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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree January 2018 > Patersons’ farewell

Patersons’ farewell

A remarkable find during a house removal set Anne-Mary Paterson on the trail of two family members who were casualties in World War I


Beauly Shinty Club bagpipe tune manuscript
Donald Paterson, whose bloodied bagpipes were found when the author moved house

My uncle, Donald Paterson who played the bagpipes, was killed in World War I at the Battle of Festubert and has no known grave. I read somewhere that pipers, who were unarmed, were particularly vulnerable, as they had to climb out of the trench first, to encourage everyone else with a rousing tune to do the same. So I accepted that this was Donald’s fate until one day when we were moving house, I came upon a box in an outhouse. When I opened it, I found a set of old blood-spattered bagpipes. Because of their state, I guessed they must have belonged to Donald. Confirmation came as I looked further into the box and saw a small sheet of paper with a bagpipe tune on it – the Beauly Shinty Club.

Shinty is a game played in the Scottish Highlands. Sometimes rudely referred to as hockey without rules, the premier competition is the Camanachd Cup that the Beauly Team won in 1913. All this set me thinking. If the Germans blew Donald to bits on top of the trench, how did the bagpipes survive? I needed to find the truth.

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About Family Tree

Make the most of hibernation indoors this winter with our January 2018 issue. It’s full of family history tips and stories, plus a masterclass guide to essential church records. In addition, there are this issue’s Family Tree Academy challenges for our genealogy learn-along. If you have a new smart phone or device, you’ll love our new series with technology tips for family historians (don’t miss a trick that the web or your mobile can help you out with!). There is so much to enjoy, there’s no time to waste! Wishing you a very Happy New Year of family history to come.