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Easter Ross bagpiper's poignant part in 'Reflections on rifles, romance, shinty and WW1' event; Role of conflict on shinty communities comes under the spotlight; Story of Patersons of Beauly to be told at Highlanders' Museum at Fort George


By Hector MacKenzie


Hugh Dan MacLennan and Duncan MacGillivray with the MacGillivray cup
Hugh Dan MacLennan and Duncan MacGillivray with the MacGillivray cup

A POIGNANT refrain from an acclaimed Easter Ross musician will be played on a set of bagpipes brought back from a World War I battle at an event casting a spotlight on a fascinating period of Highland history.

In a talk entitled “The Patersons of Beauly: reflections on rifles, romance, shinty and WW1”, the impact of the conflict on a sport synonymous with the Highlands will be explored.The evening talk takes place on December 13 at the Highlanders’ Museum at Fort George.

One of the most fascinating stories to emerge from researches on the impact World War 1 had on shinty-playing communities will be told against the stunning backdrop of the Regimental Chapel. It will be given jointly by Dr Margaret MacKay, formerly of the School of Scottish Studies, who has a personal family connection with the renowned shinty family of Patersons from Beauly, and Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan, Academy of Sport at the University of Edinburgh, who has researched the impact of WW1 on shinty-playing communities. Also taking part will be Anne-Mary Paterson of Beauly, a niece of the two players who lost their lives and daughter of William Paterson, a former president of the Camanachd Association, and the world-renowned piper Duncan MacGillivray of Calrossie.

Dr MacKay said: “This presentation takes us into a Highland community one hundred years ago and uses family history and lore,medals, an autograph book, sporting activities, music, and military imperatives to illuminate a remarkable story of Scotland and Canada which resonates to this day.”

Duncan MacGillivray playing at Festubert
Duncan MacGillivray playing at Festubert

The tale of the Paterson family and the set of bagpipes which was returned from the Battle of Festubert (1915) is remarkable in many respects, from the loss of two Camanachd Cup winning brothers, their heroism in battle and the subsequent emergence of a romantic story which spans the Atlantic Ocean and a century of mystery and intrigue.

The Paterson pipes recovered from the Festubert Battlefield were returned there in 2018 on a very special visit. They will be played once again by Duncan MacGillivray as a tribute to all the shinty players who losttheir lives, and a very special relationship which remained unverified for 100 years.

Shinty expert Hugh Dan MacLennan make a cameo for the Gaelic speakers side v Ireland in Oban 2007. He says of the fixture: "It was the last time I picked up a caman in anything approaching anger. Playing with/against folk half my age!"
Shinty expert Hugh Dan MacLennan make a cameo for the Gaelic speakers side v Ireland in Oban 2007. He says of the fixture: "It was the last time I picked up a caman in anything approaching anger. Playing with/against folk half my age!"

Hugh Dan MacLennan said: “This is a very special opportunity for all of us to complete the circle in many ways, taking the pipes back to a place where a great number of shinty players had some of their last experiences on the field of play before departing for other, more brutal battles. We are grateful to the Ogilby Trust and to Fort George for making this possible and I hope that as many people as possible will avail themselves of the opportunity to attend this special occasion.”

Museum director Kirstin Mackay said “We absolutely delighted to host this event and tell a truly fascinating story of a Highland family, with some heart-wrenching twists and heart-warming moments”

Tickets to the event are £10 per person (£7.50 for concessions and Friends of the Museum) available from www.thehighlandersmuseum.com or the shop there.



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