An American friend once described my Scottish garb as a “Scotch Suit.” I’ve been wearing kilts since tagging along with the local pipes and drums when I was eleven years old way back in 1974. My piano teacher at the time suffered a serious brain injury in a motorcycle accident, so I continued my music studies by joining the Redcliffe Scottish Pipe Band. Belonging to a bagpipe band was not just a musical education opportunity, but also a study of Scottish culture in an Australian context.
Pipes and Drums
I’ve been a member of a few bands since then – (St Andrew’s, Tenterfield Highlanders, and Queensland Police) and played along with many more. During my twenty years with pipe bands performing, competing in band and solo competitions, and playing for Highland Dancing events, I enjoyed friendship with many people.
Ashgrove RSL ANZAC Day Commemoration committee
Twenty five years ago, I was asked by the Ashgrove RSL to “play the lament” at their ANZAC Day service. This meant providing bagpipe music during the wreath laying ceremony, between a hymn (Abide with Me) and the Last Post. This was a typical suburban Australian ANZAC Day commemoration, timed so that people could attend a dawn service at 04:28, return for the main local service at 08:00 and then travel to the city for the main march at 10:00.
Growth in attendance
The first Ashgrove ANZAC Day meetings that I attended were fairly low key: an army band leading the parade and providing the hymnal accompaniment, and army catafalque party honouring service people. I’ve watched community participation in the Ashgrove ANZAC Day service grow. I estimate that this year’s attendance was about 1000-1200 people.
My Ashgrove duties are simple: provide ten minutes’ music as the parade approaches, and play a lament during the wreath laying service. Initially, the funeral march “Flowers of the Forest” played once through was enough for the wreath laying ceremony. In successive years, I added a regimental slow march “Mist Covered Mountains” and an air “MacCrimmon’s Lament” as more people joined the wreath laying ceremony. I play my own version of Sheila Chandra’s “MacCrimmon’s Lament.”
61st Australian Infantry Battalion (AIF) the Queensland Cameron Highlanders
This year, I was asked to consider the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Queensland Cameron Highlanders. As it happens, my kilt is Cameron of Erracht tartan, an original Queensland Cameron Highlanders issue. I bought it from Scots College, Warwick when its band was upgrading equipment. At this time, it was still in its original condition, sewn into a roll. Guest of honour at Ashgrove this year was Lieutenant-Colonel Richard W Cameron DSO ED, who is 92 years of age. He addressed the meeting, seconded the meeting’s resolutions and, in the context of ANZAC sacrifice, spoke of his own extensive wartime experiences. Meeting with him after the service, he told me that many years ago, he had donated excess equipment to Scots College, Warwick including two original issue kilts that were sewn in rolls. I like to think that I am continuing his tradition whenever I put on my “Scotch Suit.”