The Gallant Forty-twa

Ten years ago, I was a curate in St Ninian’s Cathedral in Perth. Indeed, I was the Precentor there at a time when their musical life was a little in the doldrums.

One of the things about being in Perth was getting to know a little about the local regiment, the Black Watch. St Ninian’s was one of their churches, as it had worked effectively as a barracks church for many years. Inside the building, at the back, is a long plaque detailing some of the men who died, I think, in the Boer War. Whilst I was there, I remember one or two significant anniversaries being marked by the regiment with services in church and I remember going to the Black Watch museum, which was just around the corner from where I lived, to make arrangements for these commemorations. It was my first glimpse into regimental tradition – an entirely new world to me. It was the golden thread that they speak of which is passed on from one generation of soldiers to another.

I remember one or two things about those events. In particular, I remember a bugler who stood utterly stock still next to the monument after the last post, and I remember a soldier’s description of someone from the regiment who had died, “He was so kind, just like all the best officers.”

There is something in that sentiment of the sense of family which grew up around these regiments which, using the cruel genius of the British Army, recruited from small localities. People enlisted, engaged in war and returned again (if they returned again) from the same streets and towns as one another.

I was much minded of them last night on seeing the play, Black Watch. I’ve seen a lot of theatre in the last few weeks – it is one of the things that I do on holiday. Much was good. One piece, which I may blog about later was excellent. However, what I saw from the National Theatre of Scotland last night, within walking distance of home, bettered all of that by miles.

It is an emotional and engaging play. Physical, committed, manipulative, political, energetic and utterly moving. It was put on with passion. It was received with the same. It was all that theatre can convey.

Still on tour. Not to be missed if you can help it.

Rating: ★★★★★


  1. Couldn’t agree more. I think its the best play I’ve ever seen. Still stays with me eighteen months later.

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