Monday, May 19, 2008

"Farewell To The Creeks"

Hi All

Appropriately for this week, I found this article regarding our competition set tune "Farewell to the Creeks", please see Angus Snr for translation! The song is obviously sang to the tune, but maybe slower. I'm sure either Angus can inform us.

The pipie is dozy the pipie is fey
He wullnae come roon for his vino the day
The sky o'er Messina is unco and grey
And a' the bricht chaulmers are eerie

Fareweel ye banks o' Sicily
Fare ye weel ye valley and shaw
There's nae Jock will mourn the kyles o' ye
Puir bluidy squaddies are wearie

Fareweel ye banks o' Sicily
Fare ye weel ye valley and shaw
There's nae hame can smoor the wiles o' ye
Puir bluidy squaddies are wearie

Then doon the stair and line the waterside
Wait your turn the ferry's awa
Then doon the stair and line the waterside
A' the bricht chaulmers are eerie

The drummie is polisht, the drummie is braw
He cannae be seen for his webbin ava
He's beezed himsel' up for a photy and a'
Tae leave wi' his Lola his dearie

Fare ye weel ye dives o' Sicily
Fare ye weel ye shieling and ha'
We'll a' mind shebeens and bothies
Whaur kind signoritas were cheerie

Fare ye weel ye banks o' Sicily
Fare ye weel ye shieling and ha'
We'll a' mind shebeens and bothies
Whaur Jock made a date wi' his dearie

Then tune the pipes and drub the tenor drum
Leave your kit this side o' the wa'
Then tune the pipes and drub the tenor drum
A' the bricht chaulmers are eerie

It is set to Farewell to the Creeks, a tune composed by Pipe Major James Robertson about his uncle's farm near the Creeks of Portknockie on the Banffshire coast [...]. The tune itself was written during World War I, and the song became popular among the men of the Gordons and other Highland Regiments before the end of World War II. It is still sung in the North East and other parts of Scotland by many who have never seen the words in print. The song synthesises a real Scotland and a real Sicily just as the Elegies unite a metaphysical Scotland with a metaphysical desert. The traditional rhymes of eerie, dearie and cheerie, with their accumulated associations from Burns and his predecessors, are counterpointed with the mysterious and exotic - 'a' the bricht chaumers are eerie'. The Sicilian landscape is made familiar to us by words like 'valleys', 'shaw' and `kyle'; the slightly idealised 'shieling and ha'' are set over and against the more low-life 'shebeens and bothies'; common terms of military equipment and Forces slang are completely Scottified. [...]

Andy T


BillCo said...

The song is the '51st (Highland) Division's Farewell to Sicily'.

The WWII story of the '51st' Division is legendary. The original Division was part of the BEF which was sent to France in 1940 in an attempt to stop the progress of Hitler's Blitzkrieg. The Division was 'sacrificed' in an heroic rearguard action which allowed the bulk of the retreating British forces to escape from the beaches of Dunkirk, in June 1940, and to fight another day.

The survivors of the '51st' were marched off to Germany where they spent the rest of the War in Prisoner of War camps. It was a bitter blow to the Highland Regiments and their loved-ones.

However a 'new' 51st Division was assembled and they headed for North Africa where they were to become one of General Montgomery's 'spearhead' Divisions at El Alemein.

The pipes and drums of the 51st provided the music for the North African Victory parade in Tripoli prior to the embarkation for the landings in Sicily.

After a relatively pain free landing in Sicily the Division were involved in fierce against strong and determined German forces before victory in Sicily was secured. The men by this time were indeed 'weary'.

On the eve of the crossing to mainland Italy, one, Captain Hamish Henderson of the Intelligence Corps and seconded to the '51st', was approaching a village in the eastern foothills of Mount Etna:

'Henderson described in detail how the first of his great "standard" songs came about. In 1943, under Etna, after Rommel's men had been fought through Sicily, he heard massed pipers of the Gordons and Black Watch playing "Farewell to the Creeks", a tune composed during the First World War by Pipe Major James Robertson of Banff:

..And while I listened to it, words began to form in my head, particularly one recurrent line, "Puir bluidy swaddies are weary." That night "The Highland Division's Farewell to Sicily" had its first airing in a Gordon Officers' Mess, and I was soon scribbling the words out in pencil for all ranks'

....and the rest is history as they say.

The late Hamish Henderson was a great Scotsman and internationalist.

BillCo (Edinburgh)

City of Elizabeth Pipe Band said...

I have just chanced upon your informative website note of May 19th 2008, with a further comment on December 7th 2008 about the words and history of the song to the above tune, ‘Farewell to the Creeks’.

Although six years have elapsed since this posting, it might be of interest to record that the words, and music, of the song were published in ‘101 Scottish Songs’, selected by Norman Buchan, and published by Collins (Glasgow and London), in their series of ‘Scotia Booklets’, in 1962. It is on page 116, under the title ‘The Highland Division’s Farewell to Sicily’. A note on the history is given on page 155, as follows:

“Probably the best of all ballads of World War II, this song exactly recaptured the mood of the time, 1943. Hamish Henderson, authority on folk-song in the School of Scottish Studies, and one of our leading poets, is perhaps best known for his volume ‘Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica’. Incidentally this song comes straight from the experience of the writer, for he himself went on to the invasion of Italy after Sicily and i was to him that Marshall Graziani surrendered his shattered forces after being Captured by Italian partisans.”

I tried unsuccessfully to enter this as a comment below the original entry on your website, so perhaps you could do this for me, or otherwise deal with this email as you think fit.

Best wishes,

Hugh Dinwoodie, Edinburgh.