Notes on our Tunes
Bacground notes on some of our tunes compiled by Pipe Seargent Alan Harrison
Notes on the Tunes - Background notes to some of the tunes we play:
Loch Rannoch. A lovely and simple air composed by John Wilson. This is a large loch on “ the road to the Isles”. It contains colossal trout. The West Highland railway line toils over its highest stretch on Rannoch Moor.
El Alamein The tune was composed by Pipe Major William Denholm of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and is usually played as a two-parted slow march. It commemorates the WW2 desert campaign.
Leaving Lismore. Lismore (Lios Mòr in Gaelic) is an island of the Inner Hebrides in Loch Linnhe, in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland.
Mist covered mountains. (Chì mi na mòrbheanna) is a Scottish song that was written in 1856 by Highlander John Cameron. The song is a longing for home and with its wistful, calming melody and traditional ballad rhythms, is often used as a lullaby.
Amazing Grace. "Amazing Grace" is a Christian hymn published in 1779, with words written in 1772 by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton. It is an immensely popular hymn, particularly in the United States.
Highland Cathedral. Highland Cathedral" is a popular melody for the Great Highland Bagpipe. This melody was composed by German musicians Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb in 1982 for the Berlin Tattoo held in Germany.
Flower of Scotland. "Flower of Scotland" is a Scottish song, frequently performed at special occasions and sporting events as an unofficial national anthem of Scotland. The song was composed in the mid-1960s by Roy Williamson of the folk group the Corries.
Highland Laddie, also known as "Hielan' Laddie", is the name of a Scottish popular folk tune, but as with many old melodies various sets of words can be sung to it, of which Robert Burns poem "Highland Laddie" is probably the best known. "If Thou'lt Play Me Fair Play" has been reworked several times since Burns set down his words.
Mairi's Wedding. (also known as Marie's Wedding, the Lewis Bridal Song, or Scottish Gaelic: Màiri Bhàn "Blond Mary" is a Scottish folk song originally written in Gaelic by John Roderick Bannerman (1865–1938) for Mary C. MacNiven (1905–1997) on the occasion of her winning the gold medal at the National Mòd in 1934. In 1959, James B. Cosh devised a Scottish country dance to the tune, which is 40 bars, in reel time.
A man's a man. "A man's a man for a' that", also known as "Is There for Honest Poverty" or "For a' that and a' that", is a 1795 song by Robert Burns, written in Scots and English, famous for its expression of egalitarian ideas of society, which may be seen as expressing the ideas of republicanism that arose in the 18th century.
The High Road to Gairloch. This Scottish tune is thought to date from the 17th Century. It is found in the manuscript of Sir William Mure of Rowallan and scholars believe he wrote it between 1612 and 1623 and in many other early collections.
The Barren Rocks of Aden. This march tune is associated with the Gordon Highlanders Regiment, because it is played for the dance called The Gay Gordons. The tune is said to have been composed by piper James Mauchline, who was delighted that his regiment was leaving the hot, dry port of Aden, in what is now the Republic of Yemen, in Arabia. It rains less than once a year in Aden and the Old Town is inside the shell of an extinct volcano.
Captain Norman Orr Ewing. Was composed in 1912 and appeared in Ross’ collection of pipe tunes in 1925. Norman Archibald Orr Ewing was born November 23, 1880 in Knockdhu, Argyllshire, Scotland. He served in the Scots Guards from 1900 until 1919. His family was deeply rooted in rural central Scotland.
Pipe Major Willie Ross. Pipe Major William (Willie) Collie Ross M.V.O, M.B.E. was undoubtedly one of the greatest pipers Scotland ever produced. Born in 1878 in Glenstrathfarrar in The Highlands to Alick Ross and Mary Collie, he was one of a family of three sons and three daughters. William enlisted into the Scots Guards in 1896 and saw service in the Boer War and the Great War of 1914-1918.
Liberton Pipe Band. The Liberton Polka is a Scottish folk song. It is based on the tune "I Have A Caubeen Trimmed With Blue".
The Green Hills of Tyrol. The Green Hills of Tyrol is a ubiquitous tune, learnt by virtually all pipers at an early stage. In 1961, the famous Scottish singer Andy Stewart put words to the tune and his song, A Scottish Soldier reached the No.1 pop chart spot in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
When the Battle’s O’er. It is a late 19th century composition by Pipe Major William Robb, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the tune entered piping repertoire between the Boer and First World Wars.
Lochanside. Written by John McLellan inspired by his Argyllshire homeland, and “Lochanside” is no exception. The lochan in question is actually Loch Loskin, which can be found on the west and to the north of Dunoon’s town centre, within walking distance of the Cowal Games park.
Colins Cattle. “Crodh Chailein” a highland milking song. In the rural economy of the past milking the cows (as well as the preparation of butter and cheese) was a task performed by women. Thus the wisdom of the Celtic women has given rise to a whole series of work songs, which are also spells to ward off the evil eye and to calm the cows, so that the milk production is abundant and blessed.
Farewell to Cape Helles. Written by PM Willie Ferguson, Cape Helles being in Turkey, part of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.
Loch Maree. Is a loch near Poolewe in a beautiful part of Wester Ross in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland.
Kilworth Hills. Composed by Pipe Major G S MacLellan the melody was based on a Russian song called "Stenka Razin", heard when warships from that country visited Leith around 1899.
Castle Dangerous. A retreat march composed by James Haugh of the Scots Guards. Also a favourite of Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain.
My Land. Composed by Norman MacLean. He was many things; comedian, novelist, poet and piper extraordinaire. But he excelled as a composer. Specifically of the pipe tune, My Land. It has a western isles sound to it.
8th Argyle's crossing the river Po. A major obstacle to the Allied advance north in Italy was the River Po. The 3/4 retreat march was written by Robert H. Brown of the 1st Argylls, a very gifted composer who lived in Linlithgow.
Angus McDonald. One of the great modern retreat marches by one of the great modern composers, Allan MacDonald.
Heroes of the Hook. This tune was written by Pipe Major Sandy Hain, formerly of the Black Watch regiment. The tune is a tribute to Black Watch comrades of his killed or wounded in 1952 in Korea defending a vital hill known as “The Hook”.
Wings. This tune was adapted by the Corps of Engineers as the Royal Engineers March in about 1870.
Loch Ruan. This is a Reservoir is in Argyll and Bute and is situated nearby to Knock Ruan, and close to Knock Scalbart.
Flett from Flotta. A great march written by Donald Macleod during the Second World War about his friend William (aka Jock) Flett, a piper in the Seaforth Highlanders.
Flotta (the flat island) is in the Orkneys.
The 51st Highland Division. This tune was written in 1941 after the 51st Highland Division was reformed. It had been broken up after the British government abandoned them in St Valery in France as a distraction for the evacuation at Dunkirk. Being made up of Scottish Highland regiments they were expendable “of course”. P M Donald MacLeod was captured along with almost the entire remainder of the Division but managed to escape while being marched to a POW camp in Germany. By speaking his native Gaelic, he got back home and immediately re-enlisted, eventually to pipe the 51st over the Rhine while advancing on Berlin at the end of the war. Piping ahead of troops had been banned because of the terrible mortality rate of pipers in WWI. He went on to become one of the best ever composers of Highland pipe tunes.
Comrie Pipe Band. Composed by Dr Bruce Thompson and named after the Comrie Pipe Band. The tune is published in book 3 of the Scots Guards collection.
Lieutenant Colonel P W Forbes of Corse. OBE. (1914 -1979) was an officer in the Gordon Highlanders. He lived at Corse House by Lumphanan, Aberdeenshire. He received his OBE in 1959 and was from a long line of Forbes in the region, who, along with the Gordons were, and still are major landholders.
Gardens of Skye. The Sleat peninsula is known as the garden of Skye and named that because of how green and fertile it is. It has lots of different plants and trees that don't grow anywhere else on the island as it has a slightly warmer climate. Addie Harper, one of the founders of the Wick Scottish Dance Band, wrote the tune because Sleat impressed him so much.
The Rose of Allendale. This is an English song with words by Charles Jefferys and music by Sidney Nelson, composed in the 1840s. The English song lyrics are about a maiden from the town of Allendale, Northumberland. In love songs, a rose, regarded as a beautiful and romantic flower, is often the fairest maiden of a region or village. It is a soldier's farewell song to his beloved and reflects the unstable times of war.
Bonnie lass o' Fyvie. The Bonnie Lass o' Fyvie is a Scottish folk song about a thwarted romance between a soldier and a girl. Fyvie is a village in Aberdeenshire.
The Meeting of the Waters. “Cumar an dá Uisce” is where the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers come together to form the River Avoca situated in County Wicklow, Ireland.
Scotland the Brave. is the most famous of all bagpipe tunes. It is a Scottish patriotic song sometimes considered to be Scotland's unofficial national anthem.
The Rowan Tree. This is a Scottish song written by Perthshire-born Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne (1766-1845), a song writer and collector of Scottish songs. In Scottish folklore, boughs of rowan were traditionally taken into cattle byres in May to protect livestock from evil, and rowan trees were planted in pastures for similar purposes.
Wha' saw the Forty Twa. The first two verses of this song are about soldiers of the 42nd Highland Regiment, the Black Watch, marching along the Broomielaw, which runs alongside the River Clyde in Glasgow. They are going to board a ship to travel abroad, maybe to fight in a war, but the song makes fun of how they are dressed. In Perth, the Headquarters of the Black Watch was in Perth now in Inverness, the song marched them down the Thimbleraw.
Roses of Prince Charlie. This is a modern Scottish folk song composed by Ronnie Browne of The Corries and was written in 1973. The title of the song refers to the symbol of Charles Edward Stuart, which was a white rose. The words represent Jacobitism and modern Scottish Nationalism.
Killiecrankie. The Battle of Killiecrankie was fought in 1689, as part of the Jacobite rebellion. James Hogg made a collection of songs relating to the battle. The first three verses and the chorus were written by Robert Burns and set to an older melody.
Bonnie Gallowa'. From a song extolling the beautiful area of Galloway in the Scottish Borders.
We're no awa' tae bide awa'. In Scotland, the song is often sung or played at the end of an event, and often at Hogmanay as well. It is a nice sentiment when you’re about to leave to say, "We’re no’ awa’ tae bide awa’, we’ll aye come back an see ye." In other words, we’re not going away to stay away - we’ll always come back and see you again.
Farewell to the Creeks. This tune was written by PM James Robertson (1886 – 1961), from Banffshire in the northeast of Scotland. He was a piper with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders. The Creeks referred to in the title must be those at Portknockie on the Moray Firth coast. They are spectacular rocky inlets, near where James grew up, the sort of place that would ingrain itself into the soul of any child for life.
Cock o' the North. The title comes from the nickname of Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon, who in 1794 raised the 92nd Regiment of Foot, which later became the Gordon Highlanders.
The 10th HLI. The 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry landed in Normandy on the 18th June 1944 as part of the 227th (Highland) Brigade.
Glendaruel Highlanders. The Glendaruel Highlanders was composed about 1860 by Alexander Fettes, Pipe Major of the City of Aberdeen Volunteers Regiment. It was probably composed in honour of John MacDougall Gillies, also a member of the Aberdeen Volunteers, whose family came from Glendaruel near Dunoon, Argyllshire.
The Muckin' o' Geordie's byre. A Scottish border tune - often played as a bagpipe march. Also known as "The Cleansing of George’s Cowshed".
Steamboat. A very popular pipe band tune and published by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.
Bonnie Dundee. Is the title of a poem and a song written by Walter Scott in 1825 in honour of John Graham, 7th Laird of Claverhouse, who was created 1st Viscount Dundee in November 1688.
The Battle of the Somme. This pipe tune composed by William Laurie (1881-1916) commemorates one of the greatest and most terrible battles of World War I which began on 1st July 1916. 58,000 lives were lost by the British troops (one third on the first day).
The Heights of Dargai. Also known as Dagshai Hills. This tune composed by J. Wallace, commemorates the bravery of the Gordon Highlanders regiment at the battle of the Heights of Dargai in India in 1897.
In the late nineteenth century, Russia and United-Kingdom competed to strengthen their hegemony over Pakistan. The Russians wanted to open the way to the South-East Asia and the British to protect the jewel of their colonial empire: India. It is within this context that United-Kingdom decided to ensure its communication channels in the inhospitable regions of Northwest India sending troops to stop the incessant incursions by rebel tribes on the warpath. Thus began the 1897 Tirah campaign. A force of 32,882 officers and troops supported by a service of supplies and medical needs of 19,558 men, 8,000 horses, 18,384 mules (not including camels and carts) was fielded. Among them was the Gordon Highlanders regiment.
Archie McKinlay. In 1969 Archie Duncan of Campbelltown, Argyll won a composing competition with this 9/8 tune entitled 'Archie McKinlay'.
The Pass of Brander. Composed by Bruce Thompson. He learned the pipes whilst at Glenalmond School and served in the Gordon Highlanders. The Pass of Brander, The Pipers’ Well and The Sma’ Glen, are some of his compositions.
Lonely Loch nan Eun. Loch of the birds. Is a remote freshwater loch located in Gleann Taitneach in the Grampian Mountains, Perth and Kinross.
The Sweet Maid of Mull. This popular march was composed by the well known A C Beaton.
Farewell to Camraw. Composed by Robert Matheson while PM of Shotts and Dykehead band and his change from Warmac pipe chanters. It is not a real place but Warmac spelt backwards!
Old Toasty. Hornpipe composed by Pipe Major Angus Lawrie of the Glasgow Police Pipe Band (later the Strathclyde Police band). His cousin Ronnie Lawrie was a fellow piper and member of the police band. "Old Toasty" was the nickname of Ronnie’s father, who apparently danced a lovely hornpipe.
Willie's Brougues. Another popular hornpipe composed by Pipe Major Angus Lawrie.
Complied by Pipe Sergeant AH - June 2022.