Skye Games / St Valéry tribute / 2020 Hall of Fame nominations

The memorial to the 51st Highland Division stands above the town of St Valèry.
The memorial to the 51st Highland Division stands above the town of St Valèry.
Derek Midgley with the Dunvegan Medal in 2016. Photo: Skye Media

Skye Games will not take place this year. Cameron MacFadyen, Piping Convener, said: “It is with much regret that I have to advise that the decision has been taken very recently to cancel the 2020 Skye Games in view of the current emergency.

“With the exception of the two World Wars, this is the only occasion that the games have been cancelled since inauguration in 1877.”

Globally, all piping competitions, recitals, highland games and gatherings have been cancelled for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Except for the Argyllshire Gathering.

We understand that Oban will indeed be cancelled in due course. However, given that some competitions, particularly junior competitions, have taken place online in recent weeks, Bagpipe.News proffers a suggestion to Oban’s organisers that they should consider running the MacGregor Memorial contest in a similar way.

Over the last two years pipers have taken part in tributes to the centenary of the end of the First World War and the 75 anniversary of VE Day. Pipers are now being asked to join a tribute to the thousands of Scots soldiers who were killed or captured during the disastrous surrender at St Valéry-en-Caux, Somme, France on June 12, 1940.

During the evacuation at Dunkirk on June 4, the 51st Highland Division had been detached from the main British Expeditionary Force and therefore managed to escape encirclement. They were a significant part of the continuation of the fight in France, alongside their French allies and British and Commonwealth armies. They conducted a fighting withdrawal west from the Somme under French command but due to the speed of the German advance, they, and part of the French army, were cut off, despite hopes that they would escape via Le Havre.

The memorial to the 51st Highland Division stands above the town of St Valèry.
The memorial to the 51st Highland Division stands above the town of St Valèry.

Some did manage to escape but the larger body were cut off and surrounded at the little fishing town of St-Valéry-en-Caux. Not unlike Dunkirk, a flotilla of ships and small vessels were despatched but the inclement weather and the German artillery overlooking the town meant any evacuation was impossible.

The men, who had been fighting almost continuously for ten days against overwhelming odds, were exhausted and almost out of ammunition. One week later, on June 12, they surrendered.

The incident has been generally forgotten – except by pipers, of course, because of ‘Big’ Donald MacLean’s wonderful 3/4 retreat march, Heroes of St Valéry. MacLean was among those captured. He wasn’t released until 1945. Pipe Major Donald MacLeod MBE was also among those captured although he managed to escape and later published the tune in Book 2 of his collection.

At 10:00 on June 12, Poppyscotland is asking pipers to play MacLean’s tune at their doorsteps but also to register their participation. For more information – and to download Jim McGillivray’s score of the tune – go online to Poppyscotland’s website.

Here is a Pathé News report from 1950 on the unveiling of the memorial to the 51st in St Valèry:

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2020 Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

The categories are:

• Performers
• Services to Gaelic
• Services to Broadcasting
• Services to Charity
• Services to Scots
• Services to Collection (the promotion of folklore and traditions)
• The Hamish Henderson Services to Traditional Music Award (includes non-performers and performers)
• Services to Community

Highland pipers who have been inducted across various categories in previous years include John Wilson, Bob Brown, Bob Nicol, Murray Henderson, G. S. McLennan, Hamish Moore, Pipe Major Donald MacLeod MBE, Martyn Bennett, Roddy MacLeod MBE, Ian and Gordon Duncan, Donald MacPherson, PM John D. Burgess MBE and Iain MacFadyen.

• Make a nomination here.

This year’s ceremony will be held on December 5, 2020 in The Caird Hall, Dundee.