Piper John MacLeod: Indian Mutiny

The Calgary Highlanders playing Haughs of Cromdell, the tune Pipe Major John MacLeod played at Secunderbagh.

The Unearthly Visitant

Not everyone in action is considered for an award of valour or bravery. At times soldiers who we might think of as deserving are overlooked, although no end of writings, reading and re-reading of their actions offer us any explanations. Still these accounts of soldiers in action provide us with context for those who were recognized. In one such account of the Indian Mutiny, Pipe Major John MacLeod’s actions with the 93rd Regiment during the Relief of Lucknow, India were recorded. Although MacLeod received no award for valour, six Victoria Crosses were awarded to the 93rd Regiment of Foot (Sutherland Highlanders) of whom five were Scottish born. The sixth, Lance Corporal John Dunlay was born in Douglas County Cork, Ireland.

The 93rd Highlanders entering the breech at Secunderabagh, Lucknow, India, 16 November 1857.

The 93rd Highlanders entering the breach at Secunderabagh, Lucknow, India, 16 November 1857.

There was no pause, no halting hesitation of a moment. The men saw their enemy in front, and, obeying the sharp and ready words of command, dashed forward. They neither thought of the enemy’s greater numbers nor of their advantages of position. Instantly rifle and bayonet were at work, and the battle raged hand to hand. This was no conflict of a few minutes. For two whole hours it continued — the Highlanders, courageously supported by the Punjaubees [sic], performing prodigies of valour. Above the roar of battle was sounding the wild war notes of the bagpipes — sweetest music in a highland soldier’s ear — for John MacLeod, the Pipe Major of the 93rd, remembered well his duty in the turmoil. He has been among the first to force his way though the breach, and no sooner was he within the building then he began to encourage the men by vigorously playing his pipes. The more hot and deadly the battle became the more high strung became the piper’s feelings, and the more loudly did the bagpipes peal and scream — John standing the while in positions perfectly exposed to the fire of the enemy, to whom doubtless he appeared as some unearthly visitant.

Cromb, James. The Highland Brigade: Its Battles and Its Heroes, published 1886. pgs. 202-2

About The Author

In April 2007 Paul met Casey and Ian Williams of the Paradigm Motion Picture Company in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul has been working with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company team since 2009. Paul began watching films at Canadian forces stations at Zweibrucken, Germany and then on the island of Sardinia. Returning to Canada in 1967 it was at Halifax, Nova Scotia where Paul first saw David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia". It is from this film that Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. This was further enhanced by the introductory whistle soundtrack, complete with sounds from the jungle, birds and insects, from Lean's "Bridge on the River Kwai" and the stunning performance of Alec Guinness. Several years later, at the University of Victoria, Paul's film interests were further cultivated when the University's only available film course studied and compared the classic films of Japan and Australia. It is from this study that Paul became interested in Australian film leading him to Peter Weir's "Gallipoli" (1981) and later learning that Weir visited this historic site. That film alone started Paul on his journey to many home fronts and sites of conflict including England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and the Gallipoli Peninsula. In more recent years the work of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", in which Paul sees the need for a similar storytelling of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and Tolga Ornek's "Gallipoli" have been great sources of inspiration. Paul has often been told he thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm a keen and sensitive interest in the development of content, an understanding of the successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Having worked in the museum and archives fields Paul believes that exhibitions are similar to film, story driven with strong content and further believes "You cannot have a beautiful exhibit or film about nothing." Like his favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes “To deepen not broaden.” It is from this gathering of experiences that Paul continues along his path, recalling all the while his grandmother, whose father did not return from the Great War, how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to inspire him.


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