By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
RAIN-SOAKED tourists armed with cameras lined Commercial Street on Tuesday to watch pipers and drummers from the Territorial Army begin their centenary celebrations.
The seven pipers and two drummers led a procession of TA members from Fort Charlotte to the Market Cross, their numbers boosted by TA soldiers from the mainland and supported by the Royal British Legion Pipe Band.
The pipers head north through Commercial Street on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo: Keith Morrison
Members of the public joined the march and were treated to renditions of well-known tunes, including A Scottish Soldier and Scotland the Brave.
The march formed the very first steps of the 472-mile Pipers’ Trail, which will see the pipers walk to and perform in towns and cities the length and breadth of Scotland. The six-week trail will culminate in Edinburgh on 27th July.
The Pipers’ Trail forms the centrepiece of the celebrations to mark 100 years of the TA, the force of part-time soldiers often called upon to do active duty. Territorials can form up to 10 per cent of a fighting force in a theatre of war and many taking part in the trail have recently seen active service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
This is the first time the Army has staged anything on this scale in Scotland. The aim of the trail is principally to engage with the public, said Brigadier David Allfrey, Commander of 51 (Scottish) Brigade, who developed the idea of the Pipers’ Trail. Throughout the route local battalions and regiments will be able to meet communities in an informal way.
Brigadier Allfrey said: “There is a demonstrable need to reinforce links with Scottish society. The TA represents society and is representative of society.
“This year is also the centenary of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, and this gave us the catalyst to do something substantial.”
The trail will certainly be substantial, with a packed programme of public performances, musical workshops (in conjunction with the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association), and a piece of theatre on offer to the public at locations throughout. A brief version was shown at Islesburgh on Tuesday afternoon, with the full play being performed that night at the TA hall.
The production features Jamie, an aspiring piper who travels from his home to take part in piping championships in Edinburgh. The play charts his actual and metaphorical journey, and illustrates the six key values prized by the army – courage, discipline, respect, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment.
A compelling and convincing piece, it will be shown at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.
Piping and drumming workshops were held on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and the trail also had time to visit Taing House. They left Shetland on the ferry for Orkney on Wednesday night.
As the Pipers’ Trail travels through Scotland, members of the public will be actively encouraged to join in. Musicians of all types, whatever they play, can march along with the pipers and drummers playing their own instruments. They will have to register online and take part in a workshop first, however.
Brigadier Allfrey said: “After months of planning we’re delighted to get the trail underway and I’d like to thank all involved. I’d also like to call on the people of Scotland to come out and support the Pipers’ Trail as we make our way through the towns and cities, and use the occasion to raise money for local good causes.
We invite people of all ages and abilities to come and enjoy the celebrations in their local area and hope to inspire and excite Scots everywhere. From rock guitarists to fiddlers, mouth organists to harp players, highland dancers to break dancers – they can all come on board.
“The Army in Scotland has a long and established relationship with pipe and drum music and, through various events this summer, we will encourage more people to play, learn, listen to and enjoy traditional piping music. At key locations along the route there will be a series of piping and drumming workshops, conducted over four days, with a professionally staged performance at the end of every week.
“The intention of the Pipers’ Trail is to provide, through the medium of pipe music and highland drumming, an insight into Scottish culture. With Scottish soldiers serving all around the world, trail will help connect them with their local communities.”
The TA was formed in 1908, the idea of Lord Haldane, then minister of war. He foresaw a role for the citizen soldier, and the territorials became part of the British Expeditionary Force in World War I. One hundred years later they are still going strong, with 11 members locally and over 4,000 nationally. Territorials and regular soldiers work as one army, being selected and trained in the same way and taking part in the same theatres of war.
Newest recruit to the local troop is Stuart Bell, 32, from Weisdale, who joined Shetland’s G troop in February.
Gunner Bell, who is civilian life is an officer with SFPA, said he joined the army for a moral reason.
He said: “I felt the British Army was overstretched and under-appreciated, and I felt I could make a contribution.”
He has not been away on active service yet but could be commissioned at a later date. Joining the TA is a step he would recommend to others, he said. “The army environment is like a family, a worthwhile experience especially for young people. It is a job like no other because of what you can do. It offers a lot personally and a lot workwise.’
Memories for Piper Morrison
Alex ‘Piper’ Morrison with (from left) drummer Robert McCutcheon
of the Scots Guards, Brigadier David Allfrey and Lance Corporal David Barnett.
FOND memories came rushing back when 88-year-old former piper Alex Morrison was treated to a private performance by the Pipers’ Trail pipers.
Alex, who lives at Taing House in Lerwick, was delighted to hear tunes he had played across North Africa’s deserts as a young piper in World War II being played to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Territorial Army.
He said: “I joined the Black Watch TA regiment before the war so I could play the pipes, and before long I was with the 51st Highland Division in the Libyan desert.
“Monty would come and give us all a talk, and we’d get issued two bottles of beer afterwards. We always knew that meant we were about to go back into action. I heard the Pipers’ Trail was coming, and I asked if I could be a part of it. I think it’s the finest idea I’ve heard in years.”
Organiser Brigadier David Allfrey said: “It is an honour to meet Alex, because he displays all the values and standards that the Army still holds dear, such as courage, integrity, loyalty and respect for others.