Sarah Fraser

The Last Highlander

Death of the Chief’s Wife

March 16, 2012

Less than two months to publication day, and life becomes busier in London, arranging a launch party, readings and so on. All that goes on hold next week. We must go home to bury my mother-in-law. Lady Lovat was 94, and there will be a big clan funeral for her in Inverness-shire. One of the finest pipers in Scotland will play Lord Lovat’s Lament. In July 1746, the 11th Lord Lovat’s piper stood on Morar beach and played it, to salute and cry farewell to his chief, as Lovat was rowed away to his death, from the West coast of Scotland.

In March 2012, this is the tune that will be played to honour Lady Lovat, wife of another great Lord Lovat, the Commando leader and Second World War hero, Shimi Lovat. At the end of World War II, Churchill sent Shimi to negotiate with Stalin, saying he was sending the Soviet dictator ‘the mildest mannered man that ever scuttled ship or slit a throat’. Churchill later complained in his diary, when the Russian and Briton met at Yalta, Stalin seemed keener to gossip about Shimi Lovat than the peace of Europe. Perhaps tunes like Lord Lovat’s Lament can be a crossing point for layers of the history of one place or people, united in a piece of music, alive simultaneously, then and now and each enriching the other.

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