A military piper on the Victorian stage

A military piper on the Victorian stage

Lecturer in Music, Jo Hicks, discusses a regimental piper at London's Alhambra music hall as part of a conference on nineteenth-century theatre.

Jo is the co-convenor of the London Stage and the Nineteenth-Century World conference https://www.new.ox.ac.uk/london-stage-and-nineteenth-century-world-iv , which was recently held for the fourth time at New College, Oxford (April 6-8, 2022).

Jo’s talk was entitled “Sergeant Piper Findlater and the Coloniality of Pathos” and addressed the career of George Findlater of the Gordon Highlanders, who was famously awarded the Victoria Cross for playing on while wounded at the Battle of Dargai Heights in 1897 (part of a larger campaign for command of the Khyber Pass trade route). The tune Findlater reportedly played at Dargai, “The Haughs o’ Cromdale,” had been included in the first volume of James Hogg’s Jacobite Relics of Scotland (1819) and its text tells of Highland soldiers fighting government forces. Clearly the music’s associations were no impediment to its use in the service of imperial violence (in this case inflicted on members of the Afridi tribe who were attempting to regain control of their hereditary lands in the Tirah region). Findlater’s subsequent London stage career—in which he re-enacted the performance that earned his celebrity at venues such as the Alhambra—underlines the extent to which the Great Highland bagpipe could be accommodated into popular Victorian narratives of British military gallantry. While it is hardly a revelation that pipers were active in the army at the height of empire, the significance of this activity for the repertory and reputation of the instrument bears closer scrutiny. The practice of composing tunes to commemorate battles may have predated the conscription of the Great Highland bagpipe into the British army, but it certainly continued thereafter and, unsurprisingly, there is a tune still in circulation named “Heights of Dargai.” At the same time, globetrotting musicians such as Findlater inevitably influenced a range of localised military piping practices, many of which persist to this day. Jo argued that the case of Findlater hints at how the pathos of solo piping, so often deployed as a marker of Scottish identity, was equally suited to performance in the theatre of imperial war.

Search News

Browse by Month

2024

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2024
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2024
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2024
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2024
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2024
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2024
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2024
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2024

2020

  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2020
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2020
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2020
  12. Dec

2019

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2019
  5. May
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2019
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2019
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2019
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2019
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2019
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2019
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2019

2018

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2018
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2018
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2018
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2018
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2018

2017

  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2017
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2017
  4. Apr
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2017
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2017
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2017
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2017
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2017
  10. Oct
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2017
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2017

2016

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2016
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2016
  5. May
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2016
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2016
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2016
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2016
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2016
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2016
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2016

2015

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2015
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2015
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2015
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2015
  5. May
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2015
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2015
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2015
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2015
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2015
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2015
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2015

2014

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2014
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2014
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2014
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2014
  5. May
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2014
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2014
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2014
  9. Sep
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2014
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2014
  12. Dec