Isla St Clair's tribute to First World War fallen to be performed in Edinburgh

Singer Isla St Clair will perform a moving song based on words from First World War veterans when she takes part in a remembrance concert in Edinburgh next month.

Monday, 1st October 2018, 10:55 am
Updated Monday, 1st October 2018, 10:57 am
Isla St Clair at the launch of the Scottish Poppy appeal, with RNVR regiment veteran John Hannah and Erskine Hospital staff nurse Claire Ritchie. Picture: Ian Rutherford.

The former co-host of The Generation Game will appear at the Assembly Rooms in George Street on November 9 in a stirring night of music to mark the centenary of the end of the 1914-18 conflict. One of the songs she will sing is When The Pipers Play, written by her partner, journalist and film-maker Patrick King.

St Clair said: “He had been doing interviews with First World War veterans and he remembered little phrases they had used, so he put them together and it worked really great, because it was their words. It means something.”

One of St Clair’s great-uncles drowned at sea while serving in the First World War. And two of her uncles died in the Second World War. “Both my mother’s brothers were killed,” she said.

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“Uncle Sandy was a commando. He was killed on Sword beach in the Normandy landings and is buried in France. And my other uncle, John, was shot in the Home Guard. I never knew them, but they were heroes in our family.

“Sandy was training to be a baker, as his brother was already, but he joined up in 1936 when work was non-existent. War came and off he went, he was evacuated from Dunkirk, got home from that and then decided to volunteer for the commandos. He was one of the first commandos ever in action. He fought in Sicily, Dieppe and all over the place and then was sent on D Day over to the landings.

“He was a lance sergeant by this time and unfortunately he was shot while he was trying to round up a couple of the lads.”

St Clair is currently compiling a book of songs her mother wrote, which include a tribute to servicemen.

“My mother was quite a poet,” she said. “She wrote this fantastic piece, a song called Lest We Forget Dunkirk. It was picked up by the Legion and when my mother died in 1995 I recorded it. It was only me who had these songs in my head – my mother couldn’t read music at all, but she could think up melodies by picking the notes out on the piano, she just had a very musical voice and ear and mind. I sang it at the Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall in 2000 with some backing from the Marines and it was very powerful.”

The concert, organised by Legion Scotland, will be narrated by Monarch of the Glen actress Rose McBain and will feature The Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Band of HM Royal Marines Scotland, Royal Air Force Central Pipes and Drums and Legion Scotland sweetheart Amy Hawthorn.

Under an “Earlybrid” offer, tickets are are priced at £10 until Friday and £15 thereafter.