Iconic ‘Farewell to Meerut’ Casts a Spell

Farewell meerut
Band playing Farewell to Meerut after 126 years at Kulwant Singh Stadium – TOI

UP is filled with stories of the 1857 revolt and one cannot deny the pivotal role the bravehearts of Meerut played in this landmark movement. With Independence day just days away, Meerut has been witness to the tunes of a song being played, which got its name from the city. The song we refer to is Farewell to Meerut.

It is almost after a century and 26 years that the tune of this song filled the air at the Kulwant Singh stadium in Meerut on last Monday. A tune often heard in the distant shores of England and Scotland, now has returned to India our native land.

Historically ‘Farewell to Meerut’ was composed in 1886 by John Balloch in Meerut Cantonment. The tune for over a century had not been heard, but it signified the historic role those in Meerut played in the First War of Independence.

The last time bagpipers played the tune here was in 1890. The performance then marked the departure of 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers, an old British regiment better known as 25th Regiment of Foot.

john
An Old pic of John Balloch

The King’s Own Scottish Borderers are well chronicled for their services in India and World War II. They also served with distinction around the world for nearly three centuries. The battalion was stationed at Meerut during the course of their work.

For the men of the force like General officer commanding (GOC) of Pine Division, headquartered in Meerut, Maj Gen Rajesh Chaba who spoke to newspaper TOI said hearing the tune was a great journey back in time.

Bands of Punjab Regiment, Garhwal Rifles Regiment, Rajput Regiment, Remount Veterinary Corps (RVC) and Grenadiers played the tune in unison at a band concert in support of 22nd Infantry Division and West UP sub-area command.

Meerut in history had been one of the landmark moments in the Great Uprising of 1857. On April 24, 1857 a Friday, Col Carmichael Smith, commandant of the 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry Regiment ordered 90 sepoys to assemble and use the disputed greased cartridges.

The greased cartridges were said to have been made with a mixture of cow and pig fat. 85 of the brave men refused to give in and this led to the rebellion.

While the story of 1857 has been told and retold many times, there are those who believe that even farmers, sadhus and even cops played a role in the movement.

Historians say that such sections have however not got their due.

What puzzles the historians most is how the rebellion spread to far-flung areas in such short time. Even as we celebrate the Independence of the country as India turns 70, let us not forget that these bravemen revolted to let us see the dawn of freedom.

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