A bronze statue of an heroic World War One piper will be presented to a school in Perthshire today by the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer George Reid, in exchange for an historic set of bagpipes which were played at the Battle of the Somme.
More than 130 children will attend the presentation at Ardvreck School, Crieff, when the Presiding Officer hands over a statue of James Richardson – a Scottish Canadian piper and soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Somme.
December 2006: Presiding Officer George Reid views James Richardson's bagpipes during a recent visit to Canada. He is pictured with the Solicitor General of British Columbia John Les and Speaker of the BC Legislature, Bill Barisoff.
The handing over of the statue follows the return to British Columbia, Canada last year of a set of bagpipes which belonged to Richardson that were displayed at the Perthshire school for more than seventy years without anyone realising their historic significance.
Parliamentarians from the legislature of British Columbia asked the Presiding Officer during his visit to Canada last November, to deliver the statue to the school on their behalf.
History records that on 8 October 1916 Private James Richardson piped the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) Canadian Expeditionary Force to advance against enemy lines and was killed in action the next day at the age of 20.
After Richardson’s death on the battlefield, Major Edward Bate found the broken pipes and brought them to Ardvreck School where he was a teacher.
The pipes were put on display at the school, but their secret history was only discovered in 2002, after the school put out a plea for more information on their origin on the Internet.
Canadian historian Roger McGuire flew to Scotland and identified the bagpipes as Richardson’s through their unique tartan. Finally, in October 2006 the bagpipes were returned to Canada.
Speaking before the event, Presiding Officer George Reid said:
"I’m delighted to play a role in this fascinating historical tale linking our two countries – and to present the statue to the school on behalf of the parliamentarians in British Columbia.
"I’m sure the bravery of Private Richardson will continue to inspire school children in both Scotland and Canada for generations to come.”
James Richardson was born in Bellshill, Scotland in 1895 but his family moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia around 1911.
He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross on 22 October 1918 for this action at Regina Trench, north of Courcelette, France.
His Victoria Cross citation read:
"Piper Richardson strode up and down outside the wire, playing his pipes with the greatest coolness. The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire, the obstacle was overcome and the position captured."
Canadian sculptor John Weaver produced the school’s sculpture and is a mini version (approximately 50cm tall) of Weaver’s life-sized bronze statue of James Richardson which stands as a memorial in the garden of Chilliwack Museum. The memorial, which was unveiled in October 2003 was the result of a campaign headed up by legislature members Barry Penner (MLA Chilliwack - Kent ) and John Les (Chilliwack-Sumas).
The bagpipes, which were returned to Canada in 2006, are on permanent public display in the Legislature of British Columbia.