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' before 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
Where machine gun and rifle sang deadly
A resolute foe had repelled their attack
They couldn't go forward... they wouldn't go
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
His pipes, now silent, on death-laden ground
The people at home, of his bravery they'd
But the gallant young piper would never
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.
Tune: Pibroch o' Donald Dhu (Traditional)
Lyrics by Barry Taylor, 2003
Consigned to the Public Domain
This is the true story of Piper James Richardson of the 16th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, in World War I. For his bravery under fire at the Regina Trench on October 8, 1916, he was awarded posthumously the Victoria Cross.
The lyrics to this song were inspired by the investigative research by Andrew Winstanley of The Canadian Club and Pipe Major Roger McGuire of the 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 help identify a set of mud-covered pipes recovered from that very battlefield by Major Edward Yeld Bate, a British Chaplain. The pipes had been displayed at Ardvreck School in Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland, for over seven decades. Tomas Christie, a parent of students there and also a piper, initiated the search for the origin of the pipes.
Their collective effort led to conclusive evidence that identified the pipes as those played by Piper Richardson on that fateful day in 1916. An anonymous donor facilitated the purchase of the pipes on behalf of the citizens of Canada. In October 2006 a party of dignitaries visited Scotland and received the pipes from the Headmaster of Ardvreck School for repatriation to Canada. The story culminated at a poignant ceremony in Victoria on November 8, 2006 when the pipes were presented to the Premier of British Columbia, representing the citizens of the Province. Richardson's Pipes are now on permanent public display in the rotunda of the Legislature of British Columbia.
Read more about Piper Richardson at the City of Chilliwack Museum and Archives
View painting of Richardson's exploits by James Prinsep Beadle
Click here to play midi file