Her Caithness Home - More Information

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The Queen Mother has a number of residences but the only one she actually owns is the Castle of May, her Caithness home.  In August and October each year, she comes here on holiday.  She loves this far north-eastern corner of mainland Scotland.

On the border with Sutherland, are the peaks of Morven and Scarben.  Elsewhere in the county, there are few hills but the panoramas are spectacular and the scenery richly varied: rugged cliffs and sandy beaches, green croft and farm land and brown and purple moors, views across the Pentland Firth to Stroma and the isles of Orkney and blue-grey horizon of the North Sea, old fishing villages, quaint inlet hamlets and the small but busy towns of Wick and Thurso.

Queen Elizabeth loves the Caithness folk too with their solid dependability, and their sturdy independent spirit.  They are just themselves and they allow her to be herself and have a holiday when she is among them.

Since her childhood days at Glamis, the Queen Mother has enjoyed Scottish music and song.  It is appropriate, therefore, in this her centenary year, that Addie Harper and the Wick Band, who have, in their unique style, been playing the traditional music of the north for many years, should compile this album.  Joining in the tribute, are friends of the Harper family.

Rev Alex Muir was from 1982-91, minister of Keiss and Canisbay.  The Castle of Mey is in Canisbay Parish.  During this time, he composed a number of hymns and melodies for metrical psalms and paraphrases (most of them with a distinctly Scottish flavour) and has had them recorded on two main cassettes.  Addie and the Band provided the backing for the second of these, Pray for Scotland.  With Addie's encouragement, he also composed his first pipe tune, The Queen Mother's Welcome to the Mey Games, which is included in this CD along with several of his other compositions.

1 - My Home - featuring Daniel McPhee (Button Box) - Slow Air - The special love Scots folk have for home and homeland, has been a continuing theme in their music and song.   The old song, My Home is an example of this.  The chorus ends with the lines:
  When weary wi'toilin' oot ower the green lea
  I toddle wi'glee tae my ain hoose.

The  melody has become a great favourite among pipers.  According to a newspaper article, it was a favourite of the late King George VI.

2 - A Hundred Thousand Welcomes - featuring Daniel McPhee (Button Box)

3 - The Queen Mother's Set - All the tunes composed by Alex Muir

Castle of Mey (Slow Air) - In 1566, the Bishop of Caithness granted the barony of Mey to George Sinclair, fourth Earl of the County.  In the following year, work begun on the Castle. In later years, it was called Barogill Castle but when the Queen Mother bought the property in 1952, she restored its original and more attractive name.  Her Majesty has spent many happy days here. 

The Queen Mother's Welcome to the Mey Games (March) - While the Queen Mother is in Mey, she attends the local highland games and this provided Alex with the title of his first secular tune.  At the Games in August 1990, it was played as a birthday tribute to Queen Elizabeth by two pipers of the Ullapool and District Pipe Band.

The Merry Men of Mey (Strathspey) - The Queen Mother worships at Canisbay Kirk and, shortly after the 1990 Games at Mey, Alex told her that he would like to add to his march a strathspey, The Merry Men of Mey and a reel, Groatie Buckies.  Her Majesty thought that this was an excellent idea - but nearly ten years were to pass before it became it a reality.  The Men of Mey are a line of leaping, foaming waves which can be seen off St John's Point when the tide is running against the wind.  Because they appear like a group of dancers, local folk call them merry.  In this tune, Alex has tried to capture the rhythm of these waves as they rise and fall with the motion of the sea.

Groatie Buckies  - is the Caithness name for small cowrie shells found along the shore at John O'Groats.  Queen Elizabeth takes such a great delight in the subtle colours an intricate patterns of such natural objects.

4 - Precious Memories - featuring Addie Harper Sn (Hawaiian Guitar)

5 - A Tune for Jimmy

The 80th Regiment Royal Scottish Horse

6 - The Bays of Harris (Slow Air) - Alex composed this psalm tune while he was taking services on the Isle of Harris in January 1986.  After it had become popular among church folk in the Highlands and Islands,it was recorded by the bands of the Royal Highland Fusiliers for a children's charity cassette, Song for Susanne.  Earlier this year, he added a second part to the melody.

7 - The North Coast Shuffle - featuring E Rapson (Sax) and A J MacDonald (Accordion)

8 - HRH Princess Alexandra's Welcome to Wick - March  - the March was composed by Addie in 1970 when Princess Alexandra visited Wick to perform the launching ceremony of the Wick lifeboat, Princess Marina.  daughter of the Duke of Kent, who was a brother of the late King George VI, the Princess is the Queen Mother's niece.

Watten's Welcome to the Queen Mother - Reel - Village Halls are very important in the life of rural communities and Queen Elizabeth recognised this when she opened the extended and refurbished Watten Hall in 1974.  Addie's reel commemorated the event.

9 - A Tune for a Queen - featuring Addie Harper Jn (Fiddle) - Slow Air -   Addie was given the honour of composing this for Queen Elizabeth's eightieth birthday.   Addie junior and his friend Gordon Gunn budding young fiddlers at the time, played it for the birthday celebrations at the Castle of Mey.

10 - The Balmoral Highlanders

11 - Gaelic Waltzes - featuring Addie Harper Sn (Hawaiian Guitar)

Dearest My Own One

Leaving Barra


12 - Geordie McIntosh of Grantown

John Sinclair - Younger of Ulbster (Jig) - The Sinclairs are one of the famous clans of the north.  They were ready to march in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie just before Culloden but the defeat of the Jacobites meant that their services were not needed.  John Sinclair is the elder son of Lady Thurso and the late Lord Thurso who was for many years,  Lord Lieutenant of Caithness.  The family are good friends of the Queen Mother.  The band was asked to play at John's twenty-first birthday party in the Ross Institute, Halkirk and Addie composed this jig for the occasion.

Maureen's Jig

13 - The Stempster Sisters - featuring A J MacDonald (Piano Accordion)

The Braes of Achingale

Round the Rockers

14 - The Old Mill at John O'Groats

15 - The Barrowburn Reel

Walking on the Moon

Stephanie Manola Harper's Reel

Wick Rotary Club's Compliments to Addie Harper Snr - Reel - Not only is Addie a highly respected musician in Caithness but, over the years, he and the band have raised a great deal of money for cancer research and other good causes.  Addie jnr composed this reel when the club presented his father with the Wick Citizen of the Year Award in 1997.

16 - The Ackergill Tower Waltz - featuring Addie Harper Jn (Fiddle)

17 - Hugh Matheson of Baleshare

The Pentland Fishermen

18 - The Atholl Highlanders Visit to Edinburgh 1971 - march - After the '45 rebellion, clan chiefs were no longer permitted to have armed followers.  An exception was made in the case of the Dukes of Atholl and the Atholl Highlanders continue to be Scotland's only private army.  On the last weekend of May each year, they parade at Blair castle in Perthshire.  Addie composed this martial commemoration of their visit to Edinburgh in 1971.

Over the Warth Hill

19 - We'll Meet Again - featuring E Rapson (Sax) - Addie Harper Jn (Guitar)

Introduction and notes on music by Alex Muir

Band Members:

Addie Harper Snr
Addie Harper Jnr
Alastair J MacDonald
Daniel McPhee
Isobel Harper
John Hunter

Edward Rapson, a presenter on Caithness FM and an excellent saxophone player, comes from Helmsdale.  He has been a friend of the Harpers for many years and has often joined them for informal musical evenings.  In this album, he plays We'll Meet Again and joins in Precious Memories and The North Coast Shuffle.

Lucien Desharnias, is a Canadian.  An expert on the steel guitar, he makes a valuable contribution to the backing of Precious Memories and A Tune for a Queen.

Cover Photograph of Castle of Mey by J MacDonald, Wick.