Curly’s tune to represent Buchanhaven

Curly Allan's tune has been selected to represent Buchanhaven.
Curly Allan's tune has been selected to represent Buchanhaven.

A pipe tune composed by a WWII prisoner of war has been selected to represent the Buchanhaven area.

The Buchanhaven Heritage Society revealed the news in relation to their “Identity Project” following a chance link to the pipe tune which was composed during WWII by James Arthur Allan, known locally as “Curly”, some 24 years after his death.

Alex Geddes of the Buchanhaven Heritage Society

Alex Geddes of the Buchanhaven Heritage Society

As part of the project the society had approached local pipers Sinclair and Cara Lamb to compose a pipe tune to represent the area.

Consideration had been given to the tempo and
various other requirements
for such a composition, when they
received a box of pipe
tunes composed by Curly
many years ago, some dating back to his time as a prisoner of war after he was captured at St Valery during WWII.

While looking through the box one tune jumped out at them entitled “ Ugie Braes” and after playing through the composition they let the society members know about their find.

The team instantly asked if permission could be given to use this tune to represent the area and after speaking to the grandson of Curly, Charlie Mckenzie approval was granted.

It's going to be a busy Spring period for Buchanhaven Heritage Society.

It's going to be a busy Spring period for Buchanhaven Heritage Society.

Curly Allan was a well-known local man who taught many youngsters both the pipes and the drums and was renowned for his piping skills and patience.

Born in Kirk Street in the Kirkburn area, he grew up in a piping family following the footsteps of his father and grandfather and it soon became clear his passion for the pipes would lead to great things for the young Curly after he was promoted to the ranks of Pipe Major at the tender age of 19.

He became the youngest Pipe Major ever in the Royal British Legion Pipe Band, an honour never equalled again in the history of the band.

Married to Helen Clubb, known locally as Neldie, they had two daughters Kathleen and Valerie.

Neldie worked for years in Crosse & Blackwell and was a herrin’ gutter during the war years.

His daughter Valerie was named after St Valery where Curly had been captured and soon after sent to a POW camp where he spent the rest of the war passing his skills on to young soldiers keen to learn from this kindly piper. Although no pipe chanters were available in the camp this did not deter the young piper as he transformed some dowling rods into pretend chanters so the pupils could learn the basics of playing the pipes. It also allowed Curly to compose many of his tunes to remind him of the area he had left behind.

Some of the tunes earned a place in the pipe books of the Gordon Highlanders, namely “Kirkburn” in Volume I and Jane Allan (in honour of one of his sisters) in Volume II.

Curly had to be “encouraged” to send the tunes to the Gordon Highlanders by his nephew Jimmy Watson, as he was not one to show off his compositions and used them more for personal satisfaction. Many years on current experienced pipers recognise that Curly was well ahead of his time in the piping world and acknowledge him as a genius in the composition of pipe tunes.

Following his death in 1991 his grandson Charlie kept the case full of his compositions in his attic looking through them periodically until July of this year where he decided to pass them on for safe keeping and hopefully to be used as they were designed to be played on the pipes.

He immediately thought of Sinclair and Cara who he recalled were highly thought of by Curly during their early stages of development and of course this was a very welcome gift by the piping couple.

The rest as they say is now history and the band is currently learning the tune to be performed live at a concert being pencilled in for March 2016.

The first performance of the tune could be an emotional day for Curly’s grandson, as he has agreed to open the concert by playing the tune solo followed by the whole band joining in to set the scene for the evening.

Alex Geddes, Buchanhaven Heritage Society chair, said: “This tune was meant to be unearthed at this time and has a special meaning for myself, as I clearly remember being taught by Curly as a young boy the drums in the council yard in York Street where Curly worked for many years.

“He was one of the kindest people I have had the privilege to know and to have this tune composed all those years and to remain in an attic until now shows how special life can be.

“We are honoured that his grandson has agreed for the tune to be used to represent the area and look forward to the first live performance of the arrangement at our concert being planned for March.”

Sinclair and Cara Lamb added: “We had great respect for Curly and for this to become a reality is a wonderful tribute for all he did for the piping world over the years.

“He was a man of great patience and understanding for young up-and-coming pipers and we know it was his guidance that gave us the sound background we have as pipers, which we now wish to pass on to the future generation of pipers currently coming through our band.”