When the Pipe Major Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Pipe Band marches on to commence the Second Act of the 2010 edition of The Pipes of Christmas, they will play “Highland Laddie” and “The Road to the Isles” in memory of Private Bill Millin. Millin was the Scottish bagpiper who played Highland tunes as his fellow commandos landed on Normandy beach on D-Day, died last August in Devon, England.
The popular Celtic Christmas concert returns for two performances in Summit, NJ on Saturday, December 18 and an additional matinee concert in New York City on Sunday, December 19.
Said "Pipes" executive producer Robert Currie, "Scotland has lost one of her last great heroes of the Second World War. Bill Millin represented all that was expected of a Scots soldier and piper; brave, determined and larger than life.
Immortalized in the 1962 film, "The Longest Day," Millin was a 21-year-old private in Britain's First Special Service Brigade on June 6, 1944 when his unit landed on a strip of beach which was code-named Sword Beach.
Millin had been summoned by the brigade’s commanding officer, Brigadier Simon Fraser - the 15th Lord Lovat and Hereditary Chief of the Clan Fraser.
Against orders dating back to World War I that prohibited the playing of bagpipes in battle conditions due to the high risk of attracting enemy fire, Lovat directed Millin to play on the beachhead. When Private Millin declined due to the standing War Office regulation, Lovat replied "Ah, but that's the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish and that rule doesn't apply."
Following orders, Millin marched up and down Sword Beach playing the tunes requested of him from Lovat, including "Highland Laddie" and "The Road to the Isles." Millin recalls his worst moments were when he was among the wounded. They wanted medical help and were shocked to see this figure strolling up and down playing the bagpipes.
To feel so helpless, Millin said afterwards, was horrifying. For many other soldiers, however, the piper provided a unique boost to their morale. Many years later, one of those soldiers, Tom Duncan said, "I shall never forget hearing the skirl of Bill Millin's pipes. It is hard to describe the impact it had. It gave us a great lift and increased our determination. As well as the pride we felt, it reminded us of home and why we were there fighting for our lives and those of our loved ones."
Millin was born in Glasgow in 1922 and lived with his family in Canada before returning to Scotland. After the war he found work on Lord Lovat's estate near Inverness and later returned to piping as a member of a traveling theater company. In 1995, Millin played the pipes at Lord Lovat's funeral.
He was described by his family as "an iconic part of all those who gave so much to free Europe from tyranny."