James Richardson's bagpipes were believed to have been lost in the mud of the Somme for almost 90 years until 2002, when Tomas Christie, the parent of a student at Ardvreck School in Scotland spotted a set of bagpipes in a school display. Christie didn't recognize the tartan ribbon attached to the pipes and thought it might make a good Internet research project for the students to discover their origin. Roger McGuire, the Pipe Major of The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) responded to the Internet posting. In a later interview he remembers, "I had received an email inquiry about a set of bagpipes found near Courcellette France in the spring of 1917. They were reported to have been discovered lying in the open for several months before being recovered by an Army Chaplain, Major Edward Yale Bate., who went on to become a member of the faculty at Ardvreck School.
Bate presented the pipes to the school at the time of his retirement in 1931 as a reminder to the students of the sacrifices of war. In response to our first correspondence, Tomas sent me a blurry Polaroid of the pipes. It was incredible! There sat these beautiful Henderson Bagpipes dressed in the Lennox tartan of the 16th Battalion! With the help of the Canadian Club and the Committee established by Andrew Winstanley, I traveled to Scotland in Jan 2002 to investigate. When Tomas showed the pipes to me I felt the hair on the back of my neck standing up. All I could think was, my gosh, these really could be Richardson's pipes! Looking at them and realizing what they might be was an incredible experience for a piper. Without question, the battle scarred pipes were from the 16th Battalion!"
But a doubt remained. There were four pipers who were detailed to pipe each of the four companies into the attack that day. Two did not return, pipers James Richardson and John Park.
Andrew Winstanley of The Canadian Club and Pipe Major Roger McGuire were largely responsible for the investigative work into identifying Richardson's pipes. Their collective effort led to conclusive evidence that identified the pipes as those played by Piper Richardson on that fateful day in 1916. McGuire explains, "According to the preference of their original units before uniting in the 16th Battalion, James Richardson and John Park used different models of Henderson pipes. The most obvious difference can be seen in the diameter of the opening of the ivory sole at the base of the chanter. Photographs taken at the training camps at Valcartier and Salisbury plain make it easy to see that the opening of John Park's chanter is too small to be a match, but the battle scarred pipes matched Jimmy's!"
In 2006, after years of research and effort by Roger McGuire, Andrew Winstanely, The Canadian Club, and a committee of patriotic citizens; as well as through the generous understanding of Ardvreck School, Jimmy's pipes would finally do what he could not... they came home.
On 9 October 2006, 90 years after the battle the pipes were returned to Canadian hands, being received by Jimmy's grandnephew, Dan Richardson. On 8 Nov. 2006 the pipes received a heroes welcome. In a ceremony at the Legislative Assembly in Victoria, where they now reside on permanent display, Premiere Gordon Campbell, surrounded by members of Richardson's family, received the pipes on behalf of the Province of British Columbia.
© 2010. Paradigm M.P.C.