At the end of an earlier war, King Freddie of England had negotiated a treaty with Scotland to establish a fifty-mile demilitarised zone north of Hadrian’s wall within which there was a ban on the playing of bagpipes. The Scottish King, Duncan, had long resented this curb on his freedom of action and planned a punitive raid over the wall while the English army was busy in France. George, Patron Saint and Minister for the Environment, had been persuaded by King Freddie to take a holiday visiting Hadrian’s Wall with some of his tame monsters, but he had not been told of the threat of a Scottish invasion.A message went out for the clans to assemble at Stirling, along the river banks below the great castle where Duncan was spending his summer holiday. Stealth was the order of the day. Bagpipe playing was forbidden and the men marched barefoot. The fields filled with tents as the great army assembled. Everyone wondered why Duncan had brought them all together.
The Scottish King knew that he had to move swiftly before hostilities could fester between clans that had long-term feuds to settle. So he called the chieftains together to give his battle orders. ‘Scotland has suffered the indignity of the bagpipe-blowing embargo for long enough,’ he said. ‘The English must be shown that they can’t lord it over Scotland any longer. This great plundering raid will teach the Sassenachs that Scots will not be told when or where we can blow and squeeze.’We will advance across the demilitarised zone in battle order,’ Duncan continued, ‘but strict silence will be preserved. When we draw near to that stupid wall, the clans will ready themselves to charge and I will find a large boulder to hide behind. When I drop my sporran, the bagpipes will sound a great blast. Then everyone, except me, will charge over the wall.’That is what they all did; but the outcome was not quite what Duncan had planned. In the pale light of dawn the long lines of clansmen stood silently waiting for the signal, each armed to the teeth with claymores and dirks. The pipers of each clan stood ready with filled bellows to sound the loudest man-made clarion call of all time. In his cosy nook on top of the wall the Patron Saint of England slumbered, but not for long.
Duncan had found his boulder. It wasn’t quite as big as he would have liked but it would do. In order for his signal to be seen by all the pipers he decided to stand on the rock; he could jump down quickly when the pipers sounded the charge. He stood tall on his pedestal with his sporran held aloft in what he judged to be a suitably regal manner. When he felt that he had everyone’s attention, Duncan released his grip. The sporran fell and the great cacophony sounded.