Tune: Pibroch o' Donald Dhu (Traditional)
Lyrics by Barry Taylor, 2003. Consigned to the Public Domain.
In a trench at the front in the war to end wars
Young men readied for battle like thousands before
A last note to sweethearts, a last chance to pray
They'd be 'over the top' at the first light of day.
And when the time came, they advanced into hell
Torn by bullets and shrapnel, in dozens lads fell
So deadly the fury of enemy fire
That even the bravest could not breach the wire.
They tried to find cover on wide open plain
Where machine gun and rifle sang deadly refrain
A resolute foe had repelled their attack
They couldn't go forward... they wouldn't go back.
Then from the top of a trench came a sound
That made even 'most fearful of lads look around
A piper, in full view of enemy fire
Marching, defiant, the length of the wire.
So renewed was their spirit, the fight to sustain
That they sprang to their feet and advanced once again
They cut through the wire, 'charged across no man's land
The field was theirs and the victory at hand!
But later 'mid shell hole and carnage they found
His pipes, now silent, on death-laden ground
The people at home, of his bravery they'd learn
But the gallant young piper would never return.
Today in a museum's glass case display
The mud-crusted pipes that he played on that day
And at night when the great hall is empty, they say
You can still hear the sound of the young piper play.
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A midi sequence of this tune can be heard here and may be downloaded here.
Notes: This is the true story of Piper James Richardson of the 16th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, in World War One. Because of his gallantry at Regina Trench on October 8, 1916, he was postumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The lyrics themselves were inspired by the recent investigative work by Pipe Major Roger McGuire, Canadian Scottish Regiment, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. With the support of The Canadian Club and a group of patriotic citizens, Roger travelled to Scotland in January 2003 to identify a set of pipes retrieved from that very battlefield by Major Edward Yeld Bate, a Chaplain in the British Army. The pipes have been in a display case in Ardvreck School in the Scottish Highlands for decades. Tomas Christie, a parent of students at the school and also a piper, initiated the investigative search for the origin and owner of the pipes.
From their distinctive Lennox tartan ribbons, the pipes have been confirmed as belonging to a piper from the 16th Battalion. Though the investigative work continues, the probability is growing that these indeed are Richardson's pipes. Forgive me if I have drawn a premature conclusion to pen this song.