Monday, 23 January 2012

World War I memories revived with moving Far, Far from Ypres at Celtic Connections

A review from the STV website about a concert held at the weekend.

I have the original CD and it makes for fascinating, and at times, very moving, listening. I would recommend you seek out a copy.

Far, Far from Ypres is one of these collaborations that could only take place at Celtic Connections, though when the singers walked on stage uniformly dressed in black it was hard not to imagine them as a classically trained and rehearsed choir. Participants had queued up to offer their services, including Scottish folk legends such as Barbara Dickson and Dick Gaughan, whose Why Old Men Cry was one of many highlights. The show was put together by Ian McCalman, who along with Stephen Quigg, Ian Bruce, and narrator Ian Anderson, kept the show moving through the years of WWI as seen through the experiences of soldier Jimmy MacDonald and his fellow Scottish soldiers in the trenches.

Anderson’s reading of letters, diaries and the beautiful poem In Flanders’ Fields by Major John McCrae gave continuity and perspective on the history, experiences and music of the trenches, which included old favorites Pack up your Troubles in your Old Kitbag, Goodbyee, and It’s a long way to Tipperaray, and hymn parodies When this Bloody War is over and Whiter than the Whitewash on the Wall. Then there were the music hall favorites If you were the only Girl in the World and Roses of Peccary, and more recent songs such as Eric Bogle’s No Man’s Land and Judy Small’s Mothers, Daughters, Wives.

I was particularly impressed by the singing, which combined powerful solos, robust melody and beautiful harmony and told stories of excitement and hope, suffering and endurance, humour and escapism, fear and disillusionment in the words of those involved in the horrors of the Western Front. Scotland suffered 140,000 losses, not a large number in comparison with other countries, but a bigger proportion than any other nation, including seven Heart of Midlothian footballers, and an even more disproportionate number of Highlanders, whose contribution was beautifully recalled in the beautiful Gaelic song An Eala Bhan (The White Swan) by Sineag MacIntyre.

There were a few rough edges - understandable in a show with hardly any rehearsal - but the singing was powerful, the sound quality was excellent and the words were crystal clear. On top of (or rather behind) all this, was the projection of images of the war by Pete Heywood, who managed to link appropriate pictures to the songs, while never taking away from the centrality of the music and words. Sadly there were no cameras to capture this unique event, but the music was recorded, and a fuller version from 2007, remains available on CD from Greentrax.

Far, far from Ypres was a fitting memorial to the Scottish contribution in the First World War, and without being overtly political, it powerfully reminds us of the horrors of war and the individuals and communities touched by it. It ended with the personal story of Harry Lauder, whose own son’s death inspired his signature song, Keep Right on to the End of the Road.

Thank you Celtic Connections for taking this project on board - the sell-out audience showed their appreciation with a standing ovation, and I’m sure there are other themes that could lend themselves to similar treatment!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Carnoustie to pay new tribute to Victoria Cross heroes

A happier article from the Courier after news of vandalism yesterday.

Two historic Angus recipients of the Victoria Cross will receive an additional honour, now that space for commemorative plaques has been found.

Following various delays and discussions about the placing of the plaques in Carnoustie, its Royal British Legion Scotland branch has identified suitable spaces on the town's war memorial.

Alterations to the plaques are required as the originals were specific to the streets named after Charles Alfred Jarvis (Jarvis Place) and George McKenzie Samson (Samson Place), and it is anticipated they will be ready for rededication in the summer.

Lance Corporal Jarvis, of the 57th Field Company Royal Engineers, was the first man to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. Born in Fraserburgh, he spent his formative years in Carnoustie, attending the school before joining the army in 1899, and the town has always claimed him as its own.

Jarvis was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in blowing up the bridge at Jemappes, in order to cover the retreat of the army from Mons three weeks after the outbreak of war. He died in Dundee in 1948.

Petty Officer Samson served in the Royal Naval Reserve on HMS River Clyde during the 1915 landing at Gallipoli. As the landing force struggled to establish a bridgehead, he spent the day tending to the large numbers of wounded and helping with the lines.

His service was cut short after he was wounded by machine gun fire. Surgeons were only able to remove four of the suspected 19 bullets but he made a full recovery.

Carnoustie SNP councillor Helen Oswald welcomed the news, saying: ''I am delighted that a final decision has been made about the location of these plaques.

''Additionally, I have had it confirmed that additional street signage will be erected in Jarvis Place and Samson Place, identifying that these streets were named in honour of these two very brave Carnoustie men.''

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Last veteran of Special Air Service Regiment 'originals' passes away at the age of 92

We missed the passing of this veteran a few days ago, so here's the article from the Sunday Mail.

The last veteran of the original SAS unit who ­parachuted deep behind enemy lines to battle Hitler has died at the age of 92.

Jimmy Storie was one of just 65 men recruited by Scottish war hero David Stirling for his crack Special Air Service regiment during the deadly desert campaign in North Africa.

Jimmy died at his home in Aberdeenshire last Sunday.

His funeral will be held in Aberdeen on Thursday, where a collection will be taken for the SAS Hereford Military Charity.

A family tribute said: “Forever in our hearts, a brave soldier and a wonderful family man.”

A spokesman for the SAS Regimental Association said: “It is a very sad day for the whole SAS regiment.

“We are deeply saddened that Mr Storie has passed away.

“He was the last surviving member of L Detachment, which was formed by Sir David Stirling in 1941.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Storie several times at functions and he was a very warm, friendly and unassuming man.

“He never boasted of his exploits, was very modest and a great family man. We have lost a piece of history and a link with the regiment’s past.”

Jimmy – a sergeant during World War II – was a central part of the SAS’s first mission on November 17, 1941, when he parachuted behind German lines in North Africa before meeting up with a crack Army raiding unit, the Long Range Desert Group.

Stirling led Jimmy and 64 othermen as they parachuted into a fierce storm. Their equipment, weapons and explosives were lost before a massive rainstorm swept the desert. Only 22 men survived.

Jimmy also saw active service in Sicily, behind the lines in France before D-Day and in the final push through Germany.

His exploits featured in a £975 book detailing the history of the SAS throughout World War II.

The 600-page tome was authorised to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Who Dares Wins regiment.

The book features rare photos, top secret orders and reports of missions, including a daring raid to capture one of Hitler’s top generals – Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox.

Councillor condemns vandals for Invergowrie war memorial damage

An article from the Courier which caught our attention, highlighting something which is happening too often these days.

Carse councillor Peter Mulheron has condemned young vandals in Invergowrie after a war memorial to the village's fallen heroes was desecrated.

Stone blocks bearing the names of the war dead have been damaged, with two blocks pulled out entirely and left lying on the ground at the gates of Invergowrie Memorial Park.

Vandals have also tried to remove another block higher up and it has been left hanging from the wall in a dangerous condition.

The memorial in the park has long been targeted by vandals and was replaced by a more secure memorial at Invergowrie Parish Church in 2000.

However, the wall with the names of the armed forces personnel is still a sacred monument to the families involved, Mr Mulheron said.

He added that the latest vandalism comes just a few months after a bench in the park — which was installed as a memorial to Alastair Soutar, a Customs and Excise officer who died while trying to foil a multi-million-pound drug-smuggling operation — was daubed with paint and a plaque dedicated to the 47-year-old was stolen.

Mr Soutar was killed after being crushed between two boats during an operation off the Caithness coast in 1996.

''I don't know if it's drugs or what that's causing this but it's just terrible,'' Mr Mulheron said. ''These kids have no idea what upset they cause. The memorial gates were built for the people of Invergowrie who died in the wars.

''I've got to look at the previous incident with Mr Soutar's bench. It's just becoming par for the course here. People say the kids have nothing to do but when I was young we played football with a tennis ball or something. We didn't go around vandalising things. Kids these days have everything, but it's never enough.

''The names of all these people who gave their lives for Invergowrie, Scotland and Britain, whatever, have been damaged.

''These kids just don't understand the significance of it all — if it wasn't for these people giving their lives, they might not be around today. I'm very angry about this and I'll be taking the matter up with the police to see what can be done.''

A spokesman for Perth and Kinross Council said: ''We were concerned to hear about this incident of vandalism. We will investigate what damage has been caused and decide on a course of action. We would urge anyone who saw anything suspicious in the park to contact Tayside Police.''

Friday, 13 January 2012

Remember the humble beasts

'War Horse’ is released today. Hollywood has taken a children’s book (via a West-End and Broadway play) and turned it into a big budget movie. If you go to see it then expect lavish shots, large-scale battle scenes and to be squeezed through an emotional wringer.

It’s a no-brainer what the film is about; it highlights the use of horses in the First World War. Millions of horses were used by all countries fighting in the war and for Britain which was campaigning across Europe, Africa and the Middle East there were more than just horses used. Mules, camels, elephants, dogs and carrier pigeons were just some of the animals used and abused by our armed forces during the war.

When it came to creating the Scottish National War Memorial in the 1920s the designers wanted to capture in stone, bronze, wood and glass all aspects of the war. They remembered the Scottish regiments; the corps; the sailors and airmen; the nurses and civilians. In short, all the men and women who's lives were lost due to the War. They also remembered the animals.

Edinburgh artist Phyllis Bone was chosen to sculpt the heads of the beasts of burden who served and died alongside the soldiers on all fronts during the war. If you visit the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle cast your eyes up the pillars of the Hall of Honour and you will see Bone’s work. She carved animal heads for the pillars and one carving at your feet which is easy to miss - the mice and canaries who were ‘The Tunnellers' Friends’.

Thanks to photographs from 1920's guidebooks you can see them all on the Scottish War Memorials Project without having to visit the SNWM (which you should still do though).

In the shrine to Scotland’s servicemen and women which is overflowing with grand memorials the simple memorials to “the humble beasts that served and died” are some of the most powerful. You don’t need to go to the cinema to see 'War Horse' to get a lump in your throat.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Additional names for the Glasgow Roll of Honour?

Another item about our Glasgow Roll...

Since the publication of the Roll of Honour for Glasgow, we've been contacted on several occasions by people noting that their relative is not included.

We weren't too surprised at this, as the Roll was published nearly ninety years ago, and at the time there were bound to be omissions. We took the decision to reprint the Roll "as is", with no additional names added - even if we were 100% sure they warranted inclusion.

However, we didn't want the names of these "missing" Glasgow men to be forgotten, so we have taken the decision to collate any names which it is believed should be on the Roll.

We won't be adding these to the original publication, but will instead list them on our website in an additional supplement to the original Roll of Honour.

The information will be the same as the 1920s publication, and will hopefully include Name, Rank, Unit and Address.

If you have a relative who isn't currently on the Glasgow Roll of Honour, and you would like us to include him, please send the details you have to the new email address for this supplement:

Once we have compiled some of the names we will publish it on our website, and then subsequently update it on a regular basis.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Glasgow Roll of Honour - discount voucher

One of our most popular projects last year was the publication of the Roll of Honour for the City of Glasgow.

The Roll is of course available to download free, but a printed book version is also available. For those who would like to print a book, we can offer a voucher code which will give you a massive 25% off the purchase price.

Simply visit and when you go the the checkout enter the code:


But hurry! This code is only valid until the 31st January.

The inevitable small print:

Disclaimer: Use coupon code LULUBOOKUK305 at checkout and receive 25% off your order. The maximum savings with this promotion is £50. You can only use the code once per account, and you can't use this coupon in combination with other coupon codes. This great offer ends on 31 January 2012 at 11:59 PM PST. While very unlikely reserves the right to change or revoke this offer at anytime, and of course we cannot offer this coupon where it is against the law to do so. This coupon will work for multiple titles but savings cannot go past the maximum of £50.  

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Those of you who have visited the Black Watch Museum in recent years would have noticed a Golden Labrador named Hackle. Hackles owner Jim worked at the museum and Hackle loved to see all the visitors.

Sadly Hackle passed away on the 8th January, and he will be much missed. I met him only once, in the Summer, and it was lovely meeting such a friendly dog. My daughter is not particularly comfortable around dogs, but she was happy to clap Hackle and was as delighted to meet him as I was.

The museum won't be the same without him welcoming you...

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Historical Association - rescheduled talk

After last December's gale caused the event to be cancelled, the Historical Association have arranged to re-schedule David Craig's talk on "The Forgotten Convoy JW53"

The talk will take place at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow on Thursday 19th January 2012 at 5.30 pm