Who would have guessed that Highland Cathedral was written by two German gentlemen? Ulrich Roever, and Michael Korb, a composer and arranger. They composed the tune as an anthem for the pipes in Germany in 1982. It took root quickly within the Piping community and was the anthem of the Royal Hong Kong Police until the hand-over of Hong Kong in 1997, when it was played during the final Flag Lowering Ceremony at Government House.
With lyrics provided by Ben Kelly in 1990, it has also been taken up by Scottish Rugby Union fans as a patriotic pre-match spirit-raiser. On the face of it, this seems a little surprising given that the impulse for the tune and the words is the Union of The Crowns in 1603 under King James VI and I – I haven’t observed much in the way of fraternal sentiment for the Sassenachs at any match I’ve witnessed. The explanation is that there is no obvious reference to the English aspect of this historical event in the song, but much to James’ pre-Union efforts to unite his own factious lairds and kirkmen before the main event.
He had regular meetings with them at various places at the turn of the century. One seems to have been at the ‘Highland Cathedral’, in Glasgow of all places; not exactly the Highlands as we know them unless it was at the top of Dalhousie Street. But the name would presumably reflect its use as a church serving Scottish Highlanders who had come to live in the city. There is, in fact, a Highland Cathedral, a church for Highlanders, in Glasgow city centre to this day. St Columba’s is on St Vincent Street and has been holding services in Gaelic every Sunday since 1770.
The tune has been a feature of the bands repertoire and took the band on stage with Andre Rieu in front of 15,000 people at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.
Other tunes the band play can be found on the Tunes page.