Far, Far From Ypres




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Far,Far From Ypres


from the media plus audience quotes.


Mainly taken at Celtic Connections and France.

The Cast

Cast list plus short biogs

The Songs

Songs featuring in the concerts

The Script

Full script free



"Far, Far from Ypres" is a multi-media production predominantly featuring songs of the First World War, providing valuable witness testimony to both military and social history. It is a rich source of information about the life and thoughts of the first-ever Citizen Army fielded by Britain, along with those on the Home Front.

Although the war poems of Sassoon, Owen and Graves etc. are well read, they are predominantly written by officers. Popular music expressed the disenchantment felt at the time by the average soldier and provides a valuable counterpoint.

The early, jingoistic songs promoted recruitment betrayed an innocence about the reality of trench life and death, through resignation and black humour. By the end of the war there was a bitterness as the carnage of war became obvious. The contemporary music provides an easily-accessible record of the way attitudes to the war amongst the greater mass of population changed over the course of the conflict until its conclusion.

The songs provide powerful context to key events in an era very different from our own. In addition, humorous extracts from the contemporary newspaper, “The Wipers Times”, miraculously produced by soldiers in the trenches and bitterly opposed by senior officers, vividly conveys the cynicism of those at the receiving end of war.

Based on a CD of the same name and with a cast of 26 performers, Far, Far from Ypres is a two-hour multimedia performance presenting the First World War from a Scottish point of view through songs from the trenches and music halls, as well as more recent songs inspired by the conflict, along with poetry and prose readings.

Devised, written and produced by Ian McCalman, of the folk group The McCalmans, Far, Far from Ypres tells the story of the Scottish war effort and its excitement, hope, suffering, endurance, humour, fear and disillusionment in the face of horror through the eyes of fictional, prototypical soldier, Jimmy MacDonald Full of enthusiasm and, like many young men, eager to sign up for the “big adventure,” Jimmy joins up as soon as he can and is sent to the Flanders trenches.

After miraculously surviving four long years of hell; of sleeping in filth, dodging bullets, artillery and poisonous gas, Jimmy survives the horror of the Great War to come home, where like so many others, he returns home in tragic circumstances.

Narrated by BBC Radio Scotland presenter Iain Anderson, it has attracted some of the leading lights in the folk scene. Those joining him on this tour will include Barbara Dickson, Siobhan Miller, Dick Gaughan, Ian McCalman, Iain Anderson, Mairi MacInnes, Professor Gary West, Stephen Quigg, Ian Bruce, Sangsters and other well- known faces in the Scottish folk scene.

To commemorate the lead-up to the centenary of Armistice day in November 2018, this production will tour Scotland, staged in 10 venues closely associated with Scottish regiments and therefore at the heart of recruitment during the First World War.

The original stories behind this concert date back nearly a century now, but a later starting-point came in 2008 when Greentrax Records released the double CD "Far, Far From Ypres", a collection of soldiers’ marching and trench songs, music-hall favourites and home-front anthems from 1914-18, alongside subsequent songwriters’ reflections on the conflict, curated and produced by Ian McCalman. A theatre production of the album, with script written by Ian, proved a powerful highlight of Celtic Connections, 2012, returning to fill the Glasgow Concert Hall in 2014. It was described by the Festival Director, Donald Shaw as "Brilliant". Equally successful concerts followed, including a moving and memorable visit to Martignas near Bordeaux, France.

The show features many "stars" of the folk and entertainment scene, including Barbara Dickson, Siobhan Miller, Ian Bruce, "Sangsters", Dick Gaughan, Stephen Quigg, Gary West, Ian McCalman, Mairi MacInnes, Alan Prior, Carole Prior, "Ragged Glory", "Soopna", Tom Ward, Stevie Palmer, Donald Hay, Brian Miller and Dennis Wilson, with narration by Iain Anderson and projection/graphics by Pete Heywood. The project is run on a "not for profit" basis.