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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Preparing for war: the training of army pipers

Blog posted on behalf of Club 21 placement volunteer Karen Oakley:

During the War, the running of the Pìobaireachd Society carried on as in times of peace and matters including the payment of membership fees continued to be flagged up in letters. Annual subscription to the Society cost £1.1s (or a Guinea) and this was used to help towards the publishing of pìobaireachd books and the provision of lessons.

“We will be obliged if you will inform us if you are making special arrangements with reference to the Subscriptions of any of your members who may be serving out of this country in His Majesty’s Forces.” (DC80/372/74)

“We will be obliged if you will inform us if you are making special arrangements with reference to the Subscriptions of any of your members who may be serving out of this country in His Majesty’s Forces.” (DC80/372/74) [Click to enlarge]

Yet, with the possibility of war being over by Christmas looking less likely, the Society was encouraged to suspend membership and refund those who were serving in the forces. Over time, this must have put the Society in greater financial difficulty.

A more pressing matter, however, was the training of army pipers, as had always been a priority for the Society. Letters of correspondence suggest that the Highlands and Islands were where the bulk of activity took place, with classes in Inverness and Uist amongst those mentioned. A high standard of playing was expected of the pupils, as this next letter shows.

The tutor of the class in Inverness, John MacDonald, informs the Society that the class had been “rather slow in picking up the different movements of Pìobaireachd” but are “now making quite good progress.” (DC80/372/4)

The tutor of the class in Inverness, John MacDonald, informs the Society that the class had been “rather slow in picking up the different movements of Pìobaireachd” but are “now making quite good progress.” (DC80/372/4)

You may be wondering why it was felt so important to train pipers for the army.

As highlighted in my introductory post,  pipers have a long tradition of leading the rest of the army into battle. Off the battlefield, they are also known to have provided entertainment to other soldiers. Indeed, some of today’s most well known tunes such as The Battle of the Somme and The Bloody Fields of Flanders were written in the trenches. A solo piper would also play when laying the fallen to rest and this symbolic role continues to this day. The next letter highlights how pressing it was felt that the Society continued to supply pipers to the army.

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Remembering the Sons of Lord Maclay

In a previous post we talked about the University Chapel organ that was kindly donated by Lord Maclay. Today’s blog will offer some more information on Lord Maclay and his sons who perished during the Great War.

In 1921, Lord and Lady Maclay donated their home at 17 Park Terrace to the University in memory of their two sons who fell during the Great War. A plaque was erected to commemorate the gift, it reads:

08-030_Maclay_Plaque_001

Gifted to Glasgow University by

Sir Joseph and Lady Maclay

In memory of their sons

Lieut. Ebenezer Maclay Scots Guards

killed in action before Arras 1918

and

Lieut . William S. Maclay Scottish Rifles

Killed in action in Gallipoli 1915

PRO⋅PATRIA⋅MORI

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The Pìobaireachd Society: Introduction to the WW1 material

Blog posted on behalf of Club 21 placement volunteer Karen Oakley:

Between 2014 and 2018 marks the centenary of the First World War and public attention has turned increasingly to remembering events both at home and abroad. Here at the University of Glasgow, names continue to be added to the Roll of Honour, telling the stories of those in the University community who fell during the war.

Yet what was life like for those at home during these tumultuous years? How did life change and what challenges did they face?

As part of my placement with Club 21, I’ll be researching the effects of World War One on the Pìobaireachd Society. Pìobaireachd (or Ceòl Mòr, literally meaning ‘big music’ in Gaelic) refers to the classical side of piping, consisting of a theme (ùrlar) and variations of this theme.

Formed in 1903, the society is still going today and aims to promote the classical side of pipe music through collecting pìobaireachd manuscripts and the publication of books. You can read more about them here.

The Pìobaireachd Society received payments from the War Office for the tuition of pipers, as this letter shows. (DC80/372/21)

The Pìobaireachd Society received payments from the War Office for the tuition of pipers, as this letter shows.
(DC80/372/21) [click to enlarge]

The Archives Services holds a number of the Society’s letters: correspondence between the members that was written between 1903 until 1921. They were found amongst papers relating to the Garscube Estate that was owned by Captain Campbell of Succoth, who was also an active member of the Society. They offer a fascinating insight into the daily workings of the society and I will be focusing on the correspondence during the war years.

Pipers were very much seen as being the backbone of the Army: often, they were the first to march ‘over the top’, piping the rest of the soldiers into battle. This had been going long before 1914, especially in Highland Regiments. As we will see over the next few weeks, it continued to be a priority for the Pìobaireachd Society to teach men to a high standard of playing to provide this service in battle.

We will also find out the impact of the war on the Society and its members and their plans to commemorate the fallen when the war was over.

Letter to the Society from December 1914. Regrets to inform them that he’s ending his membership, “owing to financial considerations due to the war.” As the war progressed, more letters similar to this followed. (DC80/372/78)

Letter to the Society from December 1914. Regrets to inform them that he’s ending his membership, “owing to financial considerations due to the war.” As the war progressed, more letters similar to this followed. (DC80/372/78)

Keep an eye out for more blog posts about the Pìobaireachd Society during World War One in the following weeks. In the meantime, if you would like to visit the collection for yourself or have some information about the society that you would like to share, please contact the Duty Archivist by emailing: enquiries@archives.gla.ac.uk.