Published: 24/05/2018 13:00 - Updated: 24/05/2018 12:02

Soldiers' war songs to live on at tribute show

Written byHector MacKenzie


Barbara Dickson
Barbara Dickson and Ian McCalman are behind a World War 1 tribute event that is headed for Ullapool.

TOUCHING tunes which once echoed in the battlefield trenches of World War I are to be revived by a poignant multimedia production which will stop off in Ullapool later this year.

Far, Far From Ypres uses the songs of the trenches to tell the story of the Scottish war effort.

Featuring Scots performers including Barbara Dickson and Siobhan Miller, it takes in the MacPhail Centre on September 1 as part of a Scotland-wide tour as part of a centenary commemoration marking the final hundred days of the bloody conflict.

The show was devised, written and produced by Ian McCalman of folk group The McCalmans to highlight the unique insight the songs offer into the life of a soldier. It shares the hope, suffering, endurance and fear associated with the war through the eyes of fictional, prototypical soldier, Jimmy MacDonald.

Like many young men, Jimmy is full of enthusiasm and joins up right away, however, when he is sent to the Flanders trenches he begins to experience the true horrors of war.

Ian McCalman said: "During the war, soldiers sang together to bond and alleviate fear, sharing songs from contemporary music halls as well as creating their own. However, looking back on the music of the war today, we can see how attitudes towards the conflict changed over its course. From the early, jingoistic songs that promoted recruitment and betrayed an innocence about the reality of war, through to the resignation, black humour and resentment present in the later songs, the progression reflects the bitterness which grew among troops as they became disenchanted.

"The songs provide powerful context to key events in an era very different from our own, and with Far, Far From Ypres, we have harnessed their power and accessibility to bring the story of the war to our audience in an engaging, multimedia production that educates and lingers.

"The entire cast is excited and honoured to be bringing the production to communities across the country as part of the WW100 Scotland commemorative programme, and we look forward to sharing the story of Jimmy McDonald – representing so many young soldiers of the war – with thousands."

The tour, being delivered by WW100 Scotland in partnership with Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland, boasts a 26-strong cast including Scottish folk scene favourites Barbara Dickson, Siobhan Miller, Dick Gaughan, Ian McCalman, Iain Anderson, Professor Gary West, Stephen Quigg and Ian Bruce.

It will also incorporate stories about local men at each performance, which are being sourced as part of a community engagement project led by Legion Scotland. Working with the likes of schools, youth groups and history societies, the veterans charity is helping research the local area’s contribution to the war in order that these stories might be preserved and passed down to future generations.

The Ullapool performance of Far, Far From Ypres will take place on September 1 at 7.30pm. Tickets can be purchased in person at the MacPhail Centre or by calling 01854 613 336.

The tour will close with a performance at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Armistice Day.

Professor Norman Drummond, chairman of the Scottish Commemorations Panel, said: "By the end of the war, thousands of men from Scotland had gone valiantly to the frontline, a high proportion of whom never returned.

"For many survivors, devastating injuries and the trauma of war changed their lives forever, while the nation as a whole grieved the vast loss of loved ones. It is vital that we continue to commemorate these losses today."

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