WW1 pipers chronicled / Margaret Stoddart / Winter Storm @ Home / 1937 Northern Meeting /


Author, Richard H. Crawford from New York, USA has published a valuable record of the many pipers of Scottish and Irish regiments who were killed in the First World War. The book, Piper Casualties in the Great War, 1914-1918, is fascinating record, the result of a considerable amount of research.

Mr Crawford tells us: “I am not a writer, just a former collector but I do love research. The book I have put together continues my love for research and is a 130 page book on my favourite topic: who these guys they and what, briefly, can we learn of their life, probably long forgotten.”

Mr Crawford [pictured, below] has compiled the book from an array of regimental and archival sources, obituaries and local rolls of honour.

“The book should not be considered a narrative but rather a source of reference with some lesser known events involving pipers,” he says.

“The pipes lost on the Somme in 1916 and ending up in New York is known by very few. The German cornet player greeting an Argyll battalion on their return to the trenches with Bonnie Mary of Argyll is quite unusual. And the Christmas ‘truce’ of 1914 was greeted with a mixed response.”

The book is priced $40 (plus shipping) and is available from the author.

Euan Anderson, Honorary Pipe Major of the Eagle Pipers’ Society has written a lovely tribute to the late Margaret Stoddart who died on March 7 aged 98.

Margaret [pictured] was the wife of Pipe Major George Stoddart BEM, and stepmother of Gavin Stoddart, BEM. Both Margaret and George were leading lights in the piping scene in Edinburgh in the 1960s and 70s. Margaret, in fact, was the Secretary of the Eagle Pipers’ at one point.

Euan writes: “Margaret was great wit, raconteur, singer and pianist … She would sing many well-known songs but her party piece was trotting out some of her own poems and ditties that she had written herself.”

A few of Margaret’s poems and articles appeared in the pages of the Pipng Times. We reproduce, below, one that she made with friend, Betty Dingwall. Their poem is humorous tribute to the spouses of pipers and it appeared in the April 1974 edition of Piping Times:

The grass widow

By Margaret Stoddart and Betty Dingwall

The grass widow of the golf course is the butt of many jokes,
A scene of desolation her neglected state invokes,
But there exists another type who suffers more in life.
You don’t believe me? Have you met a lonely piper’s-wife?

From the day that she accepts him she has to realise
That she will take but second place to some piping cup or prize.
In fact some poor souls have been asked whatever made them think
They even lay in second place; that honour goes to “drink.”

At first he’ll manage home at nights in order to atone,
And when they have some children, well … she won’t be left alone,
But later, his appearances are limited to few,
Till she asks him, “Are you staying, dear, or only passing through?”

Her wedding anniversary is coming round once more,
So she makes some preparations for a little treat in store,
But then she hears him stammer out those dreaded words so foul,
“I’m sorry, darling, but you know that’s when I go to Cowal.”

She gets the chance of a weekend to take the kids away
So he tells her to enjoy herself and if they like it, stay.
But when she breaks the news to him that she will need the car,
He then confesses he was going to take it to Braemar.

Of course, the games and gatherings don’t go on all year round.
So in his home one would expect he sometimes would be found.
But, no! He must ensure he does not let his piping slip,
And in some well-known hostelries he plays between each nip.

When challenged he will answer, “What am I supposed to do?
I told you my religion, dear, when I proposed to you.
There’s no use nagging on at me, I am above all strife.
The noble art of piping is a sacred way of life.”

So for marriage plus devotion one should try to find a spouse
Whose hobby is the kind which keeps him stuck inside the house.
But if piobaireachd is her fancy, why bother him to wed?
Just join the Highland Pipers and live in sin instead.

Well-known Canadian piper, Ken Eller has been in touch to tell us about a sort film he has been involved with. Winter Storm 2021 @ Home is a show about the people and the music of one of the leading annual events on the piping and drumming calendar.

Orgnaised by the Midwest Hughland Arts Fund and held every January in Kansas City, Missouri, USA since its inauguration in 2002, Winter Storm has evolved into a world class four day event of piping and drumming contests, and master classes; culminating in a unique Saturday evening concert where the world’s best perform together on the same stage.

This year’s event was cancelled due to the on-going pandemic situation so organisers have instead produced a film.

Winter Storm 2021 @ Home can be viewed at www.winterstorm.net from 10:00 EST onwards this Saturday (March 27). There is no cost to view it.

The film last for two hours and features performances from the likes of Willie McCallum, Fred Morrison, Steven Creighton and Steven McWhirter.

We received great feedback from our post on Tuesday. The post – Stuart Letford’s blog on a photograph from the archives – featured some well known names in piping history including John Macdonald, Robert Meldrum, Angus MacPherson and Frank Richardson.

The Aberdeen Press & Journal, August 21, 1937. Click to enlarge.

A few readers pointed out that the photograph, on closer inspection, was published in reverse – as, indeed, it was when it appeared originally in the Piping Times back in 1985. We have amended the image accordingly.

Piping historian and author, Jeannie Campbell, reckons that although not labelled as such, the photo was indeed taken at the Northern Meeting ceilidh of 1937. She tells us that contemporary newspaper reports she has checked confirm that the Northern Meeting that year opened on August 21. Jeannie adds: “I think that picture is jinxed as it took several attempts to get it and the names right when it was in the Piping Times before.”

Jeannie also tells us that the newspaper reports of the time do not carry  any references to two people mentioned in the blog: Colin MacLeod and A. E. Milne It is possible that MacLeod was one of the officials, committee members or just a guest. Milne is mentioned in several reports of highland games in and around the area, judging either piping or dancing.

Regarding the statement that Angus Macpherson and John Macdonald “did not always see eye to eye,” this was possibly simply a disagreement between the two regarding differences in playing. Seemingly, Angus felt that John veered from his father, Calum Piobair’s, teaching of pibroch.

Interestingly, Malcolm R. MacPherson, who was mentioned in the blog, won the Clasp that year. Bob Nicol was second and John Wilson third. The judges at that year’s Northern Meeting were Grant of Rothiemurchus, Dr. J. Simpson, Frank Richardson, Charles D. MacTaggart and Somerled Macdonald.

Our thanks go to Michael McLetchie, Pipe Sergeant of Albert, Canada’s Innisfail Legion Pipe Band, for sending us the complete text of Robert Service’s How MacPherson Held The Floor.

Readers will recall we posted an abridged version of the poem on Sunday to mark World Poetry Day.

Click here to download the complete poem.

• The staff at the National Piping Centre would like to extend their hearty congratulations to ex-Head Piping Teacher, Finlay Johnston and Natalie Davidson (Senior Manager at The Pipers’ Tryst) who have just become the proud parents of Thomas Michael Johnston.