Irish Warpipe

Interesting Bits

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This page will contain interesting bits of history and stories about the two droned warpipe and the men that played them.
1. From the records of the Cork Pipers Club:
At an early stage the Club founded a pipe band and called it The Brian Boru Pipe Band. The first sets of war pipes were bought from J. and R. Glenn of Edinburgh, at £4 per set. The drums were bought from Potter and Son of Aldershot, England. The Brian Boru Pipe Band was the first band in Ireland(in the 1800's) to parade in kilts. Quoting from O’Neills Ireish Minstrels and Musicians (1913), “The distinction of popularising the warpipes belongs to Mr. Wayland”. O’Neill continues, “Equally proficient on the uilleann pipes and warpipes, Mr. Wayland organised and directed one of the best warpipe bands in Ireland from which he furbished pipers and drummers on demand to various meetings and entertainments throughout the south-east.”Seán Wayland was the first warpipe teacher in the Club. He taught Dan O’Gorman and most of the early members. The were first taught the feadóg, then the chanter, then a half-set and finally the full set.

It is not feasible at this stage, to give a detailed account of all the pipers who were involved in the Pipers’ Club. However, some of the more notable names included brothers Denis and Tadhg Crowley, who later became well known and highly respected Cork Uilleann pipe makers, Edward Cronin (uilleann pipes), Mollie Morrissey (uilleann pipes), brother and sister Michael and Mary McCarthy (warpipes and uilleann pipes respectively), Bernie O’Donovan, who later became a noted piper in Chicago, Professor O’Leary, who moved from Macroom to Cork on Seán Wayland’s advice in order to learn the uilleann pipes, Seán Scanlon (uilleann pipes) and Dan O’Gorman (warpipes). Some of the outstanding dancers in the Club included Mazie McCarthy, Alice Dunne, Lily Healy, Suzanna Mulcahy, Kittl Allen, May McCarthy, Christy Bastible and Cormac Ó Caoimh.

2. Colin Gunner was a soldier during WWII. When he found out that his transfer to the Royal Irish Fusiliers was granted he wrote:
"Now I will at last wear their famous cap with its glorious cap badge and arrogant plume, the screech of their pipes will be my music".
3. In July of 1931 some of the London Irish Regiment including the Pipes and Drums attended a summer camp in Northern Ireland. It is noted in the regimental records that an amusing incident took place during a route march. Three small boys attached themselves to the pipers as the marched out of Newtownards, two of them bare-footed. They were still with the regiment when it reached Donaghadee. As it was noted that the seats of their pants were somewhat worn, they were re-clothed and also given food and boots. They were sent back to Newtownards by transport and they were delighted with their day's outing. The distance covered by those boys was 10 miles.
This example of the draw of the pipes reminds one of the story of the children of Hamelin who followed the magic notes of the piper.
4. The lure the warpipe runs long and deep. The 1st. Battalion London Irish were billeted in Haverhill before being sent overseas to the war. It was a happy place out in the country. It was such a happy place that more than thirty men married local girls and made their homes there after the war.
The band returned there for an event 35 years later in 1977.
That memories run very deep was shown by a woman who was shopping when the band played past the store she was in. The woman put her shopping basket down and fell in behind the band, saying that she remembered marching with the band to the special Christmas party organized by the 1st. Battalion when she was six years old. A man in the crowd said that when he was sixteen,and a member of the Home Guard, he always marched every Sunday with the Local Company behind the London Irish pipe band on their way to church. This was done at the personal invitation of Lt. Colonel Macnamara, the Commanding Officer.
5. This article is well quoted in bagpipe circles. What must be noted is that  the newspaper writer Michael MacDonagh is talking about the London Irish and their warpipes at the battle of the Somme. In 1916 he wrote:
"The London Irish are also able to warm their hearts and fire their blood with the strains of the ancient Irish warpipes. This old barbaric music has magic in it. It transforms the Gael. It reawakens in the depths of their being, even in this twentieth century, inpressions,moods,feelings, inherited from a wild untamed ancestry for thousands of years, and thus gives them, more than strong wine, that strength of arm and that endurance of soul which makes them invincible".
6. This also published in 1916 about the Irish in WWI.
" The Irish have been in the thick of it...Their spirits never left them. They took their warpipers out to France with them. On one ocassion the Irish were ordered to hold on to an exceptionally difficult place..The Irish were tired, having been long in action, but they settled grimly to their task. Suddenly there rose up from the trenches the familier strains of "St.Patrick's Day", given with vigour by the pipers. A new spirit entered into the men and a roar of cheers went down the line. Presently the "Minstral Boy" was played and the rifle fire was redoubled.
From the blog of Warpiper John Cahill comes this entry:
Piping Picture for Christmas Week:

The picture, shot on Christmas Day, 1944, somewhere in the freezing mountains of the Abruzzi, is taken from Colin Gunner's riveting story of the Irish Brigade's campaigns during the second world war, Front of the Line. Note the two drone pipes played in this Irish battalion. Here is Gunner's description of that day:

The road to Rionero snaked and twisted and always rose higher into the sea of peaks, but the sun shone and some of the marching troops had their jackets slung that warm and spring-like morning until the sky filled like a cistern, the day becme twilight, and the wind, the child of Heaven, came bellowing and cryng down from the now invisible hieghts. Snow we had never dreamed existed hit us, flakes that hissed on the engine covers, hissed, hit again, and choked exhausts and vents; snow that blotted out the carrier in front and drove the marching troops into the lee of any vehicle that could be seen in the white, grey, black bedlam of whistles and wind squalls.

Every carrier became its own little world, every man his own igloo as we struggled on to Rionero and hoped for cover and warmth. The Germans had denied us that by the simple means of attaching a Teller mine to every wall in the village and exploding them. To rub it in they had written up: 'Hope you like your winter billets, Tommy.", on the signpost outside the village. So it was, that when we did slither into the village it only resembled a white ruin with the odd wall or chimney sticking up out of the drifts. Those who got there scratched around like weasels for some hole to burrow in or simply slung a cover over the carriers and, running the engines until the petrol gave out, crouched in them all night.

. . . . .

It was homely when night fell and the great crests glistened in the moon and starlight to hear the old familiar banshee wail of the pipes as [Adjutant] Brian Clark ordered the duty piper to play 'Officer's Mess' outside their shored-up cowshed and let the world know that tempests may rage but the machine of the Regiment grinds on, and it was to this lamplit hovel that a written note bade me report for dinner.

John does his blog here:

7.  The following is taken from a WWII era issue of the Faugh a Ballagh Gazette, the journal of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Cutting from the Premier Local Paper
Local News

    " The fourth ceremonial Beating of the Retreat of the war was performed last Friday afternoon by the Drums and Pipes of the Royal Irish Fusiliers in the presence of His Excellency the Governor, and distinguished representatives of all three Services.
     An Air Alert has just concluded as the Drums and Pipes marched on the Place headed by the Drum Major.  The colourful saffron kilts of the pipers with their green be-ribboned bagpipes combined with the impeccable precision of the ceremonial drill were in accord with the romantic but strongly defined music of the Pipes and Drums.
     The evening hour drew a big crowd of spectators, many of them civilians on their way to or from the bus and a considerable number of representatives of all Services.  It was amusing to note how people's steps quickened as they came within sound of the stirring pipe music.
     The scene as evening fell was one of a strange and haunting serenity in contrast to the preceeding Air Raid, with the possibility of another attack as dusk came on.  The peace-time smartness of the parade, the simple formality of the ceremony, combined with the carefree delight of the onlookers do give a significant little picture of life in war-time with the unbreakable resilience of spirit which has kept high the heads and hearts of people and garrison alike.  There was prolonged applause for the Drummers and Pipers of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, a Regiment that has made itself known and respected through the long months of every sort of conditions here."


     The new C.O. made his first public appearance, as Commanding Officer of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, on Friday, 16th October, 1942, when the Drums and Pipes presented a magnificent performance of "Beating Retreat."
     The parade was attended by H.E. The Governor, the G.O.C., and senior representative of all services.
     The following copy of H.E. The Governor's letter to the C.O. and the C.O.'S reply to H.E. The Governor's letter is appended without comment.

                         Copy of the Governor's letter to the C.O.
                                                                       The Palace,
                                                                                      October 1942
     My dear -----, Having been present at the beating of the Retreat on the square on Friday night I want to write a few words of congratulations to the Battalion which you have the privilege to command.
     Nobody who was present on parade could fail to carry away a vivid impression of an old and historic ceremony carried out with perfection by the Royal Irish Fusiliers.  The drill, the turn out and the music were all faultless.  It is good for all of us in these times to see such a fine example of soldierly Esprit de Corps.
     May good fortune attend you during your period in command of this magnificent Battalion.
                                     Yours sincerely,

                                         Copy of the C.O.'s reply
The Royal Irish Fusiliers,
                                                                                        October 1942
     My dear --------, On behalf of the Battalion I have the honour to command, I am writing to let you know how deeply we appreciate the gratifying tributes, not only to the Drums and Pipes, but to the Battalion as a whole, paid to us in your kind letter of 18th October.  It makes us proud indeed to feel that our Commander-in-Chief should entertain so high an opinion of us.  We shall endeavour always to see that this is not misplaced.  For myself I must thank you for your good wishes on assuming command.  I am sensible both of my high privilege and of my trusteeship.
                                     Yours sincerely,

Some names and the actual location were left out of the publication as it was war time and it was not a good idea to publish the location as the enemy could gather a great deal of information from it.

Loose lips sink ships the WWII saying went.