By the Editor
A celebration lunch was held at the Royal Northern and University Club in Aberdeen yesterday to honour John Cruickshank VC and the tune written for him by Dave Mason of Cincinnati and South Africa. Dave flew in specially to play the tune, spending much of his £1,000 prize money in the process. ‘I wouldn’t have had it any other way,’ he said. John and Dave are pictured above
Piping Press was one of the sponsors of the Club’s composing competition which I am sure you will have read about in these pages earlier this year. I was invited to say a few words to the packed dining room of 75 lunchers.
I remarked on the quality of Dave’s piece, a 6/8 march, and that if there was such a thing as double immortality then Mr Cruickshank had arrived at that unique station in life, firstly through his incredible bravery during WW2 and secondly by having such a melodious tune named for him.
I explained the difficulty of writing a good pipe tune – we had only nine notes to work with, however, understanding the pentatonic nature of our music offered much more variety than might at first be expected. The winning composer had produced a melody which would, in time, prove popular with solo pipers, bands and dance bands.
Mr Cruickshank, 99 on Monday, listened enraptured as Dave played his tune:
The artistic taste buds whetted it was time for the mandibles to get moving and on came roast chicken breast, cream sauce, roast potatoes, sticky toffee pudding, claret, suav blanc, some sparkling stuff and coffee.
There is something very humbling about sitting at a table of Victoria and George Cross winners there to honour one of their kind. Tony a retired London policeman got his GC for taking on gun totting robbers. He cornered one in an alley and dodged 15 bullets armed only with his wooden baton.
Two places away another GC ate his lunch with a prosthetic arm – it replaced the one blown off in a bomb disposal accident. Close by there was the chap who threw himself on a would-be royal assassin; The Mall in London, Princess Anne his target.
To the presentations: perspex plinths for all participants: the winner, the sponsors and the judges (RW, P/Ms Parkes, Liddell and McLellan). Dave also received a limited edition model of the Catalina flying boat flown by Mr Cruickshank during his heroic exploits.
Outside to the patio then for a blether and tune from myself, Dave and local pipers Dr John Lawson and his son Geoff, a member of the new Highland Granite Grade 2 band. Geoff likened the recent personnel shuffling between north east pipe bands to a soap opera – but he was looking forward to the British tomorrow.
Dr John complained that though he had the easiest of reeds in his pipes they were still hard to blow. The bag was sheepskin and it crimped badly between blowpipe and chanter stock meaning he had two force the air through. His band insisted on sheepskin so I recommended he buy a new bag with a swan neck.
Dr Bill Fraser listened on. The last time I had seen Bill was at Donald MacPherson’s funeral.
The Club has now adopted John Alexander Cruickshank VC as its official anthem. Here’s the music: