Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Piper's heroic last stand

An interesting story we found from Asia recently. Article by Simon Parry:

Ron Abbott's children at the Sai Wan War Memorial where Pipe-Major Mackie is commemorated.

It was the day when, in one corner of the city at least, all that stood between the invading Japanese army and the conquest of Hong Kong was a lone Scotsman armed with nothing but a set of bagpipes.

Pipe-Major William Craigie Keith Mackie was reportedly last seen alive on Christmas Eve, 1941, at Stanley, Hong Kong, playing the tunes "Cock O' the North" and "Heilan' Laddie" as the Japanese attacked.

Aged 59, Pipe-Major Mackie was a retired soldier who came to work in Hong Kong between the two world wars. A member of the volunteer defence force, he died in the last stand of British Commonwealth forces around Stanley just a day before Hong Kong was surrendered to the Japanese.

His story - with Japanese invaders finding one of the last lines of defence in Stanley not a gun post but a Scotsman with a set of bagpipes and a repertoire of Highland tunes - confirms Hong Kong's powerful and durable bond with the instrument.

Ron Abbott, chairman of the Hong Kong Piping Society, has researched the story of the heroic piper's last stand and has found that before moving to the Far East, Mackie served in World War I where he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his service in France.

His name is recorded at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Sai Wan in Hong Kong as well as the war memorial at St John's Church in his native Dumfries, Scotland.

Abbott said Mackie was a member of the Scottish company of the Hong Kong Volunteer Corps which formed its own Pipes and Drums unit in 1920. A 1932 China Mail article traced by Abbott describes how a performance was led by "pipers under Pipe-Major Mackie".

Today, bagpipe bands are flourishing in communities across Asia including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and even Shanghai and Beijing. Japan, meanwhile, has a large number of its own pipe bands and even has its own annual Highland Games. Pipe-Major Mackie would undoubtedly have approved.

Pipe-Major Mackie's details recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission can be viewed here.

The Second World War memorial in St John's Church, Dumfries can be viewed on the Scottish War Memorials Project site.

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