Bombs and Threats of Violence and The Day Red Hackle Pipe Band Saved the Venice Film Festival

Following the recent passing of piper Colin Murray, Hector Russell, a friend of his from their Red Hackle days, has been in touch about trips they made with the band.

The first three foreign excursions by the Hackle under the leadership of P/M John Weatherston, affectionately known as ‘wee Jock’, were to Venice and to Brittany and Le Mont-Dore in France.

These adventures were somewhat diverse in their purpose. The Italian trip was to entertain at the gala dinner of the Venice Film Festival, whereas Brittany saw participation in a folk festival, with Le Mont-Dore welcoming the Hackle masquerading as the Gretna Green Pipe Band in the film ‘Les Grandes Vacances’. 

By Hector Russell

The first picture [above] is from the Venice Film Festival in 1968. Afternoon rehearsals were overloaded with tourists as well as locals. The image is from a newspaper report.

The picture shows, from the left: Wee Jock’s drones, myself, Colin Murray, David Currie peeking behind Ronnie Archibald, Archibald McArthur and Jim Gunn.

The one below is from the evening performance in the Ducal Palace – same names with Malky McKenzie (fourth from left) between Hector Russell and Ronnie Archibald, with P/S Ian McIntyre. Colin Murray in back rank, right.  

A newspaper report at the time read as follows: ‘Demonstrations and disturbances, politically inspired, had a disrupting effect on the recent International Film Festival in Venice.

‘Some countries boycotted the Festival officially, and the opening was postponed for two days following threats of violence and the explosion of two home-made bombs.

‘It fell to scotch whisky and the Red Hackle Pipe Band (pictured in St Mark’s Square) to save the day.

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‘At the gala Scottish evening held in the Ducal Palace, earlier differences were forgotten under the soothing influence of many drams generously provided by member companies of the Scotsh Whisky Association.

‘Over 3,000 guests were present and they gave a tremendous reception to the pipe band, specially flown over by the Association. The band put on a first class performance in the floodlit courtyard of the Palace.

Drum Major and Band Treasurer Eddie Huntly fronts the band

‘Earlier the band had been hemmed in by thousands of tourists and sightseers as it played in St Mark’s Square.

‘The film festival had become something of a Scottish week and many shops carried displays of whisky, tartan and other material…

‘Pipers from the band were taken in small groups on tours of whisky bars in each of which they played for a few minutes drawing enthusiastic audiences.

‘A Yugoslav journalist summed it all up when he said, ‘the band and scotch whisky have saved the festival!’.

The P/M plays for the Highland Fling danced by Davie Currie and myself in the Ducal Palace 
Davie and myself on duty at a Venetian off sales. It was closed 

Here are a few more pictures of the band which feature Colin:

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