Regimental Pipe Music – Duty Tunes

Pipe bands as such probably first started to exist at the time of the Crimean War (1854-1856), though the bagpipe in some form has accompanied many armies into battle. It is possible the Romans introduced a primitive form of the instrument to Britain during their conquest of the island. In the Highlands of Scotland, the bagpipe evolved as an instrument of war, but always as a solo instrument. Clan pipers would record battles through individual compositions which would be added to the collective memory.

When the British Army began recruiting infantry regiments from the Highlands, pipers naturally accompanied them. Montgomery’s Highlanders and the 42nd Highlanders (or Black Watch) came to Canada in 1759 and the Fraser Highlanders in 1761. While there were no recognized pipe bands as such, the Frasers brought at least thirty pipes and drummers with them. The drum was also an instrument of war, being used to give commands on the battlefield. As Highland Regiments indigenous to Canada were raised beginning in 1775, pipers again naturally joined the service, and the pipers in the various companies being raised would sometimes assemble to play martial music, or entertain by playing dance tunes.

The oldest Pipe Band in Canada dates from 1816, formed by the Royal Highlanders of Canada, and soon other regiments were forming bands. The concept of the Pipe Band was formalized in 1854 by the British Government. By 1914, full Pipe Bands, with pipers and drummers playing in unison, was universal among Highland regiments. And while it was not practical for pipe bands to play for the purpose of giving commands, nonetheless music very much marked the soldier’s day and specific tunes evolved in each regiment to be used to alert soldiers to various daily events; meal call, orders parade, lights out.

Regimental March (Quick Time) – “Highland Laddie” and “All The Blue Bonnets Are Over The Border”

In 1881, Highland Regiments throughout the British Army adopted “Highland Laddie” as their Regimental March in compliance with official decree. However, this tune did not become the official march past for the Calgary Highlanders until 1945.

In 1922, Lieutenant Colonel Redman, the first Commanding Officer of the newly re-christened Calgary Highlanders, chose “The Campbells Are Coming” as the regimental march, as it was in use with the 1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the British Army who had apparently dropped “Highland Laddie.”

Lieutenant Colonel Tomlinson changed the official Regimental March to “All The Blue Bonnets Are Over The Border” in 1932. The words to this tune date back to at least 1820, and are a reference to the hats worn by Jacobite soldiers on raids into English territory – their only form of “uniform.”

Highland Laddie is the most common of the Regimental Marches, also used for that purpose by The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, The Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment, 2nd Battalion Nova Scotia Highlanders, The Essex and Kent Scottish, 48th Highlanders of Canada and The Lake Superior Scottish Regiment. This tune began as an old melody called “If Thou’lt Play Me Fair, Play”, to which the immortal Scots poet Robert Burns adapted a long ditty called “The Highland Laddie and Lawland Lassie.” This tune was made the official regimental march in 1945, though there is no evidence as to why. Canadian Forces Adminstrative Order (CFAO) 32-3 mentions that the tune was used during the Second World War to raise the morale of men after battle, and the tune was also played at the victory parade in Amsterdam, Holland.

Highland Laddie is played in 2/4 time, and the traditional setting is two parts. Some regiments play four parts, and Pipe Major Robert Henderson arranged a four part version unique to the Calgary Highlanders in the early 1980s. The 3rd and 4th parts fell from use upon his retirement, but only briefly, and Pipe Major Henderson’s lively third and fourth parts were revived and are still played today.

The Regimental March (also known as Regimental March Past) is, in simpler terms, the “theme song” of the regiment. It is always played when the Regiment marches past a saluting dais or dignitary. All The Blue Bonnets Are Over The Border is still used in an official capacity also, to march the Colours on and off of parade.

Regimental March (Slow Time) – “The Sloedam”

No official slow march has been authorized for the Calgary Highlanders; Rhu Vaternish appears to have been used for that purpose, amongst other commonly heard tunes such as Skye Boat Song and My Home.

In 1987, however, while participating in a dedication ceremony in Holland commemorating the actions of the Calgary Highlanders at Walcheren Causeway, Pipe Major Robert Henderson was inspired to compose The Sloedam. The name refers to the body of water crossed by the Causeway – the Slooe channel – and the raised roadway, or “dam” that spanned it. The Sloedam was the scene of fierce fighting at the end of October 1944. The tune itself is based on the tune Bonnie Dundee, which was the company march of one of the companies most heavily involved in the initial assaults on the far end of the Causeway.

The tune was well received by the Regiment and has been used in the capacity of an official slow march since its composition.

Reveille – “Johnny Cope”

The traditional Reveille tune is Johnny Cope. It is played in the morning to rouse sleeping soldiers, and more formally it is played at remembrance services, such as on St. Juliens’ Day. The Lament is played, followed by two minutes of silence, the then the Reveille. Both tunes are performed solo by a lone piper.

Johnny Cope is written in 2/4 time and commemorates an incident of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion in which General John Cope’s camp was attacked at Prestonpans, Scotland. Victory was assured when the Highlanders descended on the camp to find the English soldiers still asleep. The full title of the tune is “Hey, Johnny Cope, Are You Waken Yet?” The name of the composer is unfortunately lost to history.

Defaulters – “A Man’s A Man For A’ That”

The words to the song “Is there for honest poverty” were another Burns composition, and the song was set to bagpipe music in the mid 19th century. Previously, it had been a marching tune for the fifes and drums. This tune is traditionally played when an accused soldier is brought before a summary trial, court martial or other hearing. By tradition, the accused removes his hat and is escorted in by two soldiers of equal rank – his peers – and is permitted to have a piper play him in. The tune is played to bring to mind Burns’ words – and remind the presiding officer that the soldier is still a man, and should be treated fairly and without prejudice no matter what the accusation against him might be. The tune is played by a solo piper.

The last verse of the Burns song runs as follows:

“Then let us pray that come it may –
As come it will for a’ that –
That sense and worth, o’er a’ the earth,
May bear the gree, and a’ that;
For a’ that, and a’ that,
It’s comin’ yet for a’ that,
That man to man, the world o’er,
Shall brithers be for a’ that!”

Lament – “Flowers of the Forest”

The standard lament played at remembrance services, funerals, and associated functions is “Flowers of the Forest”, a tune widely used by Canadian pipers since before the Second World War. The tune is based on a poem by Jean Elliott, written in the 1700s, and commemorating an estimated 10,000 dead Scottish soldiers at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513. King James IV of Scotland died along with large numbers of the upper end of Scottish society and the battle was considered a national disaster. The 10,000 dead were the “flowers”, while the forest was the Ettrick Forest, west of Selkirk. The lament is usually played solo.

Two versions of the tune exist, and it is believed the oldest dates to approximately the year 1620. The words by Jane Elliot and pipe tune are based on this version.

Dinner Call – “Brose and Butter”

Yet another popular 18th Century tune to which Robert Burns added words. “O gie my love brose, brose/Gie my love brose and butter;/For nane in Carrick or Kyle/Can please a lassie better.” The tune itself was first published in the 1790s by Niel Gow, as a fiddle tune, and first appears as a pipe tune in 1822, in Donald MacDonald’s music collection, titled “Uilleam’s Calum’s Morag” but with the subtitle “Brose and Butter.” Angus MacKay’s manuscript, from 1825-54, shows it under both names also.

Duty Tunes

In the mid 1980s, Pipe Major Henderson formalized the Duty Tunes; whether represents a formalization of prior practice, or a new selection of music, is hard to determine. The listing as held by the Regiment since the mid 1980s has been:

Duty Tune Title Type Notes
Regimental March Highland Laddie 2/4 Quick March As discussed above, four parts.
Reveillie Johnny Cope 2/4 Quick March
Funeral March Flowers of the Forest 2/4 Lament Used when a lament is played at remembrance services, etc.
Lights Out Donald Blue 2/4 Slow March
half Hour to Parade Corriechoillie 2/4 Quick March
Orders Parade A Man’s A Man For A’ That 2/4 Quick March Used frequently for Defaulters Parade
Fall In: Morning Pibroch O’ Donald Dhu 6/8 Quick March
Fall In: Afternoon Atholl Highlanders 6/8 Quick March
Dinner Call Brose and Butter 9/8 Quick March Used at mess dinners for 15 and 5 minute meal calls
Fall In: Evening All the Blue Bonnets Are
Over the Border 6/8 Quick March As discussed above, now used for playing the Colour Party on and off parade
General Salute Loch Leven Castle 2/4 Quick March This is the Canadian Forces’ standard tune
Advance in Review
Order (short) Cullen Bay (1st bar only) 5/4 Quick March This is used for the “short” advance of 7 paces.
Advance in Review
Order (long) Scotland The Brave
(last 3 bars only) 4/4 Quick March This is used for the “long” advance
“A” Company March Scotland’s My Ain Hame 2/4 Quick March
“B” Company March Brown Haired Maid 2/4 Quick March
“C” Company March Farewell to the Creeks 6/8 Quick March
“D” Company March Mrs. Lily Christie 6/8 Quick March
HQ Company Maid O’ Fife 4/4 Quick March
Training Company Scotland The Brave 4/4 Quick March
Support Company Glendaruel Highlanders 6/8 Quick March “Support” Company was a designation used during the
Second World War. The current designation is “Combat Support Company”. Since 1939, this company has contained specialist platoons such as pioneers, anti-tank, mortar, anti-aircraft, carrier, etc. The 21st century has seen some of these specialist tasks taken away from the infantry; pioneers to the Canadian Military Engineers, mortars to the Royal Canadian Artillery, etc.