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Captain Norman Orr Ewing

We're learning the tune, Captain Norman Orr Ewing for our Grade 4 MSR. Whenever we learn new tunes, we like to share the story behind the tune. Here is what we found on this Willie Ross march as shared by Behind the Tunes – Vol. III (developed by Dr. Peter L. Heineman).

Pipe Major William (Willie) Collie Ross M.V.O, M.B.E. was undoubtedly one of the greatest pipers Scotland ever produced. Born in 1878 in Glenstrathfarrar in The Highlands to Alick Ross and Mary Collie, he was one of a family of three sons and three daughters. William enlisted into the Scots Guards in 1896 and saw service in the Boer War and the Great War of 1914-1918. Promoted to Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion in 1905, his brother Alick was to become Pipe Major of the 1st Battalion - a unique situation. William was invalided out of the army in 1919, suffering from acute rheumatic disorder following a hard life in the trenches. In 1920 he became Director of the Army School of Bagpipe Music and took his office and residence in Edinburgh Castle. His record in competitive piping was unique; Gold Medal - Inverness 1904, Gold Medal - Oban 1907, Open Piobaireachd winner in 1907, 1912 and 1928, winner of The Clasp in 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1912, 1919, 1928 and 1931. As the former winner of the March, Strathspey and Reel at Oban and Inverness he was champion 11 times. Many regarded him as the world's greatest piper, a brilliant player, teacher and composer. He published 5 books of pipe music, which are used all over the world. Hundreds of pipers were tutored by William at Edinburgh Castle, many becoming fine pipers, including John D. Burgess, who won the Gold Medal at Oban and Inverness as a teenager.

Captain Norman Orr Ewing was composed in 1912 and appeared in his Ross’ collection of pipe tunes in 1925.

Norman Archibald Orr Ewing was born November 23, 1880 in Knockdhu, Argyllshire, Scotland. He served in the Scots Guards from 1900 until 1919. His family was deeply rooted in rural central Scotland. His ancestry included descent from Alexander Ewing, born at Balloch around 1660, and a maternal lineage from a Campbell of Dunstaffnage (the "Orr" had been adopted by the first baronet, Sir Archie, MP for Dumbartonshire, shortly after creation of the baronetcy in 1886).

Capt. Norman Orr Ewing began WWI by being attached to the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards in October of 1914 and was awarded the DSO for his gallantry under fire. He was the most senior officer left alive and unhurt during a vicious attack by four German divisions, and took command of what was left of the battalion, around 160 men of all ranks (down from over 800 the week before). The line was near breaking-point by then, but company after company delivered what blow it could, and fell back, shelled and machine-gunned at every step, to the fringe of Zillebeke Wood. Here the officers, every cook, orderly, and man who could stand, took rifle and fought; for they were all that stood there between the enemy and the Channel Ports. They just wouldn't be broken, and the line, such as it was, held.

Their Brigadier, Lord Cavan, wrote on the 20th November (1914) to Captain N. Orr-Ewing, commanding the Battalion: "I want you to convey to every man in your Battalion that I consider that the safety of the right flank of the British section depended entirely upon their staunchness after the disastrous day, Nov. 1. Those of them that were left made history, and I can never thank them enough for the way in which they recovered themselves and showed the enemy that the Irish Guards must be reckoned with, however hard hit.

Sir Norman was the 4th Baronet of Orr-Ewing, retired with the rank of Brigadier General, served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland from 1937 to 1939, and died on March 26, 1960. His son, Ronald, was a major in the Scots Guards in WWII and was one of Scotland's most prominent freemasons, died at age 90 in 2002.

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