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The Dagshai Hills/Heights of Dargai

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  • The Dagshai Hills/Heights of Dargai

    The late Lt-Col DJS Murray was I think the first to point out that the titles of these two tunes had been mixed up, and it's becoming more common to see the 9/8 titled The Dagshai Hills, rather than the more common Heights of Dargai.

    My question is this: what is the actual evidence in favour of each title? As far as I can see from Colonel Murray's writings, he asserted this on the basis that the first appearance of the "Heights of Dargai" name was the 6/8 in Henderson's Tutor. The 9/8, as far as I can see, was first published in 1954 in Scots Guards I. It was published in the Royal Irish Rangers collection in the 1970s under the Dagshai Hills name, and this is the first time it appears under this name that I can find.

    Questions:

    - did the 9/8 appear under any title prior to 1954?
    - If not, where did the Guards get it from?
    - Where did the RIR get the "Dagshai Hills" title from?
    - How do we know Henderson's Tutor is correct?

    http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
    -- Formerly known as CalumII

  • #2
    I haven’t read David Murray’s article on the subject, but some thoughts spring to mind.
    If the 4-part 6/8 version of Heights of Dargai by James Wallace was published in Henderson, that’s some time before 1920 so certainly within living memory of the battle. One would assume that the title was correct, however it’s interesting to note a 2-part 6/8 called Heroes of Dargai was written by the P/M of 1st Gordons shortly after the event. The two tunes are not identical but very similar. Its possible Wallace’s version is an arrangement with two extra parts, rather than the original.

    There were a number of other tunes called Dargai written at the time (by Glen, Scott Skinner etc) - it was pretty famous after all, but a 9/8 retreat called Heights of Dargai was unlikely to have been penned much before 1920 - bearing in mind that retreat marches were a rarity in Scottish collections before then, and 9/8 retreats almost unheard of.
    One might expect the Gordon Highlanders to know who wrote it, but their collection gives the 9/8 Heights of Dargai with composer J Wallace (who was not a Gordon).

    As regards R IRISH’s Dagshai Hills, that’s an interesting one – 9/8 has been common in Irish music for longer, so it’s entirely possible this was the first version of the tune.
    Given that Heights of Dargai celebrates a famous piper winning a VC, and the most famous military event in Dagshai was the imprisonment of Irish troops after a mutiny in 1920, followed by the last recorded military execution for this, one might suspect a bit of redaction when it was taken up for the Scots Guards collection in the 1950s, but its more likely to have been a mistake - SG1 has many.

    Cheers
    Scratch

    Comment


    • #3
      Your last point is a very good one, actually, and not the first time this has happened! Given that it would have been only a few decades prior when the collection got underway, one can easily see a motive to quietly retitle it. There are other tunes arbitrarily assigned completely new names in SG I - Teribus, for example. And similar things have happened with the various names for the Skye Crofters...

      The first edition of Henderson's Tutor was 1900 - according to Cannon's bibliography, there was only two editions and the music was identical.

      All the major sources concur that the composer was John Wallace - SG, Gordons, and RIR. He was supposed to have been quite musical, a guitar player and so forth, and his compositions are certainly well executed (apart from the 6/8 Heights of Dargai, which leaves rather a lot to be desired as a piece of music). He died in 1911/12. One thing is: why would he compose a tune for Dagshai? It was a prison town of little note - did he pass through during his time in the Argylls?
      http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
      -- Formerly known as CalumII

      Comment


      • #4
        Dagshai hill-station was used as one of the summer depots in that area to avoid the heat of the plains; it wasn’t just a military prison.
        2nd Bn A&SH were in India from about 1890 to 1905 and I’ve seen a picture labelled as 2 A&SH barrack room Dagshai 1890 (I think in something by Diana Henderson). If Wallace served with them then, I imagine he’d have fond memories of the Dagshai hills as respite from the heat and disease of a southern Indian summer (as would any of the many regiments who passed through there in the 60 years they were in use).
        Some things still don’t add up. Firstly, as I said, 9/8 retreats were unknown in highland piping collections till after WW1, and secondly (assuming all the J Wallaces with tunes in Logan and Henderson are the same guy) why didn’t this one get published until 1954 and under the wrong name?
        I’m still inclined to think it was an Irish tune mis-attributed to him when the name got changed.
        Cheers
        Scratch

        Comment


        • #5
          Well, that lines up with him being in the 2nd Battalion at least: Wallace is recorded as having been taught by Robert Meldrum, who was PM of the 93rd Sutherlands, which became the 2nd Battalion A&SH, from 1875-1887. Wallace was 36 in 1901, so born about 1865.

          I agree there's not exactly much evidence for him writing it though!
          http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
          -- Formerly known as CalumII

          Comment


          • #6
            There’s a book called the New Melody Directory for Highland Bagpipe, published in Australia in the 1980s, which indexed tunes from some 200 books by first bar, time signature and tune type. They have only 3 entries for this bar, the SG and Gordon Highlanders Heights of Dargai and the RIR Dagshai Hills

            so it seems the first appearance in something readily available to highland pipers was in the SG under that name. It remains a mystery where it came from, why the Wallace name was attached, and why the RIR call it something different.

            Comment


            • #7
              That's fantastic Chris - what a useful resource. Maybe Patrick could incorporate something similar into the Pekaar database?

              Screenshot from 2021-10-14 18-04-27.png

              Just for completeness's sake, would you be able to have a look and see if the original Heights of Dargai has any other titles assigned to it?
              http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
              -- Formerly known as CalumII

              Comment


              • #8
                Applying Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation would be that Wallace definitely wrote the 6/8 Heights of Dargai, and (given that his regiment was quartered in Dagshai hill-station at a time when he was probably serving), he might well have written another tune called Dagshai Hills. If that was the case, then a mixup over titles becomes quite understandable, especially in an era when tunes were primarily passed-on in handwritten manuscript or by ear.
                It doesn’t explain how he could come to be writing a 9/8 retreat years before anyone else, but at the end of the day somebody had to be first.
                Cheers
                Scratch

                Comment


                • #9
                  There aren't any other tunes with that same bar structure, so it doesn't seem that Wallace's 6/8 has appeared under a different title

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Chris M View Post
                    There aren't any other tunes with that same bar structure, so it doesn't seem that Wallace's 6/8 has appeared under a different title
                    It sounds like a useful tool, but if it can't pick up that 'Heights of Dargai' 6/8 and 'Heroes of Dargai' 6/8 (Gordons Book 2) are related, it may be a bit over-refined.
                    Picture2.jpg Picture1.jpg

                    The alternative approach is using the Parsons search sytem on pipetunesearch.org, which if anything errs too far in the other direction.
                    Cheers
                    Scratch

                    Comment

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