Best viewed in
Internet Explorer

Music (PDF)

Music (BMW)

Back to

Updated 04/24/2013


Bloody Fields of Flanders
PM John  MacLellan, Dunoon,  DCM

Flanders Fields is the generic name of the World War I battlefields in the medieval County of Flanders. At the time of World War I, the county no longer existed but corresponded geographically to the Belgian Flemish Region and the French Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. The name is particularly associated with the battles of Ypres, Passchendaele, and the Somme. For much of the war, the front line ran continuously from south of Zeebrugge in Belgium, to the Swiss border with France.

"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most famous poems about World War I, and has been called "The most popular poem" produced by the war. It is written in the form of a French rondeau. It was written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on May 3, 1915, after he witnessed the gruesome death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, the day before. The poem was first published on December 7, that year in Punch magazine.

The poppies referred to in the poem grew in profusion in Flanders (Belgium) where war casualties had been buried and thus became a symbol of Remembrance Day. The poem is part of Remembrance Day solemnities in Allied countries which contributed troops to WWI, particularly in countries of the British Empire which did so:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Known to pipers as “John MacLellan, Dunoon” but to friends and family as “Jock,” John MacLellan was a quiet and shy man who composed some of the most enduring melodies in pipe music.

Among his greatest contributions are the retreat marches Lochanside, The Highland Brigade at Magersfontein, Heroes of Vittoria, The Bloody Fields of Flanders and The Dream Valley of Glendaruel, the competition marches The Taking of Beaumont Hamel, The Cowal Gathering, South Hall and Glen Caladh Castle, the slow air Mary Darroch, and the 2/4 slow march The Road to the Isles. The latter tune, composed around 1891, began life as “The Bens of Jura,” soon became “The 71st’s Farewell to Dover,” then “The Highland Brigade’s March to Heilbron” and later “The Burning Sands of Egypt.” What probably began as a rousing 2/4 march was gradually transformed into today’s popular song and slow march.

He was born in Dunoon on August 8, 1875 of an Islay father and Jura mother, Neil MacLellan and Mary Darroch MacLellan. He had two brothers and three sisters.

Little is known about his early piping life, or even who taught him. This was perhaps partly because he was known to be modest to a fault and would very rarely talk about himself. Very few photos of him have come to light.

He enlisted in 1892 at age 17 with the Highland Light Infantry and went with the 1st Battalion to Malta in 1897. It was at this point that he began naming his compositions for places where he served or people he served with. He saw action in the Boer War in South Africa, where he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry in the field.

He left military life soon thereafter and in 1903 joined the Govan Police Pipe Band in Glasgow before returning to Dunoon around 1905. Some of his compositions can be found in the old Peter Henderson publications as written by “J. MacLellan, Govan Police."

However, most of his tunes were first published in the Cowal Collection books. Because he never published his own collection his status as one of the greatest and most prolific and pipe music composers is perhaps not as clear as it is with G. S. McLennan and Donald MacLeod.

During the Great War he was a piper in the 8th Argyllshire Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – Willie Lawrie’s regiment – and served with the 51st Highland Division on the Western front.

He became pipe-major of the 8th Argylls in 1919 held that position until he retired in 1930.

During the 1930s, he compiled and published a book of tunes composed by members of his regiment –The 8th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Collection. He contributed 40 of the 65 tunes in the collection, and this remains the largest single collection of his work published while he was alive.  In later life he was active in piping around Dunoon, teaching the Dunoon Grammar School Cadet Pipe Band and helping the local Boys’ Brigade band.

Besides being a piper, he played the fiddle and was said to be an excellent whistle player. He was a middling painter and poet, and one of the few composers who often wrote lyrics to his tunes. In some cases he wrote the lyrics first. He was known to write light verse at the front, 100 yards from the German lines, and his poetry was often published in newspapers in the west of Scotland.

He died at 73 on July 31, 1949 at Dunoon Cottage Hospital after a short illness and was buried with full military honors in Dunoon Cemetery. A plaque was erected in his honor in the Castle Gardens in Dunoon near the pier in 1972.

Freedom Come-All-Ye is a song written by Hamish Henderson, the Scottish poet, songwriter, and intellectual. It is written in the Scots Language. Freedom Come-All-Ye, one of Henderson's most important songs, gives a non-romantic, revisionist view of the role of the Scots in the world at the time it was written. It describes a wind of change blowing through Scotland and the world at large, sweeping away exploitation and imperialism. It renounces the tradition of the Scottish soldier both as imperial cannon-fodder and colonial oppressor, and ends with a vision of a future global society which is multiracial and just.

The song was written in 1960, to an adaptation of the First World War pipe march The Bloody Fields of Flanders, which Henderson first heard played on the Anzio beachhead. The lyrics were written following a visit and discussions with Ken Goldstein, an American researcher at the School of Scottish Studies, who had enjoyed Henderson's rendition of the tune. It was subsequently adopted by Glasgow Peace Marchers CND demonstrators, and the anti-Polaris campaign. A product of the Scottish Folk revival, and originally a sixties protest song, it is still popular in Scotland and overseas. Henderson described it as "expressing my hopes for Scotland, and for the survival of humanity on this beleaguered planet."

Lyrics by Hamish Henderson

Roch the wind in the clear day's dawin
Blaws the cloods heilster-gowdie owre the bay
But there's mair nor a roch wind blawin
Thro the Great Glen o the warld the day
It's a thocht that wad gar oor rottans
Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay
Tak the road an seek ither loanins
Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play.

Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan
Mourn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw
Broken faimlies in lands we've hairriet
Will curse 'Scotlan the Brave' nae mair, nae mair
Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare.

Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom
Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom
In yer hoos aa the bairns o Adam
Will find breid, barley-bree an paintit rooms
When Maclean meets wi's friens in Springburn
Aa thae roses an geans will turn tae blume
An the black lad frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun.