Monday, 14 March 2011

Army pipes and drummers return to Stirling Castle

I've just discovered the Stirling Castle blog, where this article was posted today.

The rhythm of daily life for generations of soldiers based at Stirling Castle was dictated by pipers and drummers. On March 19 they make a welcome return when we host a day of competitions between four bands made up of members of the Army’s University Officer Training Corps (UOTC). It should be quite a spectacle for visitors. From 10am onwards the 60 talented young military musicians, from all over Scotland, will challenge each other to decide the best individual, small group and massed band performances. They will play in different parts of the castle, scrutinised by judges, but will unite towards the end of the day to Beat the Retreat.

Up until the mid-60s the castle was the training depot for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, taking raw recruits and turning them into soldiers. Each morning they were roused by a piper and a drummer – playing his bugle. Thereafter their drills, parades, meals and eventually their bed time was all signalled by the musicians. The musicians were the mechanism that made regimental life run like clockwork.

Anyone coming to see the competition, or cheer on someone taking part, will probably enjoy a visit to the regimental museum of The Argyll’s which is based at the castle. They can see historic items like a Boer War drum, pierced by an enemy bullet. There are also the pipes which belonged to Eric Moss, an officer who risked his life to hide regimental silver from the Japanese at the fall of Singapore. He kept hold of his pipes while a prisoner, but the pipe bag rotted in the atrocious conditions. However, he created an improvised replacement in order to perform a morale-boosting concert for his comrades.

All those taking part in this weekend’s Northern Lights Pipes and Drums Competition are studying for degrees at universities close to home in Stirling, or further afield in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen. After graduation, some may join the Army full time and continue the traditions of those remembered in the museum.

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