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Over the Chindwin to Lochaber – A Scottish Piper’s memoir. Review by Iain Ferguson.
Many senior pipers still playing music across Lochaber may well owe their skills and enthusiasm for the instrument to Pipe Major Evan Macrae BEM, who spent his retirement years sharing his love for the music.
He was born on the Black Isle on February 21 1922 and brought up at Armadale, where he learned the pipes from John MacDonald, the Ardvasar blacksmith.
As did many young men of the period, he joined the 1st Camerons in 1942,
sailing with the battalion to India. During 1944-45, he fought in the Burma
Campaign, being appointed Pipe Major in 1944.
His well-known ‘March Over the Chindwin’ commemorates the crossing of the
River Chindwin by the 79th in December 1944 during the advance after the
Battle of Kohima.
This was a particularly important moment in the Far East conflict when, after three months of fighting in and around the small town, the allies halted and reversed the Japanese campaign as they headed for India.
However, despite being part of this event which is of great historical importance, the book is not about the war, nor does it go into detail of wartime actions, but instead is a collection of experiences in the life of one man.
Having grown up in Skye and the West Highlands, Evan retired to Fort William where, driven by his talent and love of music, he taught boys and girls to play the pipes, travelling across the area to give as many children as possible the chance to learn.
In 1974, he jointly formed and trained Lochaber Junior Pipe Band whose members and pupils all adored him for his talent and manner.
In 1980, he won the Gold Medal for piping, having only started competing after his retirement.
The book is the memoirs of a man who grew up with bagpipes, became a piper, served through several military conflicts playing his beloved instrument and for all of his life shared his gift and the love of the bagpipes with others until his death in 1991.
‘Over the Chindwin to Lochaber, A Scottish Piper’s Memoir’ was complied and produced by his son Duncan from his father’s memoirs and is available now on Amazon at £8.95.
NO F12 Piping book