My interest for the pipes started by the tales my parents used to tell me about how in Groningen Town (see photographs below), in 1945 they were liberated by the Cameron Highlanders of Canada, and how my father witnessed a temporary burial in the field while the fighting was still going on there. In the Groningen City local park "Sterrebos" a jeep drove up for a funeral with a Padre, a Pipe major and a Body Bag (which was then made from the soldier's own G1098 blanket, from his own personal kit, wrapped up with telephone wire or "assault cable") with in it a soldier who had been killed and needed to be buried, at which occasion the Pipe Major played a Lament. That story certainly did make a deep impression on me!
My father also wrote the book "De Bevrijding van Groningen", about the liberation of the town of Groningen, in 1945.
This is how the Sterrebos Temporary Cemetery looked after the fighting had ended, (tidied and decorated), when my father* visited it later on,
before the graves could be moved to their final resting place on Holten Canadian Military Cemetery.
*My father wore a specially adapted high-heeled left shoe and walking stick because of his invalidity, inflicted by the fight against German paratroops in 1940
Left: This is how Canadian casualties did look before burial, in this case of the Cape Breton Highlanders, after the battle of Delfzijl - Middle: this type of ambulance jeep was also used for burials
Right: The Canadian Camerons looked like this when they knocked on my parents' door in 1945 at the Wagnersingel in Helpman, Groningen town,
to enter and move through their row of houses and gardens, into the next row of house from the back, so they could safely get an unobserved good look at the German garrison at the "Engelsekamp" from the front windows, before attacking it.
Also, we had a stack of old 78's records, with a recording of the lonely Piper on the Tower, being announced by the words: "The Royal Standard of Scotland is raised on the Battlement; the call of the Lonely Piper is answered by the massed pipe band." (you will hear this sound at the start of this website surfing with Internet Explorer, or otherwise by clicking on this link). It was only many years later that I discovered what I had heard was Piobaireachd, in fact part of the beginning of the Chattan's Salute. Those magical sounding few notes kept haunting me and I just had to find out more, urgently wanting to be able to play this fantastic instrument myself too.
This was my first Gig, winning 1st. Prize of the 1966 "Interlyceale"
As at that time there was very little piping going on in Holland and it was hard to get tuition and any worthwhile information on the instrument. So I first met a medical student who insisted I first should learn reading musical notation which I had not learned yet. Then I met one of the first post-war Dutch civilian Pipe Majors, P.M. Soetens of the original Amsterdam Y.M.C.A. Pipe Band (established ca. 1959), who luckily for me, used the College of Piping Tutor (the S.P.B.A. tutor was then not yet available). As a boy he had seen the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada pipe band playing at the "Tropen Instituut" and on Church parades, in Amsterdam. From then on, he and some of his friends of the C.J.M.V. (Dutch Y.M.C.A.) wanted to start a pipe band, which they eventually did. They had talked about this with the Canadians, who declared they were willing to teach them but alas: before this could happen the Canadian Seaforths were repatriated. Much later through their contacts with the Scottish Y.M.C.A. they were taught by Pipe Major Robert Short of the Hawick Boys Brigade Pipe Band. They also founded the N.O.V.D., the Dutch Pipe Bands Organisation. And through the stimulus of their enthusiasm, since then many more pipe bands were founded in other places in the Netherlands.
ca. 1985 on the "Binnenhof", TheHague Pipe Major Cor Soetens and his Y.M.C.A. Pipes & Drums from Amsterdam
Next I was fortunate to meet one of this country's first most brilliant Piobaireachd players, Rick VonHögen, who was taught by P.M. Donald MacLeod of Glasgow, and also was awarded the then highest certificates of the College of Piping by Seumas MacNeill: The Senior Certificate and the Teacher's Certificate. As a boy, he heard the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada during the liberation of the south of the country, which started his interest in the Highland Bagpipes. At that time, to my knowledge, there had only been one other piper in Holland who did, before him, reach that level of solo piping, including Piobaireachd: Hein Brouwer. They were the first over here to play Piobaireachd as well, which I felt then was the most impressive and beautiful music of the world.
On my B.S.A. I visited Donald MacLeod and he admired the French Musette pipes I had made and brought to show him
Seumas MacNeill, he was a great man.
There were some pipe bands but they were not interested in Piobaireachd or solo piping as much as band performances with drum accompaniment. For that reason in 1975 I was the founding member of the Solo Piping Association of the Netherlands (S.P.A.N.), in which not only Rick but also the talented Bob Marshall (who had been taught by P.M. Archie Templeton) and his pupils cooperated to raise the level of solo playing.
Here, at a Dog Show, I walk between Bob Marschall and one of his pupils: Martin Dolman.
Bob by the way also did pioneer technical work as a pipe maker, as one of the very first pipe makers, developing a convincing polypenco ("plastic") and art ivory set of pipes which he built, based on his own favourite sounding set of vintage Sinclair bagpipes. Because I knew Seamus McNeill, as he was coaching me for the Senior Certificate of the College and I was also writing some articles for the "Piping Times", I became Life Member of the College of Piping, and as Chairman of the S.P.A.N. we then got permission to act as the official Dutch branch of the College of Piping.
1975: The Solo Piping Association of the Netherlands, 1st. General Assembly
Then, with regards to bands: Rick and I (as his assistant) in 1967 taught from scratch the pipers of the then newly formed "De Haagse Hooglanders Pipe Band" ("The Hague Highlanders") who had originally started as a drum band, with home-made kilts, and of which the founder, the Drum Major,called "Ome Loe" Geens, as a youth had witnessed the Canadian Army Victory Parade in The Hague, 1945.
40 years after the liberation: standing on the left of Mr. Ronner of the N.O.V.D. organising the Dutch Pipe Band championships at The Hague:
"Ome Loe" Geens, Drum Major of "de Haagse Hooglanders".
Myself, with the Haagse Hooglanders at the first Dutch Massed Pipes and Drums at Amsterdam, organized by the Y.M.C.A. pipe band of P.M. Soetens.
Then I did my National Service, and after this for a while I returned as Pipe Major to improve their playing level to proper settings with all the properly played gracenotes included, in accordance with the C.O.P. tutor.
Yes, we had a team of dancers too already, taught by official Scottish Dancing Teacher's certificate holding instructor Maarten Willems of Brilman.
Then, because I had started studies at University there, I needed to move to Leiden and after a while playing as a Quartette with some of my pupils met other people there who were interested in forming the Leiden Pipe band which was called the "Wee Kiltie Pipe band". The pipers in this band also wanted to play according to the standard of the College Tutor, which was an improvement. All the members were students though, which inevitably meant that after a certain number of years they would graduate and probably spread all over the country to get jobs somewhere else. So when that phase occurred, this pipe band was disbanded.
The Quartet (left) formed the basis of the Wee Kiltie (do you see him standing behind the Bass Drum?) Pipe Band.
By that time I had also met some people of the then emerging "Folk Revival", and all the time I got to make music went into that. Also, by then I developed a desire to do something about remembrance of the liberation; nobody did at that time. Maybe have a pipe band in Canadian military style, dressed in battledress, but nobody else was interested, the existing pipe bands were only tuned to Scotland, and civilian day- or full dress. At least I thought I would write a book about the pipers and pipe bands of the liberation by Canada.
The Folk Group "Ouwejan en Makkers" in which I played Highland Pipes, Chamberpipes, Anglo Concertina and Bodhran.
As my older brother then lived in Calgary, Yolanda and I decided to combine our visit to Canada with looking up as much of the Veterans as possible to gather material. I also had started correspondence with Canadians who have helped me very much, like Colonel Slaney (C.B.H.), Drum Major Elms and Bud Lloyd (48th, Highrs.) P.M. Bob Henderson of the CalHi's, Piper Robert MacBeth of the North Nova's, Lilian Davis of the C.W.A.C. and P.M. W. MacLeod of the Q.OC.H. of C., the very regiment that had liberated my parents, and who probably was the same piper that my father had heard playing at a burial in 1945 and which he told me about!
The first time I played for the remembrance at Holten Cemetery by the 48th. Highlanders of Holland, the 1945 "period" style uniform was not ready yet.
Some time after we returned, other people in Holland, from Apeldoorn, got in touch with the 48th Highlanders because they wanted to start a 48th. Highlanders style memorial band. And when before, in Toronto, I had already asked D.M. Elms if I could get permission to wear their wartime band uniform, tartan, badges and all; he said: "do you want that in writing?", indicating that would be no problem at all, and they would feel very honoured by that. That is why the 48th. got us in touch with each other, because they needed teaching from scratch.
Left: Dirk van den Engel and I playing at his Mum's birthday party. Right: playing at Holten in the '45 uniform minus the original blue puttees which the band did not want:
another difference of opinion. P.M. Ross Stewart soon set that right.
One of my piping friends (Dirk van den Engel) had the necessary certificates from the R.S.P.B.A. in Scotland to teach drumming, so together we took on the job in Apeldoorn. I made all the necessary contacts for the band to become member of the Dutch Pipe Band Organization and found the right firms for buying the uniforms and instruments needed. Also I got the 48th. shoulder titles made with "of Holland" instead of "of Canada". When we had given all the instruction so they could play, but wanted to now raise the standard of playing before starting to perform in public, there was a difference of opinion about that, which finally made me decide to leave the band. So I left, P.M. Ross Stewart from Canada felt obliged to take over from me and came over in the summer holidays for several years.
Click on their badge above to visit the Highland Regiment's page
I resumed teaching other people, who were actually interested in playing at a higher level, including Piobaireachd and Canntaireachd. After some years, from this group of my pupils grew "the Highland Regiment" (see their badge above here) who still play at WW2 memorial events.
One of my pupils during the time I taught the 48th. Highlanders of Holland left some time after me, to found the "Seaforth Highlanders of Holland Memorial Pipes & Drums", in a way I would have liked the aforementioned band to develop. A really splendid job, my compliments to Pipe Major FrankJan de Boone ! (visible on the extreme left in the above photograph), please do click on the picture above here to find their website.
This is Perry van Mulukom, click on his photograph to see the page with the trophy and winners photograph
Also, I am very proud that a very dedicated student of mine, and talented piobaireachd player, Perry van Mulukom (see above here), did recently win a first prize at the 2010 Kortenhoef piobaireachd competition in Holland: the newly instituted "Robert Hoogenhout Memorial Trophy".
|THE CANADIAN ARMY IN WW2|
|THE PIPE MAJORS|