By Joe Wilson.
An article in the Piping Times regarding the jig playing at the Northern Meeting in 1961 reads: “Sergeant Campbell made amends for his previous appearance [he had made a mistake while playing the strathspey and reel in the short leet] by winning this competition very clearly. Second prize was awarded to Pipe Major Donald Macleod and third to Sgt Willie Macdonald.”
Contained within The Gordon Highlanders Collection of Bagpipe Music, Volume 1, page 30, is a quotation from the late Pipe Major Donald MacLeod who described Calum as: “Possibly the finest player as an army Pipe Major he had ever heard.” It was also said by Pipe Major Donald Macleod that, while competing at the games, Calum Campbell was the only piper who could beat him.
Calum Alan Campbell was indeed a brilliant player and a very good composer. He was born on September 19, 1931 at the military station Jhansi at Ranikhet, India. His father, No 2814751 Private Murdo Campbell, was, at the time, serving with the 2nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, and his mother was Marion Campbell nèe Martin. Captain C.A.R. McRae, the adjutant of the battalion, registered the birth was on September 21 at Ranikhet and the name, as registered, was Calum Alan Martin Campbell.
Calum had two older sisters and a younger brother. The sisters are believed to be now residing in Canada. Donald, the younger brother, served in the Queen’s Own Highlanders. His current whereabouts are unknown. When Calum’s father completed his military service the family took up residence in Glasgow and Calum later became a pupil at Queen Victoria School in Dunblane. There he received tuition in piping from Pipe Major George Sanderson. It was said that Sanderson told him that he would never become a piper and that he should take up the clarinet instead. Calum hated the school and it is said on very good authority that he frequently ran off along with a boy from Aberdeen. Calum always made it home to Glasgow but the boy from Aberdeen, with further to go, never reached home.
On reaching the age of 16 he enlisted in his father’s regiment as a boy soldier. Based at Fort George he would have received tuition from the finest of players of the day including Pipe Major Donald MacLeod who had formed a pipe band there. The Seaforth Highlanders were posted during the 1950s to Malaya for service there during the emergency and Calum was with them. A later posting took him to Gibraltar. There he composed the jig, The Rock (Gibraltar). This tune has not previously been published.
He attended a Pipe Majors’ Course under Pipe Major William Ross at Edinburgh Castle and passed with distinction.
In 1955 a vacancy for a Pipe Major existed in the Gordon Highlanders and Calum, I think with some regret, left his regiment of choice and was appointed to the position. The Gordon Highlanders were then on active service stationed in the Troodos area of Cyprus during the four-year-long EOKA conflict [Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston – EOKA – was a Greek Cypriot guerrilla organisation that fought a campaign for the end of British rule in Cyprus – Editor] when a tragic incident occurred during an exercise codenamed ‘Lucky Alphonse’. The governor of Cyprus, Field Marshall Sir John Harding had, ordered Brigadier ‘Tubby’ Butler to plan the exercise with a view to capturing the EOKA terrorist leader, Colonel George Grivas, who was believed to be in the Paphos Forest area.
The operation commenced on June 8, 1956 and was led by the Royal Marines, The Parachute Regiment and the Gordon Highlanders supported by a number of other units. Temperatures within the forest had risen to the 90˚s Fahrenheit (between 32˚C and 37˚C) and consequently the woodland was tinder-dry. On June 16, a fire broke out caused, according to the terrorists, by the British Army. According to the British, by the terrorists, but perhaps more likely to be the result of mortar bombs when the Royal Horse Guards opened fire on caves in the mountains. The fire spread so rapidly that it was impossible for soldiers to out-run it. The British Government announced that a total of 19 soldiers had died and 18 had sustained serious burns. The Gordon Highlanders lost 13.
Controversy continues as to the real numbers of casualties of the fire and, because of the resulting confusion, those killed by ‘friendly-fire’ when members of units were forced beyond their area of operation.
Military funerals were held in Cyprus and Calum played at the services. They were very dignified occasions as you’ll see from the photograph (right), which was used on the cover of the August 2008 Piping Times. He composed the retreat march Paphos Forest to commemorate the tragic incident. This tune (below) would perhaps have been lost but for a former member of the Gordon Highlanders’ pipe band, Jim McConnachie, formerly of Huntly but now of Dumfries, having supplied a copy of it.
My piping tutor had heard of Calum’s piping ability and as a result in 1957 he had me enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders. That’s when I first met Calum Campbell. The Gordon Highlanders were then based in Old Park Barracks in Dover and on my arrival there I was immediately billeted with members of the pipe band, or rather the “Drums and Pipes” as the band was referred to within the regiment.
I thought that my training sergeant at the depot in Aberdeen, like all training sergeants in those days, was very strict. He was a veteran of the North African campaign and, with two rows of medals, other campaigns. He terrified us young soldiers but I quickly learned that my Pipe Major, Calum Campbell was, if possible, even stricter. He was a fine looking fellow, over six feet in height and very slim. He was as smart a soldier as any within the regiment. What hair he, like all of us, was allowed to have, was fair with a bit of a wave and always the moustache which, in those days, was fairly bushy and curled upwards at the ends.
Although I went on muster parade with the members of the band and sat at the practice table with the other pipers he ignored me completely. After a few days the company commander interviewed me – a normal procedure when a soldier joins a company within a regiment – and only then did Calum speak to me. It was at this stage that he supplied a set of bagpipes to me but I had to tie the bag in myself, thankfully with the assistance of a more experienced piper. All sets in those days were fully mounted with ivory, the more modern ones being supplied by R. G. Lawrie of Glasgow. The chanter reed Calum supplied to me was very hard to blow and this was when I fell foul of him for the first time. I decided to make the reed easier and scraped it with a knife. When I later blew up for Calum to tune my pipes, even I could hear that the chanter sounded terrible. Calum had a puzzled look on his face and took the chanter out and examined the reed. What a lecture I got from him. The dressing down, in the presence of other pipers, went on for ages. I felt terrible and it would take me years before I would put a blade near another reed and every time I do so I think of Calum.
The regiment had returned a few months earlier from Cyprus and members were being readjusted from what was active service to barrack-soldiering. Rifles were carried most mornings on muster parade and they, along with every item of uniform and equipment, were thoroughly inspected. In those days the webbing, belts, packs, ammunition pouches and the like, had to be treated with ‘blanco’ and brass buckles had to be shining. Boots were highly polished and uniforms thoroughly pressed. Parades were always a taxing experience since there was a lot of shouting and bawling at soldiers for the least thing. Minutes after muster parade there followed the barrack room inspection. It was often a relief if an officer carried out the inspection rather than the Pipe Major but he carried it out usually. We would be in our billets when, from the corridor, Calum would shout: “Stand by your beds.” As he went from bed-space to bed-space all eyes would follow him as he ran a finger over surfaces checking for dust. He had the habit of making small adjustments to items of webbing, canvas packs, ammunition pouches, water bottle and steel helmet which, when not in use, were stored in the prescribed manner above our steel lockers. One rascal within our billet decided to play a trick on Calum by putting water in his water bottle then sloping it slightly downwards at the bottom. The bottles were always stored open-topped and facing the front. The ‘rascal’ was not disappointed because Calum attempted to rearrange it and as he did so a gush of water issued from the bottle and Calum only just managed, through nifty footwork — he was a Highland dancer after all — to avoid being soaked from head to foot. There were titters in the room and the inspection came to an abrupt end.
Although Calum was very strict I have no knowledge of him ever placing any one of us on report although he did threaten to do so. One such occasion involving myself occurred on what was called an Administration Inspection. The pipe band had been on parade from an early freezing-cold day. I seem to recall that the whole band played Reveille that morning. We thereafter played ‘Half Hour Dress for Parade’, ‘Quarter Hour Dress for Parade’, ‘Five Minutes Dress for Parade’ and ‘Advance to Parade’. We then stood on the barrack square for hours while the inspecting officer took ages to inspect each company after which the band would play the company off the square with their particular company march, I was standing directly behind the Pipe Major and my fingers were so cold that I had no control over them. The squeaks and squawks coming from my chanter were obviously clearly heard by Calum who, at the end of the piece, turned towards me and shouted: “Wilson, if you don’t start playing properly I’ll put you on a 2-5-2.” (2-2- is the number of the form that contains a charge against a soldier). The threat did seem to have an effect because my fingers did start to respond. We stood still for so long that day that, when the order was given for the pipe band to march off, I found it difficult initially to put one leg in front of the other. It was as if they had seized up.
Friday afternoons were normally given over to sport. Calum enjoyed a game of football and the pipe band would on occasions play against the military band although I suspect that some of them preferred hockey. At other times the pipe band would form two teams and play against themselves. This would give the pipers and drummers a chance to give the Pipe Major a bit of a hard time but Calum always took it in good part.
At that time we played two of his compositions, both of two parts, the strathspey Wiseman’s Exercise, composed, it was said, for a Seaforth Highlander who had problems with his doublings of C to low A with an E gracenote, and the reel George Fraser Junior. The latter is contained in The Gordon Highlanders collection, volume one, and the former, with third and fourth parts added by Pipe Major Angus MacDonald, is contained in the second volume of the Scots Guards collection. This is how Calum, who had strong opinions about two-parted tunes, wrote and played it:
A number of members of the band were completing their National Service and one piper, a lawyer in civilian life, had a piece of wire running down his practice chanter about two inches above the holes. Calum had this fitted to prevent him from lifting his fingers too high. At times the Pipe Corporal would take the practice round the table and Calum would put in a little practice himself on the pipes – usually behind a line of steel lockers. He was as good a player as any and he was a master of strathspeys, reels, hornpipes and jigs. He had a fairly new set of engraved silver and ivory mounted Robertson pipes with a Hardie chanter and the sound he could produce from them was magnificent — I heard it said that only Willie Ross had tone like Calum’s! His jig playing was in the ‘round’ style, a new style to me. Favourite tunes were Eileen Macdonald and Granny McLeod – both composed by Charles MacLeod Williamson. Some of his reel playing was also in the ‘round’ style inspired, he said, by Pipe Major Donald MacLean.
When tuning our pipes there was one phrase that was shouted repeatedly by Calum: “Blow the … thing” — inexperienced pipers have the habit of blowing flat. One pipe band engagement that had to be carried out required a rank to be filled by what we then called a ‘dummy piper’. This, I have to say, was most unusual, however, as the pipers lined up to have their instruments tuned by Calum the ‘dummy piper’ joined the queue and ‘blew-up’. Calum busied himself ‘tuning’ the silent instrument and it took quite a few seconds before he realised what was happening. What Calum shouted should not be recorded here but it was the cause of great hilarity among the pipers.
Although Calum was very strict and had very high standards as a soldier, there was another side to him, a mischievous fun-loving side. He enjoyed telling stories — the sort that could be told in any company but above all, he loved to sing. He did not have a particularly good voice nor did he need an audience but he — generally needed a small ‘libation’ to put his singing voice in form. Not for nothing was he called Gigli — after the great opera singer Songs would range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Having associations with Point near Stornoway he was, as anyone would be, greatly moved by the tragedy of the MV Yacht Iolaire. It had setsail at 9.00pm on December 31, 1918 from Kyle of Lochalshbound for Stornoway. On board weresome 284 passengers and crew,predominantly naval ratings, returning to Lewis and Harris from service inthe Great War. At 1.55am on the morning of January 1, 1919 the shipran into the rocks known as Biastan Thuilm (The Beasts of Holm) within sight of the lights of Stornoway where many were celebrating the New Year A total of 205 perished and 79 survived. Calum would often sing the song that he thought — wrongly as it happens — commemorated the disaster in what Gaelic he knew and he would tell the story about the old woman who had a premonition regarding the disaster.
Calum also related stories told to him and members of his Pipe Majors’ Course by Pipe Major Willie Ross and this story, in Calum’s own words, is, I think, worth recording: “One cold morning Willie came into the room and said, ‘It’s a cauld morning boys, gather round the fire and warm your fingers and I’ll tell you a story. In 1934 I was in Ullapool fishing, and I caught a salmon and (stretching out his arms) it was this size. It had a ring on its tail that said: Chicago 1933. I had a ring in my bag that said Ullapool 1934 and I put that on its tail then put the fish back in the water. In 1936 I was back in Ullapool, fishing, and I caught a salmon – it was the same salmon and it had been back to Chicago.’”
Calum told of going, as a young soldier, to play at an event on one of the Hebridean islands. In kilt and with pipe box in hand he was in the queue for boarding the ferry when he heard a voice from above: “Is that a set of pipes you’ve got there, boy?” Calum looked up towards the bridge and shouted: “Yes.” “Come up here then,” shouted a man who Calum found to be the captain of the vessel. The ferry set sail, a bottle of whisky was produced, and Calum played for the captain and shared the whisky with him. The ship must have arrived sooner than expected because it crashed into the pier causing damage to the ship and the future prospects of the captain. Calum always denied that he was at the wheel at the time. What bad luck – but Calum was no stranger to bad luck.
Because of his service abroad he was seldom able to compete in piping competitions. This must surely have been a relief to those who were better placed to do so. At the Uist and Barra competition in Glasgow in 1957 he left his Robertson pipes unattended in a side room. When he returned they were gone and never again seen by him. This had a devastating effect on him. His friend, Pipe Major Donald MacLean, loaned him a set but they did not produce the quality of sound to that of the Robertson set.
During that summer the battalion was sent to Bisley to ‘mark the butts’ for the National Rifle Association shooting competition. There were a large number of targets to be marked but Calum saw to it that the members of the pipe band were not involved in that. As a band we had to play the butt-parties to their targets every morning then the remainder of the day was devoted to band practice. This was done away from the tented-camp and Calum would take the pipers in a semi-circle. No copies of music were used. Tunes, such as Pipe Major Sam Scott, Murdo Mackenzie of Torridon and Kirkhill, were memorised from ‘his fingers’.
At the end of the shooting competition the band had to play the winner to his prize-giving. The tune used was The Brown Haired Maiden – sometimes called The Nut Brown Maiden. Calum had put words to it, some of which were: “I canna see the target, it’s ower far awa.” The tune had apparently caught on because we heard that on a subsequent occasion it was used by a military band for the same purpose. We returned to Dover and life in the regiment continued.
We were invited to Marseilles to play at a military tattoo-type function. Taking part was a Hungarian fiddler. One tune nightly played by him gave Calum the inspiration for his reel, The Hungarian Fiddler which, I believe, has not previously been published. Calum was to say that he was never happy with his playing of the tune, particularly the birl at the end of each part.
An alpine band also put on a performance and one tune played by them strongly resembled one of our fairly modern 6/8 marches. But for that, the same tune would perhaps have had a different composer — Calum Campbell.
The commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel P W Forbes of Corse OBE, was about to leave the battalion and, as was tradition within the regiment, the Pipe Major would be expected to compose a tune to commemorate the event. Calum composed this march:
Four of us would have to play it round the table in the officer’s mess during the ‘dining-out’ of Colonel Forbes. I had never come across such a long note in any piece of music as that ‘B’ within the fourth bar of the first and second parts and I was in trouble again with Calum because I would, due of nerves and inexperience, play the doubling of E too soon. I found it to be quite a difficult melody to get a grasp of.
During August 1958 the Gordons were posted to Celle in Germany. There we were heavily involved in preparing for the presenting of new colours to the battalion. The actual event would be consist of a full dress parade with the then Duke of Gloucester presenting the new colours. Prior to going on parade, Calum was having all sorts of problems with his broadsword, which, of course had to be carried in his cross belt on this ceremonial occasion. For as much as he tried the tip of the scabbard always seemed to get between his ankles resulting in a possible risk of tripping. He thought he had the answer when he stuffed a box of matches in the part of the belt holding the sword. It worked fine for most of the parade but as the pipe band led the soldiers towards the saluting base the box fractured and the matches started to spill out over the surface of the barrack square. As the soldiers paraded past the saluting base the steel heel caps on their brogues were setting the matches ablaze.
Questions were asked as to how this had come about, particularly since the barrack square had been thoroughly cleaned of all debris earlier in the day in the usual military fashion by a long line of soldiers picking up even the tiniest particle, but Calum never admitted, until years later, that he was the culprit.
This picture (right) of Calum was taken about 1960 in the drum store at the barracks in Celle. (Thanks to Mrs Ella McLennan, Pipe Major Angus MacDonald’s sister, for supplying it):
They sometimes have little of importance to do or to talk about in sergeants’ messes. Such was the situation when one regimental worthy, who had a waxed moustache with ‘prongs’ which pointed upwards and outwards, boasted that the prongs would reach his ears by Christmas. Those present denied that it would be possible and bets of £5 – we used what we called ‘Bags’ (British Armed Forces Currency) in those days in Germany – were placed. Time passed and it began to appear that the worthy would win quite a large sum of money but like so many, he liked a dram. Calum was the main instigator of this plot. Those who placed bets were, one night in the mess, more generous than normal towards the worthy who, soon afterwards, fell asleep. When he awoke, only one ‘prong’ remained of his moustache. It upset him severely but he had no option other than to cut the other half off himself.
George Symon was a senior member of the sergeants’ mess and he had previously held the position of Pipe Major within the battalion. Calum had composed a two-parted jig which had, in the second part, to give the movement its canntaireachd name, a ‘dare’ (pro. daray). Calum and George Symon would sing the tune while sitting at the bar in the mess and when they came to the second ‘dare’ in the second part they would loudly sing something like: ‘header’ to which the regimental sergeant major, when present, would respond by shouting ‘sha-rup’ – the original title of the tune. Pipe Major Donald Macleod later published it in one of his collections but he insisted that, prior to publication, Calum put an additional two parts to it. Calum, who had a high regard for two-parted tunes, reluctantly did so. Donald also advised him to replace the ‘dare’ with a doubling of E
The pipe band was invited to Aarhus in Denmark to play at an event. There, Calum heard a Danish folk song the title of which, roughly translated, is ‘No More I Want to be a Country Maid’. Calum adapted it for the bagpipe and called it The Country Girl:
As young pipers we messed about with the tune and played it in various modes other than that printed here. We would start the tune, not on the note E, but on, D, F and high A.
One day, much to my surprise, Calum said to me: “Wilson, I’m promoting you Lance Corporal and you’re going on a Pipe Majors’ Course but you’ll have to sign on.” I had only ‘signed on’ for three years when I joined the regiment and apparently I had to have at least six years service still to complete when the course ended. I, very reluctantly, signed on for an additional six years and Calum arranged for me to have a years’ tuition at the training depot in Aberdeen with Pipe Major Donald MacLeod before the course started. This was 1958 and, with Pipe Major Willie Ross having retired and no replacement yet appointed, Pipe Major MacLeod was thus running a Pipe Majors’ course at the depot in Aberdeen.
My course started the following year under that wonderful character, Pipe Major John Mathieson of the Cameronians, at Winston Barracks, Lanark. One afternoon, I saw through the open door of the pipers’ hut Calum in civilian clothes, walking towards the hut. He entered and I saw him speak to Pipe Major Mathieson. A minute or so later the Pipe Major said: “Sergeant MacDonald [the late Pipe Major Angus MacDonald] and Corporal Wilson fall out and go with Pipe Major Campbell”. This was the first time that I would have any close contact with Calum. Angus and I got into plain clothes and the three of us went by train to Glasgow. Calum and Angus had known each other for years. Angus’s father had married Calum’s sister. Both Calum and Angus had been pupils at Queen Victoria School but not at the same time. Angus spoke of a reel he had composed and said that he would call it Pipe Major Calum Campbell. The tune is published in the Scots Guards Collection, volume 2. After a number of visits to various Glasgow hostelries Calum took us to his mother’s home in Gorget Avenue, Knightswood. While there, Pipe Major Donald MacLean arrived. I cannot remember much more about the day or night nor do I remember arriving back in Lanark. It was that sort of occasion.
During 1960 I was back with the battalion in Celle. I saw a change in Calum. He seldom played his pipes and it appeared that he had lost some of his interest in the position he had held since 1955. In 1961 he left the battalion and was initially posted to Fort George. This, in a way, was a good move for him and for his piping since he was then able to spend time with Pipe Major Donald MacLeod who had moved there from Aberdeen. Calum must have been playing at his best at this time since he ‘clearly’ won the jigs at the Northern Meeting. Calum was to relate a story, which is roughly as follows: “Donald said to me, ‘Let’s put in a lot of practice and between us we’ll sweep the boards at the Uist and Barra competition’. We did that and on the big day I got ready and went to catch a bus. I had spent the night at my mother’s house but before getting on the bus I thought that a wee dram would do me the world of good. I went into the local pub and as I was standing at the bar I became aware of an older man looking at me. A minute or two later the man came up to me and said: ‘Are you Murdo Campbell’s son?’ ‘Yes’, I said. ‘Well’, said the man, ‘I served in the army with your father. What will you have?’ After having quite a few drams with the man I decided to get on my way to the competition. I then started worrying about what wee Donald would say when he saw what state I was in but I needn’t have bothered. When I arrived wee Donald was sitting on the steps at the entrance to the hall. It seems that he’d also met a friend before arriving at the competition.”
About 1963 Calum was back with the battalion then based at Gilgil in Kenya. He was appointed as Mortar Sergeant and very capable he was in this role. On one occasion during a military exercise in a very arid part in the far north of the country he had to put on a display of fire-power for members of the regiment and for visiting high-ranking officers. The event opened with Calum running forward from behind the assembled ‘audience’ and taking a compass bearing on the ‘target’. Orders were shouted by him and members of his platoon ran forward and threw the bass-plates on the ground and placed the mortar barrels in position. The first bombs were about to drop into the barrels when a local tribesman, spear in hand, appeared from nowhere in the target area with his three cows. The shout ‘stop’ went out from everyone who saw the man who will never know how close he was to being blown to pieces on Calum’s orders. Calum and his troops had to pick up all the equipment and do a re-run. The result was very impressive. Nothing, cows or otherwise, would have survived in the target-area.
While Calum had been away from the battalion he had learnt a few new tricks one of which was that he could play the piano accordion to a fairly high standard and his repertoire of songs had increased. He put music to John Milton Hayes’ poem with the opening line: ‘There’s a little yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu’ – a real soldier’s song – and a number of members of the sergeants’ mess, apart from Calum, would sing it as a party-piece. Another song was the bothy ballad: Fare ye well auld Huntly Town i.e. The Roving Ploughboy and yet another, sung by him sometimes for children, was the old Scots ditty, The Crow Killed the Pussy O.
Calum and I were sent on a senior non-commissioned officers cadre – training course – part of which was carried out in the area of Mount Longonlt area of the Rift Valley in Kenya. It was during the monsoons and it bucketed with rain. Everyone was soaked to the skin and quite miserable – except perhaps for Calum and I. He had taken a bottle of whisky with him. As always on these exercises, we had to ‘dig-in’– dig a slit trench. Calum and I, to the surprise of the officer in charge of the exercise, had our trench dug within minutes. Unbeknown to us, we had dug into the burrow of a warthog but, fortunately, the beast was not at home.
About 1963 something of an emergency occurred in Swaziland when agitators were causing problems for King Sabusa by calling strikes through that beautiful small country. The battalion was sent to sort out the situation and, with the help of the local police, normality was soon restored. The ‘hearts and minds’ of the local people then had to be won over and the pipe band was used for this purpose by playing at various native villages. The Swazi ‘warriors’ – with what appeared to be a sheep tied round their lower legs – put on displays of dancing for us. They could have put the Brigade of Guards to shame by the way they stamped their bare feet on the ground during their dances. Calum had composed a two- parted reel but he did not have a name for it. I suggested that he call it The Swazi Dance and this he did. It is published in the Gordon Highlanders collection, volume 2.
The battalion was posted to Edinburgh and about this time we were sent back to Bisley to ‘mark the butts’. A battalion of the Scots Guards were stationed at nearby Pirbright and one night the Pipe Major, Angus Macdonald, visited the Sergeants’ Mess. Late that night, or more likely, early morning, Calum and I walked with Angus back to Pirbright. On the way, as he was adding a bit of drama to a story he was telling by jumping about the road, Angus fell and injured his right hand which was bleeding badly. He had invited Calum and I to the presenting of colours to the battalion later that morning. Injured hand or not, Angus was on parade with the band. When we entered the Sergeants’ Mess after the parade both Calum and I were blamed by the Regimental Sergeant Major for causing Angus’s injury. Always protective of Angus, we were severely spoken to.
Calum had been promoted to Staff Sergeant, or rather ‘Colour Sergeant’ and appointed Company Quartermaster Sergeant in charge of stores. About 1965 the battalion was posted to Borneo where, because we were in the middle of the jungle, all supplies were dropped to us on pallets by parachute. As I recall, every man was allowed two cans of beer per week, or a bottle of whisky, which took up the same space as two cans of beer on the pallets. Calum was in charge of his company’s alcohol supplies. His post was on top of a fairly high hill while ours was at the bottom. He was always a very welcome visitor to our mess since he would always carry a few ‘surplus’ cans of beer down the hill with him.
The battalion was posted back to Edinburgh in 1966 and I shortly afterwards left the regiment having completed my nine years’ service. I had a job waiting for me at Invergordon.
Life, even in the army, can be quite a lonely one for people like Calum Campbell who was never one for sitting in his room at nights. The Sergeant’s Mess is a little like a hotel with a bar that opens at lunchtimes and evenings. It is very easy to become a regular visitor and Calum was no exception but he always conducted himself with decorum and was never the worse for drink. He was a heavy cigarette-smoker and he would sometimes fall asleep with a cigarette in his left hand, elbow on the arm of the chair and his head resting on the palm of his hand. Consequently, practically every jacket and shirt he owned had a cigarette burn at the left shoulder. What he really needed was a wife and, although he had girlfriends – one a schoolteacher – he did not marry until February 11, 1967. The event took place in Glasgow and his bride was a widow, Elizabeth Briggs McLean or Watson. Calum was still serving as a company Quartermaster Sergeant at that time but he shortly afterwards left the army.
That year I left Invergordon and joined the then City of Glasgow Police. I had married and we had a flat in the Drumchapel area of Glasgow. Calum and his wife, Elizabeth, were then living in Dorchester Avenue which was within a very few miles of where I stayed and, consequently, he was a fairly regular visitor to my house. He was employed at the Royal Ordinance Factory, Bishopton, and everything seemed to be going well for him. Sadly, Elizabeth died on March 28, 1972 and Calum was alone again and living with his mother at 76 Gorget Avenue which was within walking distance of our flat. He continued to visit us until we moved away from that area — not, I have to say, because of Calum’s visits! Calum had acquired a set of bagpipes before leaving the army and he had become a member of British Caledonian Airways Pipe Band but that did not continue for very long. I had been a member of that band for about 12 years but not while Calum was there. It was said that the flat where he lived had been damaged by fire and that a lot of personal belongings including his music had been lost. I know that he had composed more tunes, other than those now published, but they, presumably, are lost forever.
On one occasion, when I was leaving the Sheriff Court in Glasgow after being a witness, I saw Calum entering the building. When asked why he was there he said that he had been robbed and related the following story: “After visiting a relative I was standing at a bus stop to get a bus home but the bus never arrived. A couple were standing at the bus stop and they started speaking to me and after a while they suggested that we should share a taxi. The man said that he and his wife were going the way I was but after a while I realised that the taxi was taking us through the Clyde tunnel and I said that we were going the wrong way. The man said he had a bottle of whisky in the house and that we could get a drink when we got there.
“There were a couple of kids in the tenement flat and I was speaking to them and having a laugh with them while I was sitting on the couch. The whisky was never produced. The kids were sent to bed and as soon as they were the couple jumped on top of me. The legs were knocked from the couch and, I can laugh about it now, but the woman had a knife at my throat and a fork pushed under my left eye while the man went through my pockets and stole a wad of notes – about £80. They ordered me out of the flat and said that if I went to the police they would say that I interfered with their kids. I did go to the police and they searched the house and found the money in the chimney behind the electric fire in the living room. I’ve been through a lot in my time but nobody’s ever taken a knife and fork to me before.”
That was about the last time I saw Calum. The next I heard was that he had died. He had been living at 10 Kingsway Court in Glasgow when he was taken to the Western Infirmary. He passed away at 09:00 on December 18, 1987. Calum was only 56 years’ old when he died. Cause of death was given as generalized abdominal metastases and gastric carcinoma.
He was, without doubt, one of the finest players of light music whose achievements in piping, but for circumstances being very often against him, could have been so much greater. The only known existing example of his outstanding playing is contained on a long playing record titled Scotland the Brave, Band of the Gordon Highlanders (SOC 957) which was produced in 1963 although it was recorded about 1960. Calum plays The Old Rustic Bridge by the Mill, Torosay Castle, Monymusk and Mrs MacLeod of Raasay along with the military band. The high A has what pipers sometimes call a ‘scrauch’ and when I commented on this he said that was the ‘in thing’ at the time, which indeed it was.
I had composed a hornpipe in 1960 and Calum said he liked it and suggested that I call it, Calum Campbell’s Fancy. I thought that there were already a number of tunes with the word ‘Fancy’ in their titles so I called it Pipe Major Calum Campbell’s Caprice. ‘Caprice’, I found, has much the same meaning as fancy and in any casae it starts with the letter C as does Calum and Campbell. The tune was first published by Captain John MacLellan in his International Piper magazine. Perhaps when and if pipers play it, they will now know something of this great piper.
• Here is a video of Simon Fraser University Pipe Band rehearsing one of its selections from the 2012 season. This one opened with Calum Campbell’s Caprice.