the piper was indeed to play the men into battle and to keep
playing as long as he was able. Not until well into the First World War
did the authorities finally decide that pipers were too valuable in
their supporting role to be risked in the front line. As late as 1918 an
officer wrote that not only were pipers too difficult to replace,
but that also, "When the men heard the pipes they would lose
control of themselves, and in their eagerness to get forward would be
apt to rush into their own barrage.
When Highland soldiers began to be recruited into the army, whether
Scottish or English, pro-Government or rebel, pipers came with them.
This seems to be quite certain, and if the records of the fact are
patchy, it is most likely because the pipers existed on a semi-honorary
footing, paid by individual officers, and not on the official payrol.
The Scots Guards wrote in 1671. "With us any Captain may keep a
piper in his Company, and maintain him too, for no pay is allowed him -
perhaps just as much as he deserveth"
What is clear in all the early references
is that the pipers were posted as individuals, to different companies,
and this being so, it seems likely that for most of their duties they
would have played solo. It is equally clear that the authorities,
whether they liked them or not, accepted the pipers as essential, if
Highland soldiers were to be brought under military discipline. A
Captain was ordered to add a piper and a drummer to his corps, "as
the men could scarcely be brought to march without them.
it is interesting to find some degree of
uniformaiity between regiments, at least as regards the most - used
tunes. 'Reveille' is always 'Johnny Cope', the call to a meal,
especially breakfast, is 'brose and Butter', the March Past is often,
'Highland Laddie', marching out of the Barracks, 'MacDonal's awa' tae
the Wars', Lights Out, 'Soldier Lie doon'
DID YOU KNOW?
At one time, gunpowder was used to
determine the strength of Whisky,
Q. What's Black & Brown and looks
good on a piper?
A. A Doberman Pincher.
The Highland Dress and How to Wear it.
Kilt. If a
member of a clan possessing one or more tartans, such as
"clan," "hunting," or "dress," the person
should wear his own tartan either "clan," "hunting,"
or "dress," or a combination of the first two. Of course on
"dress occasions" the "dress" tartan is generally
worn. If belonging to a sept of any clan, he should wear the tartan of
the clan of which he is a sept, if the sept has no special tartan of its
own. If the sept has a special tartan, he should wear it. When the
wearer is entitled to both a "clan" and a "district"
tartan it is admissible to wear kilt and hose of the latter and doublet
or plaid of the former. It is not considered proper to combine either
"clan" or "hunting" tartan with "dress"
tartan. If one is to wear "dress" tartan, the kilt, plaid, and
hose must be uniform.
THE LITTLE BLACK KNIFE.
There is little that students of highland dress agree on about the
sgian dubh, even its spelling. It is seen as skein dubh, sgian dhub,
skene du, skean dhu and skhian dubh, and doubtless others. Phonetically,
it is pronounced skein or skeen doo. The meaning, however, is clear:
sgian means knife or dagger, dubh means black. There is some discussion
about the meaning of black in this connotation. Some feel that black
comes from the usual color of the handle of the little knife, but the
great majority feel that it means secret, or hidden, as in the word
blackmail. This is rooted in one of the prominent theories about the
knife's origin.This theory contends that the sgian dubh evolved from the
sgian achlais (ochles), the armpit dagger mentioned in connection with
the Scots in the 17th and 18th centuries. This was a knife slightly
larger than today's sgian dubh that was carried in the upper sleeve of
the jacket and drawn from the inside through the armhole, or possibly in
the lining of the body of the jacket under the left arm; the references
are unclear. I believe, but have no proof, that this is the same knife
that a Scottish woman would have carried under the apron of her
wrap-around "kilted" skirt, along with her purse. Just as with
any man, a woman would have had to carry her own eating utensils. Mary
MacGregor makes good use of one in the recent movie Rob Roy.
No knife still exists that can be identified as a sgian achlais, so
that is no help. However, this does fit the description of a secret, or
"black" knife. Courtesy of the day demanded that, when
entering the home of a friend, no weapons could remain concealed. It is
logical that when the sgian achlais was removed from its hiding place,
the stocking top was a convenient place to display it, securely held by
A second theory holds that the sgian dubh evolved from the small
skinning knife that was part of the typical set of hunting or gralloch
knives. Some of these do exist. There is usually a butchering knife with
a blade of 9-10 inches and a skinner with a blade of only 3 1/2-4
inches. These gralloch knives usually had antler handles, and so do not
fit the term black in either color or carry. This theory does have two
points in its favor, however. First, many early sgian dubhs are fitted
with antler or horn handles. Secondly, the skinning and butchering of
wild game after the successful hunt was usually undertaken by the
upper-class hunter's ghillie, literally "boy" in Gaelic, as in
serving boy. The huntsman would not stoop to such work. It may have been
a hangover of this attitude that had officers in the military regiments
resist the carrying of sgian dubhs, as they were initially considered
fit only for "ghillies and serving rascals."
Q. What's the range of
A. Twenty yards if you have a good
Favourite Champion pipers
WILLIAM McCALLUM, from Campbeltown, Argyllshire, he is
one of the most successful and versatile competitive pipers of his
generation. He was taught by his uncles Ronald and Hugh.
Willie McCallum's competitive record is noted for its consistent
heights. Having won the gold medals at the Northern Meeting and
Argyllshire Gathering, he has gone on to win a string of prestigious
senior-level events, many of them several times over. He holds the
record of seven Glenfiddich Championship title wins.
He is one of the regular instructors at the Ontario School of Piping in
In addition to his five solo recordings, he is featured on 14 albums of
RODDY MACLEOD is the
Principal of the National Piping Centre. He has won every solo piping
award including the Glenfiddich Piping Championships on three occasions,
Gold Medals at Oban and Inverness, Former Winners MSR at Oban and
Inverness, the Clasp at Inverness on two occasions and Bi-centenary
medal, the Silver Chanter on three occasions and the London Bratach Gorm
In 2003 he was awarded the MBE for services to piping and in 2004 he won
the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Music Award. He was Pipe Major of the
Scottish Power pipe band for 10 years from 1995 until 2005 during which
time the band appeared in the prize list of virtually every major Grade
Gordon J Walker is one of
the world's premier solo pipers and comes from a piping background.
With two uncles who served both as pipers in the Scots Guards, it was
natural he would follow them into the military. He served 16 years with
the 1st Btn. The Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own
Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment) and saw active service in the Gulf War
and operational tours of duty in Bosnia and Northern Ireland.
Before retiring from the Army in October 1999 after a distinguished
career, he was the Lone Piper at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and
personal piper to the Lord Provost of Glasgow. He was awarded his Pipe
Majors Certificate in 1989 at the Army School of Piping in Edinburgh
Castle with which he passed with distinguished honours, and holds all
the teaching qualifications of the Institute of Piping.
He hails from Cumnock in Ayrshire where he received tuition from the
late Pipe Major David Kay, a brilliant tutor, and then in turn from Pipe
Major Iain M Morrison Queen�s Own Highlanders, and Captain Andrew
Pitkeathly Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, formerly personal piper to
HM Queen Elizabeth II and a Director of the Army Bagpipe Music. A full
time piping instructor with The Piping Centre, Gordon maintains that
�we must keep the teaching going, passing on our knowledge is a vital
part of our Scottish heritage, and we cannot lose that�.
Q. How many competition
Judges does it take to change a light Bulb?
A. None. But rest
assured they'll find something wrong with the way YOU do it.
Q. How many Scotsmen
does it take to change a Light Bulb?
A. Och! It's no
Unlike other dance mediums,
Highland dances are generally danced solo and in competition. Dancers typically
dance to traditional Scottish music such as Strathspeys, Reels, Hornpipes, and
Jigs all played by an accompanying bagpiper. The dances are made up of different
parts, called steps and there are usually four or six steps to a dance.
Highland Dancing was
traditionally performed by men, often before battle or other military pursuits,
but is now performed by men and women. It is one of few arenas where men and
women compete equally. In most competitions, the number of women competing far
exceeds the number of men.
Highland Dancing is a
healthy workout for adults and for children. It is a great way to develop good
coordination, posture and overall muscle tone, not to mention aerobic capacity
and strength. Ambitious new students develop self-discipline and confidence as
they learn to tackle the physical demands of Highland dancing. Indeed, the
tremendous strength, stamina, and technical precision that accomplished dancers
exhibit on stage comes from years of independent training and collaboration with
In addition to perpetuating
a great cultural tradition, highland dancers appreciate the athletic challenges,
competitive goals, performance opportunities as well as the opportunity to meet
and become lifelong friends with dancers from other areas, both nationally and
internationally, that participation in this ethnic art form/sport affords them.
Scottish Highland dancing is one of the
oldest forms of dance, it is thought to date back to the 11th century. Highland
Dancing is the traditional solo dancing of Scotland, and should not be confused
with Scottish country dancing the social dance of the country. Both modern
ballet and square dancing can trace their roots back to the Highlands.
Unfortunately, the origins of Highland Dancing are shrouded in antiquity and
legend. Little academic research has been undertaken into this beautiful and
important art form in part, because very little was recorded,
as Highland culture was largely an oral culture, with song and traditions passed
down by word of mouth. As a result, numerous stories abound regarding the source
of the dances, and many are in conflict with each
other. I will therefore give both the history, which is commonly accepted
among teachers and judges, as well as some of the legends and stories with which
I grew up in order that more information is not lost. Many of the legends are
beautiful and inspiring to young dancers, and should be recorded for the future.
Highland Dancing is said to have been created by a young boy, when he was out
hunting deer. The boy watched a buck jumping around in a field the sight was so
beautiful he could not bring himself to kill the deer. So he returned home with
no food. When asked why he had nothing for his family to eat, the boy could not
find the words to describe how beautiful the stag had been so he danced instead,
his hands held aloft like the stags antlered head.
According to tradition, the old kings and chiefs of Scotland, used Highland
dancing as a way of choosing men for their retinue and men at arms. Dancing was
one of the ways men were tested on agility, strength, stamina and accuracy.
Scottish regiments used Highland Dancing as exercise to keep the troops in
shape, and ready for battle. The dances are indeed excellent exercise; for
example, in a typical six-step Highland Fling, a dancer will jump vertically 192
times (the equivalent of running a mile), while performing complicated and
intricate footwork, and using the muscles from head to toe. Highland dancing is
therefore akin to sprinting, with dancers using fast-twitch muscle, which is
also required by soldiers. The regiments did not just dance six steps they
danced upwards of 20 steps in one dance! The leaps were said to be used to leap
over a sword trust at their heart.
Originally only men were allowed to do these dances. In the late 19th century a
young woman named Jenny Douglas decided to enter a Highland dance competition.
As this was not expressly forbidden, she was allowed to enter. Later during the
World Wars, women began dancing more often wanting to preserve their rich
culture and history, while the men were defending their homeland. Since then the
number of females participating in the sport has increased until today in excess
of 95% of all dancers are female.
The Highland Fling-
As with the Sword Dance, this is probably the oldest of the traditional dances
of Scotland - signifying victory following a battle. It was danced on a targe, a
circular shield of wood with the front covered in tough hide, and the back in
deer or sheepskin. The targe weighed approximately five pounds, and was strong
enough to withstand the thrust of a bayonet.
The front of the shield was decorated with brass studs and plates, and had a
long spike in the centre around which the dancer would dance flicking of the
feet, jumping and careful stepping supposedly to drive evil spirits away.
Agility, nimble footwork, and strength allowed the dancer to avoid the sharp
spike, which often projected five to six inches upwards. It was also said to
have been practiced on tree stumps and fence posts. Thus the Fling is danced in
The Sword Dance-
The Sword Dance is mentioned in documents going back to the reign of Malcolm
III, King of Scots in the eleventh century. Known in Gaelic as "Canmore",
"Great Head", he allegedly danced over his bloody claymore, (the
ancient two-handed sword of Scotland), crossed with the sword of his defeated
enemy (or perhaps even over the severed head of his foe).
After this the Sword dance was traditional danced by warriors on the eve of
battle, if the dancer touched the sword he would be wounded the next day, but if
a dancer kicked the sword, he would be killed, if many dancers touched their
swords the clan would lose the battle. Following this tradition today, if a
dancer touches a sword (but not displaces it in competition), the dancer loses
five marks. However, if the dancer displaces the sword, s/he is disqualified.
The clap at close to the end of the dance tells the piper to speed up the tempo,
showing off the dancers endurance and mettle.
Seann Truibhas, pronounced Shawn Trewes, is Gaelic for "Old Trousers".
It is largely believed that the dance developed after the 1745 Jacobite Rising,
when Charles Edward Stuart (more affectionately known as Bonnie Prince Charlie)
came to Scotland (from France) to win back the crown.
Initially the uprising was a staggering success; the Jacobite army rapidly broke
out of the Highlands, captured Edinburgh, and advanced as far south as Derby in
England. Unfortunately, the army lacked the necessary French support, and so
retreated back to their stronghold in the Highlands, where it was finally
defeated at Culloden Moor near Inverness in 1746.
Afterwards, the government decided to end once and for all the Jacobite military
threat. Jacobites were rounded up, imprisoned or executed. Estates were
snatched, the clan system dismantled, and their kilt and plaids, pipes, and
Some therefore suggest that the dance was created when the above Act of
Proscription was repealed in 1783, and Highlanders were once again allowed to
wear their kilts. The first part of the dance depicts a man trying to shake off
the hated trousers and the quick-time is thought to reflect the Highlander's
joy at regaining the freedom of their native kilts.
My Family name Millmoor is Irish but my Mothers name
Davidson is definitely Scottish.
Davidson, This clan associated themselves and took
protection of and under William Mackintosh (V11.) of Mackintosh prior to
1350, and have ever since been regarded as a sept of Clan Chattan.
Kinrara, in his history (1676), says "The
Davidsons, styled of Invernahaven, in Badenoch, were, according to
common tradition, originally a branch of the Comyns." After the
downfall of the Comyns, Donald Dhu of Invernahaven associated himself
with Clan Chattan, married a daughter of Angus (V1.) of Mackintosh, and
became a leading member of Clan Chattan. The favour shown to him by the
Captain of Clan Chattan roused the jealousy of another tribe, a jealousy
which brought about the virtual extinction of the Davidsons.
The Davidsons, called Clann Da idh from their first
know leader, David Dhu of Invernahaven, were chief actors in the two
notable battles 9 Invernahaven (1370) and the North Inch of Perth
(1396)-and the losers in both battles.
The leading families are the Davidsons of Cantray, in
Inverness, and the Davidsons of Tulloch, in Ross0-shire.
About the year 1700 Alexander Davidson of Davidson,
in Cromarty, married Miss Bayne of Tulloch, and purchased the estate
from his father-in-law. The Baynes of Tulloch were for many generations
of great position and influence in Ross-shire. Tulloch Castle is of
ancient date, the keep having been built in 1466, and other parts of it
in 1665. A branch of this family entered the service of France in the
17th century, having proved their descent to be noble for six
generations prior to July 1629, as shown by the Livre d'Or in the
imperial archives of France.
The Davidsons are said to have been almost annihilated
at the Battle of the North Inch, Perth in 1396.
Davidson of Tulloch was latterly regarded as chief,
but his estates have passed in the female line to Mrs. Vickers, who has
not taken up the name and arms of Davidson, so the representation lies
dormant. There is a Davidson Association entitles Clan Dhai, which
has recorded arms in Lyon Court.
The MacCrimmons. Are
they the great pipers of the past???
Much stress has been
laid on the role of piping dynasties in the creation and dissemination
of the music but a good deal of our information, especially about the
earlier pipers, is at best approximate. The idea of families of
brilliantly endowed teachers and composers following one another in
strict succession back into the misty reaches of time fitted neatly into
the romanticised notion of Highland society which developed during the
nineteenth century: but the evidence is fragmentary and, for
times much earlier than about 1700, largely traditional. The
MacCrimmonds of Sky are nowadays regarded as piping's royal family, but
it was only from about the middle of the nineteenth century that they
began to appear routinely in written sources as pre-eminent players,
composers and teachers. The account was expanded by subsequent writers
step by step until it reached its current position in which they are
considered - on the basis of very little evidence - as the
leading composers of piobaireached and the inventors of the form.
Similarly, the MacCrimmon 'succession' was extended to push the
foundation of their college ever further back in time, and there was
much fanciful speculation about their origins - that they had originally
been Irish, Norse, or even Italian.
In the earliest
accounts of the music, only a handful of tunes are attributed to
MacCrimmon composers: but during the neneteenth and twentieth centuries,
the MacCrimmon 'repertoire' grew as many tunes connected with Skye or
the MacLeods were casually attributed to them. The competition
for the Silver Chanter, a leading invitational event held annually at
Dunvegan Castle, stipulates that contestants must play a 'MacCrimmon'
peobaireachd: but the tunes nowadays recognised as such have seldom any
tangible connection with the family.
Similarly, the 'MacCrimmon
crest' - 'a hand holding a pipe chanter, with a motto "Cogadh no
Sith" - Peace or war. The bearings on a
field argent, a chevron azure, charged with a lion passant or, between
three cross croslets fitchee, gules' - made its first appearance in the
Clans of the Scottish Highlands in 1847, and probably sprang from the
fertile brain of the book's compiler, Aberdonian journalist James Logan.
Yet there are references to MacCrimmon pipers in historical documents
from various parts of Scotland from the sixteenth century onwards. While
the succession in the important Skye familily is largely conjectural, we
know a good deal about at least one of its later member, namely Donald
Roy MacCrimmon who emigrated to Carolina and fought gallantly in the
American Wars of Independence, were he
cut his way through Parties of the Rebels, & eluded their pursuit
when 500 Dollars were offered for his Head. In the course of his Service
he personally wrested in single Combat their Swords from three Commanding
officers of the Enemy, laying their owners prostrate on the Earth, and
sized three Stand of Colours. He also at the head of six men compelled
the Surrender of a Privateer fully armed.
On his return to
Scotland, Donald Roy was involved in ultimately abortive attempts to
re-establish the MacCrimmon college on an official basis as an Army
School of Piping.
Bagpipes by numbers
1 Bagpipes developed independently in parts of Europe and the Middle
East around the same time. The earliest surviving written reference comes in the
writings of the Athenian poet Aristophanes, who disdainfully mentioned that the
pipers of Thebes played on instruments of dog skin and bone.
2 There are four vital components to modern pipes: a steady supply of
air delivered down the blowpipe; an airtight bag (originally made from animal
skin but now synthetic) which stores and controls the supply of air via
squeezing; the chanter or melody pipe, played by one or two hands; and the drone
a reeded pipe with a sliding joint to alter the pitch.
3 Bagpipes have long been popular as an instrument of war, both
scaring the enemy and boosting the morale of the pipers' own side. During the
Jacobite risings of 1745, possession of the pipes in Britain was punishable by
4 After leaving university, Alastair Campbell later to be Tony Blair's
spinmeister-general busked his way round Europe with his bagpipes even basing an
erotic essay on the experience.
5 There are more bagpipe players and pipe bands in New Zealand than in
Scotland, largely as a result of Scottish migration in the 19th and 20th
6 The bagpipes made an unlikely appearance in Friends when Ross,
played by David Scwhimmer, tried to learn to play them for his sister Monica's
7 Because of their limited range of just nine notes bagpipers can play
only music specifically composed for the instrument. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
composed 'Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise' for the pipes in 1985 while musical
satirist Peter Schickele featured them as one of his six instruments for the
fictional PDQ Bach's Sinfonia Concertante.
8 The Emperor Nero was known not just for fiddling while Rome burned
but also for his love of bagpipes. According to Suetonius, he once showed
offered to play them in public after losing a poetry competition.
9 The noise of bagpipes can reach 111 decibels louder than a pneumatic
10 In 2005 army health and safety inspectors called for soldiers to
wear ear protectors while learning the instrument.
11 Bagpipes featured prominently on AC/DC's fist-pumping anthem It's a
Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock 'n' Roll). The track featured on their
three-million selling album High Voltage in 1976.
12 A mysterious bagpipe-wielding figure peers down from the central
panel of Hieronymous Bosch's 15th century triptych The Epiphany, observing,
apparently unseen, the Magi's adoration of the young Christ.
13 One of the earliest written records of the "great pipes" in
Scotland came in 1623 when a man was prosecuted in Perth for playing them on the
14 The relationship between Cherie Blair and the Royal Family is said
not to have been improved by the famous Balmoral ritual of a bagpiper playing a
15 King Rama VI of Thailand ordered that the Great Highland Bagpipe
replace the oboe as the official instrument of his elite Wild Tiger Corps.
16 An asthmatic teenager in Glasgow recently reported that his
breathing problems had been radically improved since taking up the instrument.
Scientists are investigating his claims.
17 The Gaida a form of bagpipes remains Bulgaria's national
instrument, and it is common both in orchestras and at weddings.
18 Bagpipe standard Amazing Grace is often hailed as the most covered
song in history, with more than 3,200 different recordings in existence . It was
played at the funerals of Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, Joe DiMaggio and Sonny
19 The jazz musician Rufus Harley switched from saxophone to the
bagpipes after watching the Black Watch play at President Kennedy's funeral,
adapting the instrument to play jazz and blues.
20 Paul McCartney's bagpipe-based 'Mull of Kintyre' was his biggest
ever hit. The 1977 single sold over 2 million copies, outstripping anything he
had achieved with the Beatles and created the highest selling bagpipe track of
Brussels slaps a noise order on Bagpipes!