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1st/5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

Piper Harry Lunan [1602] (Also a list of 5th Battalion Pipers)

Piper Harry Lunan


Article and photo from Sunday Express November 14, 1993 & The Jock Column March 1994.
"Born in 1896 at Ellon, Aberdeenshire [see below for details], Harry Lunan was probably the last surviving Scottish piper from the First World War.  In November 1993, living in Canada, he carried out, thanks to the Sunday Express, a trip in Great Britain.  He met the Prime Minister, John Major, and Prince Charles, the Gordons'  colonel-in-chief.
With his unit, the 5th Gordon Highlanders (51st Highland Division), he took part in the murderous assault on High Wood on July 30 1916. during which he played his comrades into attack with Cock o' the North.
A report of the fight states: Piper Lunan heroically piped his company into action in the face of a heavt barrage.  He got no recognition but the thanks of his comrades.
'I played my company over the bloody top [Lunan recalled], right into the German trenches.  It was stupid as hell...Men falling all around me, falling dead...it was bloody horrible.
He recalled other pipers: 'Charlie Thompson, I think he got killed (4).  Piper Willets (1) died on the Somme.  Piper Grahame (2) was killed.  Andrew Brown (3) was killed at High Wood.'
Harry Lunan recalled, 'The French enjoyed the pipes, they couldn't get enough.  They would sing French tunes and I would play them.  The Germans were scared of the bloody pipes.' "
In an interview that appears on the cover of a CD dedicated to him, he provided a slightly more mellow view:
'I just played whatever came in to my head, but I was worried about tripping on the uneven ground, which interrupted my playing. The enemy fire was murderous, the men were falling all around me. I was lucky to survive. Hearing the pipes gave the troops courage.'
His brother Robert Lunan, serving with the 7th Gordon Highlanders, was killed at Arras on April 24 1917 aged about 24.
CWGC: Robert Lunan: Age 24 Son of James Lunan, of Moss Side, Annochie, Auchnagatt, Aberdeenshire. (BROWN'S COPSE CEMETERY, ROEUX)
Another brother, William, also in the 5th Battalion, survived the War.
Harry Lunan joined the Territorials in 1913. In 1921 he migrated to Alberta, Canada. He died in 1994.
A mystery solved

For some time, details of Harry Lunan's birth  eluded me.  The articles mentioned above state clearly the year and the place in which he was born, but I was unable to locate a certificate or to find Harry in the 1901 census.  By chance, while researching another soldier, James McNaughton, I discovered that Harry was born Henry Alexander Bruce Slessor Dickie on 7th June 1896 at Foveran (near Ellon), the son of Margaret Dickie.  Margaret later married James Lunan after the death of his first wife in 1894.  Harry adopted his step-father's surname.

The Last Piper CD

Notes on the other Pipers mentioned in the article:
  1. Andrew Willox, 1586, killed on 31st July 1916 at High Wood, aged 23. Born at Old Deer, son of John Willox.  (Thiepval Memorial)
  2. William Graham, 1156, killed on June 3, 1915 at Festubert. Born in Peterhead. Lived at the Warders Quarters, Peterhead Prison. (See also Soldiers' Wills)
  3. Andrew Brown, 297, Sergeant, killed on 31st July 1916 at High Wood.  Born Coxal, Aberdeenshire.
  4. Charles Thomson 1985 No record of his death

Pipers of the 5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders
from "The Pipes of War" by Sir Bruce Seton, Glasgow 1920
(The information shown in Blue is additional material and does not appear in the the book.)

  Number   Rank  Name   Notes
 302  Pipe Major  Clark, John F Coy on 1914 Roll (240025) 
 1596 Cpl-Piper  Harvey, John H B Coy on 1914 Roll (240186) 
   760 Piper  Stewart, A  
 1985 Piper  Thomson, G (Charles)  
 1586 Piper  Willox, Andrew Killed at High Wood 31/7/1916 
 1156 Piper  Graham, William Killed at Festubert 3/6/1915 
  Piper  Allan, W   
  Piper  Birnie, J   
 1602 Piper  Lunan, Harry  
  Piper  McDonald, James   
 1953 Piper  Middleton, George  Wounded, Bullecourt  (April 1917)
  Piper  Robinson, A   
  Piper  Scott, J.A  
  Piper  Stewart, J   
  2985 Piper  Wyness, Robert  
   297 Piper  Brown, Andrew M.M. Killed High Wood 31/7/1916 
  3402 Piper  Lindsay, George  Wounded, Sept 1917, Ypres 

Note from "The Pipes of War": 5th Battalion - The pipers were principally employed in the ranks and as observers, but in the attack on High Wood on the Somme, front company pipers played at the head of their units. On this occasion Piper Willox was killed as he led his company, and several others became casualties. It was therefore decided not to employ pipers in action again. (page 127)

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Carolyn Morrisey