The Scotsman Sessions #238: Ian Bruce

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, folk singer Ian Bruce performs The Young Territorial, adapted from one of Rudyard Kipling’s “Barrack Room Ballads”

A familiar name on the Scottish folk scene, Ian Bruce sings The Young Territorial, a song adapted in the early 20th century from one of Rudyard Kipling’s “Barrack Room Ballads” by Duncan Tovey, sergeant and storyteller of the London Scottish regiment, which has served in conflicts from the Boer and First World wars to 21st century Afghanistan.

The song comes from Bruce’s recently released album Young Territorial (Greentrax) in which he and friends, the Tartan Spiders, give often boisterous voice – along with some solemn commemorative interludes – to songs and poems trawled from Tovey’s long-forgotten book The Grey Kilt, named after the reserve infantry regiment’s distinctive hodden grey tartan.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Bruce’s folk scene credentials have ranged from his own singing and songwriting prowess – including some notable Burns recordings – to popular duos with his brother Fraser and with fellow singer-songwriter Ian Walker. His relationship with the London Scottish, however, is a very personal one in that his father, John H Bruce, was pipe major to the reserve regiment during the Second World War.

Ian Bruce

Many years ago, Bruce, now 65, released his album Hodden Grey, dedicated to his father. Nothing to do with with the regiment, it found its way nevertheless to the London Scottish, whose Major Rob Pitt contacted Bruce, initially to ask him to perform at a charity night, but who then suggested an album of regimental songs, based around Tovey’s book.

“Every regiment has legends and songs,” writes Pitt in his notes. “These go beyond the tunes of the marching band and the laments of a church service but tell the real human story of time and place. They form part of the DNA of a unit, connecting past to present in vivid, emotionally charged, unifying ways.”

As Bruce puts it: “Rob Pitt wanted to bring the songs back to the soldiers and those still living. It’s been a learning process for me in many ways.”

For more on Ian Bruce, visit www.ianbruce.org

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription at https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions