Big Niall Wins Composing Contest to Mark Centenary of British Legion Scotland

Highland schools piping instructor Niall Matheson has won the composing competition for a tune to mark the 100th Anniversary of the founding of services charity, the British Legion Scotland.

Double Gold Medallist Niall’s tune, a two-part 4/4 march, will be premiered at a special ‘Beating of Retreat’ in Dundee city centre on September 3. It will be played by massed pipes and drums. Afterwards Niall will receive his award and attend a Civic Reception to mark the occasion.

It will be a highlight of the prestigious events marking the centenary of Legion Scotland. While some plans to mark 100 years of the national institution are being adjusted due to the pandemic, it is expected hundreds of pipers will participate in the September 3 ceremony.

The competition judging panel comprised WO1 P/M Peter MacGregor, Senior Pipe Major for the British Army, Pipe Major Richard Grisdale, Piper to the Sovereign, and Willie Armstrong, a Royal Navy veteran and founding member of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Niall, a former seving soldier with the Queen’s Own Highlanders, has a growing reputation as a composer. He recently published the highly acclaimed book of pipe music, ‘The Fyrish Collection’ containing many of his own tunes.

After learning of his latest success Niall said: ‘Unfortunately I am not at liberty to publish the winning tune before its premier in September.

‘But I will say I am both surprised and delighted that the judges chose my effort over the many other contest submissions.

‘What an honour it will be to have a tune played on such an auspicious occasion as the Beating of the Retreat to mark the Centenary of Legion Scotland.

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‘I don’t normally submit tunes for composing competitions but felt that this was was different, and as an ex-soldier it held a special meaning for me.’

Legion Scotland chief executive, Dr Claire Armstrong, said: ‘Over the past year we have held a number of very successful virtual commemorations to mark the 75thanniversary of VE and VJ Days, and the annual remembrance period last November.

‘But we are excited to be finally looking ahead to coming together in person once again in September.

‘The interest we have had from the veterans and civilian piping community to take part in the Beating Retreat has been huge.’

Willie Armstrong said: ‘As a veteran myself, it is an honour and privilege to be asked to judge the centenary competition.

‘The opportunity to have your own composition performed as part of the RBLS100 Beating Retreat is a unique prize.’

Entrants had to submit a video or audio recording together with a written manuscript of their composition.

Beating Retreat is an iconic type of military parade which dates back to the 1690s. Originally the beating of the drum was used to order troops to break off fighting and withdraw to the safety of camp as darkness fell.

Later, it signalled the closing of the camp gates at the end of the day and called troops back to base for the night.

The modern Beating Retreat is ceremonial and a very popular element of events such as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and HM The Queen’s official birthday celebrations.

Legion Scotland was established in 1921 in the aftermath of the First World War to provide support and comradeship to those who served, and their families.

Today it boasts a 20,000-strong membership with branches and clubs in towns and cities across the country.

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