Old 01-28-2009, 03:59 PM   #1
piperalpha
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Default Bagpipes are a Weapon of War

"The bagpipe is the only musical instrument deemed a weapon of war because it inspired its troops to battle and instilled terror into the enemy. The skirl of the pipes stirs men's and women's souls and its power and influence in battle as in life, is measurable".

The effects of the pipes on friend or foe are legendary crossing all cultural, geographic, economic and historical barriers. An examination of the origins and development of the pipes, their use among the ancient Celts and in modern warfare and life reveal their true and enduring significance.

The origins and history of the pipes is interesting as the world has known the pipes in one form or another for more than 5000 years. Bagpipes were invented when people found they could make music by blowing into a hollow reed and eventually the idea of harnessing a bag for a reservoir of air evolved. References to pipes are made in the Pharonic literature of Ancient Egypt, the Ancient Holy Land Scriptures. During the days of the Roman Empire there are numerous references to the pipes being played and in fact it is widely believed that Nero himself played the pipes and that Rome fell to the sound of the pipes, not the fiddle as previously thought. It is quite probable that the Romans brought the pipes to Scotland during their invasions.

The Ancient Celts called it the Great War Pipe of the North. The use of the bagpipe among the Ancient Celtic people was common. In fact, men and women were initially called to war by the harp or a bard, (Brosnachadh-Incitement to Battle) but only the first few rows of troops could hear the stirring sound so eventually it became tradition to send a piper into battle first. The Celts are recorded as being in the area of the Alps during the early centuries of the last millennium before the birth of Christ. Some of the common factors in Celtic society included a shared language, social structure and the telling of history through bards or poets, music and song. This music included the use of the pipes.

At its height, in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. the Celtic Empire reached from the steppes of Russia to the north of Ireland. Pushed back by Roman invasion and eventually doomed at the hand of Julius Caesar, the Celtic Empire survived into medieval times only in Britain and then only in Ireland. Because the empire had been so far reaching the connection so many people feel to the Celts and their heritage is widespread. But in the northern areas of both Scotland and Ireland the Celtic ways evolved into a clan system with each chief overseeing his peoples and lands. Chiefs and Clans fought against each other piping themselves into battle by the sound of the great Highland War Pipes, eventually silenced in 1746 when the English passed a decree making the playing of the pipes punishable by death. Despite this edict, the playing of pipes continued until today.

The great Highland War pipes survived and became a symbol of Scottish Highland way of life simply because the Highlanders continued to use them when other countries did not. "Over the last two hundred years and more the Highland regiments of the British Army have played a vital part in keeping alive clan feeling and the Highland tradition, reflecting a sense of special spirit." The Highlanders' use of the great bagpipe seems to have developed in its current form in the 16th century. The clans were growing and required more sound than a harp could make. The MacCrimmon's, the hereditary pipers of the Isle of Skye are credited with evolving "big Music" or Piobaireachd music, the classical music of the bagpipes. The MacCrimmons are the hereditary pipers of the Macleods for 13 generations.

There is a museum on the Isle of Skye created by Irene and Hugh MacCrimmon who currently live in Guelph, Ontario. The museum also reflects Highland life. Dunvegan, Skye remains today the place of renowned piping all over the world. Legend claims that the fairy Queen assured the first MacCrimmon that he would play the finest music in the world. And he did! The playing of the air is followed by a number of variations according to strict rules of composition and the music is very elaborate and stylized. The themes mainly consist of Laments, Gatherings and Salutes. This was the form of piping played to the 19th century. Although for relaxation, pipers might play a lighter composition and it was considered derogatory to play for dancing. Every chief and royal house had its pipers. The music of the pipes underwent great change in the 19th century with competitions and reels, strathspeys, tunes, slow marches and drum sections of battalions being replaced by pipes.

In the early 1700's the English and Scottish were fighting over control of land and people. It was an age-old battle with many complications. In the Highlands of Scotland there were many separate clans each with a chief each thinking they had a right to the crown. They fought among themselves and for nearly 1000 years against the English. In 1746 all the fighting came to an end. In the Battle of Culloden the Highland clans met the gunfire of the English and were wiped out on Drummoisse Moore. The Highland way of life was destroyed and the Act of Proscription was put in place. This act forbade the wearing of Tartan, the speaking of Gaelic, and the playing of the bagpipes. It was at this time the pipes were declared a weapon of war and pipers were actually drawn, quartered and hung for playing the pipes. The English swept through the Highlands like ants at a picnic destroying pipes and burning the piper's huts. Many people were thrown in jails and many were sold as slaves. If a person were caught playing the pipes or breaking any aspect of the Act of Proscription, it meant lashes with the cat of nine tails and then imprisonment or worse, death.

It wasn't until the English began to raise regiments and put them in kilts and encouraged the playing of the pipes that this changed. Proscription was in place for 50 years. Thus it can be said that playing the pipes is about survival, tenacity and rising up against injustice. A music that reaches the soul and lingers in the mind long after the drones are put to rest. By the 1800's numerous Highland regiments had been raised in the British Isles and in North America and pipes were playing an important part of both American and Canadian history. The pipes were there at the capture of Quebec, Ticonderoga and the siege of the Alamo. There are actually references to Davie Crockett being heartened by the piping of John MacGregor. The pipes were in Nepal, the Boer War, both World Wars with the Germans referring to the pipers as "Ladies from Hell".

In W.W.I. the pipers went up over the top of the trenches piping their men into war across no-man's land, land mines, barbed wire and enemy fire. Pipers couldn't play and carry a weapon so they were sitting ducks in modern warfare and many died in both world wars. Over 1000 pipers died in W.W.I. The last surviving piper from W.W.I is Harry Lunan. He describes his piping experiences in the war as an honour. " You were scared, but you just had to do it, they were depending on you." Despite poisonous gas, guns, barbed wire, land mines and the general horror of war, pipers piped their men into battle as they had done three thousand years earlier. The effect was the same. It encouraged the men and left the enemy in shock that someone would be brave enough to play the pipes in the middle of trench warfare. The same thing happened in W.W. II . More recently, pipers also played a role in the Gulf War and Desert Storm operations. The effect was the same. It takes a great deal of know how and concentration to pipe under such circumstances and the piper had to be well seasoned.

The bagpipe is deemed a weapon of war because it inspired its troops to battle and instilled terror into the enemy. The skirl of the pipes stirs souls. The effects of the pipes are legendary crossing all cultural, geographic, economic and historical barriers. From the origins and development of the pipes, their use among the ancient Celts and in modern warfare and life reveal their true and enduring significance which continues to be passed down from generation to generation in current times.
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:58 PM   #2
Dave Block
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Default Personally, I love 'em

Dad said they always marched a bit 'sharper' when the pipes were around and he wasn't in a Highland unit.

Cheers, Dave
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Old 03-21-2009, 08:19 AM   #3
MT09
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Default Hystorical Myths

Interesting article and an instrument you either love or loathe but quite a few well known historical myths here:-

"This act forbade the wearing of Tartan, the speaking of Gaelic, and the playing of the bagpipes. It was at this time the pipes were declared a weapon of war and pipers were actually drawn, quartered and hung for playing the pipes."
1. The proscription act (nor the disarming act) never forbade the speaking or teaching of Gaelic or the playing of bagpipes (http://www.electricscotland.com/hist...ption_1747.htm). Only 4 people were prosecuted for the wearing of "tartan" in the early years of the act being in place until it was used as an excuse to impress highlanders into the Army for the seven years war. It also didn't apply to landed gentry and their sons or the Army.
2. The pipes were never banned or legally declared as a weapon of war - this is probably the biggest and most repeated myth about pipes. The pipes continued to be played in Scotland and many piping schools existed in the major towns and cities only dying out about 20 years after Culloden not through direct persecution but lack of sponsorship which had traditionally come from the clan chiefs. Pipers were often given free accommodation and as the clearances took hold this affected their livelihood. The most famous - the MacCrimmons school at Boreraig on Skye closed down in the 1770's after a rent dispute with the Chief of the MaCleods amid falling numbers of pupils.
3. A lone piper was tried after he was captured occupying Carlisle for the rebels during the 1745 rising - James Reid and he was hung for high treason not for playing the pipes! His defense at his trial for rebellion was that he did not yield arms as he was a piper. The famous quote as he was convicted labelled the pipes as part of the musical instruments ("including drums trumpets and the like") that a regiment went to war with and was an "instrument of war" (as opposed to weapon which would have brought it under the act and was in fact a phrase actually coined by the Duke of Cumberland when reviewing his own government pipers but was never enacted in any statute). He therefore did take part in the rebellion and was sentenced. He was however the only one, other pipers tried afterwards for rebellion were acquitted using a similar defense or deported (two pardoned, and one transported for pleading guilty to rebellion) . No records of pipers being prosecuted for playing teaching or owning the pipes exist.

Also
"Chiefs and Clans fought against each other piping themselves into battle by the sound of the great Highland War Pipes" and " The great Highland War pipes survived and became a symbol of Scottish Highland way of life simply because the Highlanders continued to use them when other countries did not" The pipes we know today were developed over the last couple of hundred years and bear little resemblance to the historical pipes either in appearance or sound. The tenor and bass drones were only added in the 1700's. For the true history of pipes read someone like Hugh Cheape (former head of Scottish cultural research at the Scottish National Museum). The popularity of the pipes of today was derived form those introduced into London society in the late 1700/s early 1800's by Scottish émigrés and the Scottish Regiments keeping the instrument alive. Until relatively recently only pockets of highland life in Scotland and overseas such as Nova Scotia still played kept the pipes going during much of the last few centuries.

Last edited by MT09 : 03-23-2009 at 04:19 AM. Reason: update
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Old 03-22-2009, 02:29 PM   #4
piperalpha
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Default Anybody

who knows this much about bagpipes also knows how to play them.

With whom do you play?

It's nice to hear from someone so well educated and knowledgeable in an area of such great importance and cultural significance. I for one think we Canadians should be taught bagpipes in elementary school. We need to get back to the basics and never forget what it is that makes us such a great nation.
Like our 2008 World's championship performance.

Best Wishes my friend.

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Old 06-26-2009, 03:41 AM   #5
piperalpha
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Default

Or they're are a drummer who of course knows more about bagpipes than any piper ever could. Just ask any drummer. Bass drummers are by far the worse.

If ever there was proof that bagpipes are indeed a weapon of war then all you need to read is the story of Canadian James Richardson.
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Old 09-21-2011, 01:56 PM   #6
mark m
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Any idea what tune(s) he played?

Looking for pipe tunes that Canadian troops historically liked to play

thanks in advance
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Old 11-05-2011, 02:13 PM   #7
Pipes_of_War
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Default Jimmy's Tunes

James Richardson piped 'The Reel of Tulloch' when he faced the enemy at the wire. Later he switched to 'The Devil in the Kitchen' as he march along the German parapet.

I am currently compiling a tune book for the pipes that will be available shortly. It will become one of many ancillary products released with our film:

Unparalleled Valour
The Story of
James Richardson VC

The music book will contain the regimental tunes of the 16th Battalion Canadian Scottish with the settings used during the Great War. It will additionally feature several tunes mentioned by Jimmy in some of his writings. The writings have yet to be seen by the public and are part of a 'lost archive' we uncovered during our production of the film. For more information about the film, the lost archive, and all things 'pipes of war' please visit our website and production blog. Pardon the dust as it is still being developed.

www.pipesofwar.com
http://thepipesofwar.com/production-blog/

Cheers,
__________________
Ian S. Williams
piper
Writer, Producer, Director
The Pipes of War
www.pipesofwar.com
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