Our songs - Our Stories. Every Regiment has legends & songs. They form part of the DNA of a unit, connecting past to present in vivid, emotionally-charged and unifying ways. In military communities, the way we relate and bond to one another is so often through the sharing of stories that no matter how often re-told (or embroidered), they re-affirm to us soldierly, familial bonds that eventually take root in our bones and give warmth to the coldest of experiences. Stories make a Regiment become more than just a badge to the people in it. All that being said, The London Scottish Regiment, have one hell of a story to tell.
The Beginning. This story begins in 1859, with a eccentric Scottish Lord and a long forgotten book...
In 1859, Lord Elcho decided to raise a Scottish Militia in the heart of London. Exiled and displaced Scots descended on Buckingham Gate to sign up to this Territorial Force that was deploying to South Africa and the Boer War. Naturally, as tartan after tartan arrived to fight the enemy, so to rose our people's even greater love of fighting each other. In the bruised, and one can only assume well refreshed aftermath, Lord Elcho imposed a new tartan on them - his own, the Hodden Grey. So was born The Grey Brigade and the iconic colour of The London Scottish Regiment worn to this day.
Young Territorial. The album tells the story of how that Hodden Grey and the men and women who have worn it, has quietly laced through the streets of London and touched almost every major conflict since the Boer War to present day.
Halloween. Lets go forward to 1914 as the intrepid London Jocks are to be the first Territorials to fight in WW1 on Halloween Night of the same year. Our grand, soaring drill hall's most imposing monument is to the hundreds of London Scots who died in that conflict. One who didn’t was Duncan Tovey, a well loved storyteller of the Regiment. On his deathbed, his friend promised to publish Duncan's songs and poems. In 1919, 'Grey Kilts' was released by the Regimental Gazette.
100 Years Later. A century later in 2017, I was in Command of the unit and was given this tatty little book. Nobody knew the songs anymore. There was no music. They were lost. Forgotten.
My Second in Command had listened to Ian Bruce’s Hodden Grey folk album after patrols in Afghanistan to calm down. Seeing I need some inspiration, he gave me his copy. Not long after, terror attacks hit Westminster and we wanted to do something to help the Red Cross Fund. I rang Ian Bruce to see if he'd do a show at our Highland Night. He agreed and on meeting him we discovered his Father had been the Pipe Major of The Regiment in WW2. We raised good money and helped London try to forget some darkness.
The London Scottish Traditional Music Centre. The London Scottish Trust wanted to develop a Traditional Music Centre to champion folk and celtic music, mentor and support musicians in London and provide a space for songs to be heard and written. I pitched them Young Territorial and became a Creative Director of the LSTMC. I asked Ian to collaborate with me on trying to re-imagine, re-write and remember the old songs I'd found. Over nearly 2 years that's what we've done with a superb team of musicians from across the world. Together we've interspersed them with WW1/WW2 and modern recollections, making the album relevant to the whole story of the London Scottish from inception to today.
So - That is what this album is. It tells the story of ordinary people- Volunteers, Londoners, Scots and those who wanted to fight for Scottish culture, who have embroidered the smoke and slabs of London with a strand of unbreakable Hodden Grey for over a Century. It tells the story of them fighting for the Nation across the world and how they met fire and death in the worst of places with spirit and songs.
The Sound. The Young Territorial album has a unique sound, (either with or without Whisky). From the Supertramp-style big anthem of the title track, 'Young Territorial', through an Indie-inspired 'Inverness' which tells the story of a 100 mile march famous in the Regiment and completed every year, modern recollections of London Music Hall in 'The Auld Corps', to the 'Isle of Sheppey', a grand poem laced with original music that simply makes the listener soar, Young Territorial is authentic to its core and as relevant today as it was when Duncan Tovey wrote it to save our stories and make his friends smile.
In war, we face terrors that change us at near cellular level - I know this because I've faced them too. I've read evidence across the WW1-2 period in our vaults that suggests that for many hardened veterans, something as fundamentally important to the human soul and enjoyment of life as music, was stripped away from them. I commanded The London Scottish. I stood before the names of our war dead in the Westminster Drill Hall of London Scottish House and I was certain of one thing. I wanted to give them that music back. Young Territorial is that. It's name transcends every campaign we've fought in, from South Africa to modern day Afghanistan, because it speaks directly of and to every man and woman that's worn the Hodden Grey.
In The London Scottish Traditional Music Centre, we have an incredible venue and a rich story which is now in a fully formed album. We have celebrity involvement in the form of General Alistair Bruce (of Sky News/Downton Abbey) who is speaking on the opening track. However, I'm just a solider. I need a bit of help to gain it an audience and re-tell these great old stories to anyone who wants to listen and to try an re-tell our stories. We would love for you to join us.
Here's where you can buy tickets: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/young-territorial-charity-concert-tickets-68802362719