Lathallan’s Loos pipes / Jack records a ‘stoater’ of a tune / Remembrance Day marked in Berlin

Harry Stott.

A set of pipes that sounded at the Battle of Loos and which belonged to an east of Scotland school’s first piping instructor have been donated to the school.

Harry Stott taught at Lathallan School near Montrose throughout the 1960s and 70s. However, much earlier, at the outbreak of the First World War, he had enlisted, aged 19, as a piper in the 6th Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. During the Battle of Loos – September 25 to October 8, 1915 – the first person ‘over the top’ was Pipe Major Robert McKenzie. Just as he started to play he was struck by enemy fire and killed.

Harry Stott picked up McKenzie’s pipes and struck up Highland Laddie. Around 21,000 men were killed at the Battle of Loos. After the war, Harry received a set of pipes that McKenzie’s widow donated to the school. (Lathallan was been founded in Fife in the years after the end of the war and moved to Angus in 1949).

These pipes are one of two sets that Myles Beattie has handed to the school. The pipes were passed to Mr Beattie, who heads Lathallan School’s Information Technology department and who is Mr Stott’s great nephew.

The idea of the school forming a pipe band comprising of its pupils arose after the then Headmaster heard Harry Stott play at the school’s war memorial on Remembrance Sunday over 60 years ago. Harry never asked for, or received, any payment for his teaching services at the school. He died in Aberdeen in 1972.

Harry Stott with his charges playing at a parade at RAF Edzell. Date uncertain.

Lathallan’s current piping instructor, John Nevans said: “Every once in a blue moon you come across something that gets your curiosity going. When my colleague, Myles spoke to me about his late father’s legacy of at least two sets of pipes I was, like any good ‘anorak’, intrigued to see them.

John Nevans and Myles Beattie with one of the sets of pipes.

“What he brought into the school for me to see was two home made wooden pipe boxes, complete with dovetail joints, hinges and handles.  What was inside them was treasure. For pipers the myths and legends of old makers and the quality of the pipes they produced are countless but to actually unearth these pipes. The first set, the Stott pipes, were clearly of great age but inspection showed them to be flawless in the wood and decoration. They are simple nickel ferrules with ivory mounts but the turning is fresh and clear and the overall pipe is well made. I am guessing them to be early Hendersons but perhaps the more informed out there can clarify that assumption.

“I think the most enjoyable part of this saga is the rediscovery not only of a fine instrument (which I am hoping to restore and have playing) but to be part of the telling of the story of two very courageous men.”

The plaque on the pipes reads: “Presented by Mrs J. A Doig in memory of Pipe Major R McKenzie, N.C.O’s and Men of K. O. Scottish Borderers who fell at the Battle of Loos 25th of September 1915.”

The plaque at the bottom of the bass drone can be seen clearly in the photograph at the top of this page as well as in the photo above.

Glenfiddich champion, Jack Lee continues to add fresh recordings to his Bagpipe Music Library.

Jack’s latest recording is of Iain Bell’s excellent hornpipe, The Stoat and the Terrier, which can be found in Iain’s collection, From Scots Borderer to Ulster Scot. Iain writes of the tune:

Jack and Iain.

“In the spring of the year at lambing time I would receive the occasional call from my farming neighbours to fetch a terrier to find and dispatch a rogue fox that had taken to killing new born lambs. Mostly though, the dogs were handy for eradicating mink in order to minimise predation and keep a balance with our native wildlife.

“One day, whilst in woodlands along the water side, my terrier ‘Soda’ surprised a stoat. It was the mad antics of the stoat trying to shake off the dog in hot pursuit, both of them weaving in and out of tree roots at speed that inspired me to pen this tune. To me the music captures the chase and comedy of the moment.

“Stoats are not daft. They are very nimble and quite ferocious for their size. In addition to this, they also have a scent gland at the tail end which when discharged lets off a mighty stink that hangs in the air, thus confusing the nose of any would be pursuer as to direction of travel … Needless to say it made good it’s escape!”      

• Click here to purchase Jack’s recording, priced $3.25.

•• Click here to buy Iain Bell’s collection.

(Photo: Craig Stennett).

Thousands of pipers and pipe band around the world took part in Remembrance Day events last weekend. One little known ceremony took place in the capital of Germany.

The Berlin Thistle Pipe Band played at the wreath-laying ceremony in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery on Heerstrasse in western Berlin on behalf of the New Zealand embassy.

The band has been in existence for 20 years and plays at many events in the city.