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Pipe Major Willie Lawrie, The Somme and Shinty’s Heroes…Stirling Castle commemorates musicians and sportsmen of WW1

Posted: 17th October 2016

Pipe Major Willie Lawrie, The Somme and Shinty’s Heroes

Stirling Castle commemorates musicians and sportsmen of WW1


Stirling Castle is to host a special tribute to the pipers and shinty players who lost their lives in the First World War. On 29th October, The Somme and Shinty’s Heroes will use music, storytelling and song to relate the little-known story of the impact shinty players had on the war – with a particular focus on the story of Pipe Major Willie Lawrie.

The origins of shinty date back nearly 2,000 years. It has long held an important role in Scottish, particularly Highland, communities, and was played by Highland Regiments during both World Wars. The Somme and Shinty’s Heroes will uncover some of the stories of these players through visual images, stories, songs and music.

At the centre of the event is a tribute to Pipe Major Willie Lawrie of Ballachulish, composer of the well-known tune ‘The Battle of the Somme’, who died in November 1916. His pipes are displayed in the Regimental Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Stirling Castle, and will be on display at the event.

In addition to hearing about PM Willie Lawrie, moving stories will be told of Dr Johnnie Cattanach, commonly regarded as shinty’s greatest ever player, who died at Gallipoli; Dòmhnall Ruadh Choruna and the Great Gaelic song An Eala Bhàn; the Paterson of Beauly pipes from Festubert and an account of the 1913 and 1914 Camanachd Cup Finals. Many of the players who appeared in these matches never returned from the war. Attendees will also hear the tale of the three ‘Ballachulish Musketeers’, who did return from World War 2 in an extraordinary adventure.

The performance is presented by broadcaster, author and sporting academic Hugh Dan MacLennan, and the musical director is former Scottish shinty captain, accordionist and Mànran star Gary Innes, who has now taken over the BBC’s Take the Floor dance music programme.

Hugh Dan MacLennan said: “The impact shinty players had in the Great War and vice versa is a fascinating tale that deserves to be told. Not a lot of this is known beyond the families concerned and not known even in some communities.

“At Stirling Castle, we’ll be building on the success of previous WW1 commemoration shows which have been performed from Skye to Glasgow and everywhere in between. It’s shinty’s way of paying tribute to those who died in the wars, and telling their stories in a slightly different way – through the eyes, stories and tunes of shinty-playing communities.”

The main performance features singer Linda MacLeod, and musicians Megan Henderson, Ewan Robertson, Duncan Lyall, James Mackintosh and Gary Innes himself.

Top piper Duncan MacGillivray of Calrossie, will play the Paterson pipes of Beauly which were returned from the Battle of Festubert and have since  been played world-wide. The BBC’s Iain Anderson will also read specially chosen historical extracts along with Prof Ewen Cameron of Edinburgh University and Brigadier John MacFarlane of Taynuilt.

Also appearing will be a group young local musicians from the Fèis Fhoirth Ceilidh Trailers. They will welcome guests from 1830 and also play at the interval of the main performance.

Liz Grant, Executive Manager at Stirling Castle, which is operated by Historic Environment Scotland, said, “We’re pleased to be hosting this event at the castle, which is a unique blend of history, music and storytelling.  The performance will bring to life some of the less well known stories of Scotland’s sporting heroes, as well as giving new insight into some of the memorabilia held at the Regimental Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. It promises to be a touching and fascinating tribute.”

The Somme and Shinty’s Heroes is supported by shinty’s ruling body the Camanachd Association and Fèisean nan Gàidheal.

The event takes place at Stirling Castle on 29th October, 7pm – 8.30pm

Tickets are £17 for Adults, £15 for concessions, and are available to purchase online at

A discount is available for Historic Scotland members.

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