Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

“The tune is beautiful and haunting… and easy to learn”: Alastair Campbell on piping for ‘The Forgotten Dunkirk’

© University of Glasgow Alastair (right) piping at Glasgow University
Alastair (right) piping at Glasgow University

My dad, Donald, a Tiree-born vet, taught me the pipes as a young child, growing up in Yorkshire, and though I didn’t always enjoy it at the time, my appreciation for what he passed on to me grows with time.

Especially since Dad and then my brother Donald, also a piper, died, I have become ever more passionate about the pipes. Just in the last two months of lockdown, I have played most days, including at all the Thursday night claps for carers. I’ve written new tunes, played virtually for a funeral, and taken part in a recording of what became a No. 1 charity hit single organised by Martin Gillespie of the band, Skerryvore.

And now, there is another great piping event to look forward to, one that looks certain to be the greatest virtual piping gathering of all time, as pipers from all over the world play the same tune, at the same time, in tribute to the thousands of Scots who were killed or captured during what is known as “The Forgotten Dunkirk” 80 years ago. This Friday, June 12, 10am UK time. I’ll be there. The tune, a beautiful, haunting march, and quite easy to learn, is Heroes Of St Valery. It was composed by Donald MacLean, a Lewis-born Seaforth Highlander who was captured at the battle of Saint-Valery-en-Caux in 1940.

He was lucky to survive, but endured a forced march from France to Poland with little food or shelter and held as a PoW until the end of the war. His tune commemorates those who fought and fell at St Valery, including pipers and drummers, resting in the military cemetery above the town.

More than 200 pipers registered for Friday’s event in the first week alone, and many more have joined since. The world record for the largest ever piping ensemble saw 333 participants at an event in Bulgaria in 2012. Due to the coronavirus, this will be a virtual rather than physical event, but, given the level of interest, it seems sure to be the largest mass playing of the pipes ever.

I am especially pleased to be joining in because funds raised will go to three military charities of which my brother Donald, a Scots Guardsman who was invalided out when diagnosed with schizophrenia, would thoroughly approve, Legion Scotland, Poppyscotland and RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity.


To take part in the piping or to donate visit: poppyscotland.org.uk