April 30, 2018

Composing contest commemorates Australian World War I heroes

Private John Simpson (centre) with his donkey, “Duffy,” carrying a soldier wounded in the leg during the Battle of Gallipoli. [Public domain]
The non-competing City of Queanbeyan Pipe Band of New South Wales, Australia, is commemorating an Australian hero and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I with a composing competition for a Highland pipe tune, with a total prize purse of AUD$1,000.

The winning composition will be called “62,000 Poppies,” honouring the number of Australians who died on the battlefields of the Great War, and the composer will receive $600.

The writer of the runner-up composition will receive $300, and the tune will be named “The Man with the Donkey,” the English born Australian war hero, John Simpson, a stretcher bearer with the 1st Australian Division who died in the catastrophic Gallipoli Campaign at age 22. Simpson famously used donkeys to carry wounded soldiers to the beach for evacuation for almost a month. The year-long Gallipoli Campaign saw more than 550,000 casualties. There is a continuing petition to award Simpson with a Victoria Cross.

Graham Durant-Law, pipe-major of City of Queanbeyan, and Colonel Commandant New South Wales, Royal Australian Army Medical Corps Colonel.

A third prize of $100 will be awarded to the composer of a tune to be called “The Heroes of Hamel,” named for the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, a particularly horrific World War I campaign, well known in piping circles through the great John McLellan, Dunoon, 2/4 march, “The Taking of Beaumont Hamel.”

“The band has a number of veterans and most of the bands membership had relatives who fought in the Great War and World War II,” said Graham Durant-Law, pipe-major of City of Queanbeyan, who is also Colonel Commandant New South Wales, Royal Australian Army Medical Corps Colonel. “The band’s membership provides one-third of the roster for the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial where ‘The Flowers of the Forest’ is played daily at 5pm. In addition, there is a group of ladies who are making 62,000 Poppies for a commemorative display at the Australian War Memorial. One of the band members belongs to this group. So, all in all it seemed like a good idea. It brings together our commemorative actives, and we hope it’s a way of fostering musicianship.”

The competition will be judged by prominent pipers and drummers in Australia, depending on the on the number of entries, and the band as a whole will have a collective vote, with Durant-Law chairing the judging panel.

The deadline for submissions is midnight Australian Eastern Standard Time on May 19, 2018, the 103rd anniversary of Simpson’s death at Gallipoli. Entries should go to, and more information on the event can be found at the band’s Facebook page.





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