During a piper or drummer’s lifetime, chances are he or she will encounter the famous strathspey “Dorrator Bridge” by James Braidwood. The four-part tune is a favourite especially of lower grade bands and amateur pipers, and it’s a splendidly constructed melody that, with its peculiar F doubling from F, is also a good test of skill.
But where is this Dorrator Bridge? We scoured the maps and atlases of Scotland only to come up empty, until we asked our friend Dr. William Donaldson if he knew where the bridge could be found. Indeed he did.
Dorrator Bridge crosses the river Carron between the villages of Larbert and Dunnipace near Falkirk. The stone structure would appear to have been built in the 1800s, which would synchronize it with the golden age of strathspey creation. The bridge is fairly non-descript now, and there is a seven-ton weight restriction posed on anything crossing it. If one does not take the time to stop and view it by foot it’s easily missed.
Dr. Donaldson notes, “Pipe-Major James Braidwood was of Stenhousemuir (the muir of Stenhousemuir, three miles north
west of Falkirk, was where people used to park their cattle when they went to the Falkirk Tryst). He also was responsible for the classic 6/8 march ‘Doo’cot Park.” He was a pal of Willie Ross’s, and he lived in Edinburgh, and when Willie was, rather suddenly, appointed to the Army Class in 1919, he didn’t have accomodation in the city, and Jimmy Braidwood put him up till Willie got himself fixed up, at his house which was called — you guessed it – ‘Doo’cot Park’ (or perhaps ‘Dovecot,’ but pronounced ‘Dookit’). And also composed the famous air in Willie’s honour, intending to call it ‘Pipe-Major William Ross’s Welcome to Doo’cot Park,’ but Willie, ever modest, said ‘No, no, never mind the Pipe-Major Ross stuff, just call it ‘Doo’cot Park,'” and so it was. First published in Willie’s Collection, Book 5, under the title “Dovecot Park.”
We can only assume that at one time Dorrator Bridge was a monumental achievement for the local villagers wanting to traverse the small, peaty river, and the commemorative tune will be around long after the bridge isn’t.
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