A MUSICAL tribute to the sacrifice made by an entire generation earned a standing ovation on its opening night in Selkirk.

The Far, Far From Ypres stage show is a heart-felt commemoration to the fallen as well as a celebration of the spirit and resolve required to get through those darkest hours.

The Great War from 1914 to 1918 devastated communities up and down the country.

Many sons who went off to the battlefields never returned - and many of those who did, were scarred for life by what they experienced.

Far, Far From Ypres, written and produced by Ian McCalman, has brought together the finest folk musicians and singers to help relive the four years of conflict.

The simple parade of performers armed with guitars, pipes and drumsticks - and stood to attention in front of a slideshow of photos from the front - provided the tone for a memorable and fitting evening in the Victoria Hall.

And their slow march onto stage was accompanied by the haunting pipes of Gary West.

Narrated by the BBC's Iain Anderson, Far, Far From Ypres tells the story of Private Jimmy McDonald, stitched together by songs, poems and startling reminders of the sacrifice.

Within weeks of war being declared in 1914, 55 young men from Selkirk alone couldn't resist Lord Kitchiner's pointed invitation and enlisted together on September 3.

They were among the tens of thousands who joined Private McDonald on the battlefields of mainland Europe during the early days of war.

As the fighting raged on George McCrae's Battalion of Royal Scots was being formed in Edinburgh - recruiting no fewer than 16 footballers from the Hearts of Midlothian squad.

Anderson reminded the packed Victoria Hall of the many footballers who swapped international caps for Glengarries.

Seven of the Hearts players who volunteered never came home.

Neither did eight players from St Johnstone and six from Brechin with many other well-known players of the day from the likes of Hibernian and Raith Rovers also perishing on the battlefields.

Rugby also suffered with 31 capped Scotland players amongst the hundreds of thousands who died during the Great War.

Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est, recited by Anderson, summed up the honour many felt in dying for one's country.

But Far, Far From Ypres is not only a solemn reminder of the toll taken by the Great War.

The 1914-18 conflict was affectionately known as the Singing War by servicemen due to the ditties composed to accompany the long marches.

And the celebrated singers and musicians such as Barbara Dickson, Siobhan Miller, Dick Gaughan, Gary West, Ian McCalman, Stephen Quig and Ian Bruce helped bring many of those cherished and spirit-lifting songs back to life.

Stephen Quigg was joined by the packed hall for It's a Long Way to Tipperary.

As was Charlie Milne for his renditions of Keep Right on to the End of the Road and Pack Up Your Troubles

David Dickson had lied about his age when enlisting during the conflict and was only 16-years-old when he was killed at the Somme.

His niece, Barbara, with a simple accordion accompaniment, provided a stunning rendition of Keep the Home Fires Burning.

Siobhan Miller's beautiful take on Look for a Silver Lining and Stevie Palmer's haunting Black is the Sun were every bit as poignant.

The Scottish ex-pats who enlisted from their new homes in South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia weren't forgotten during the evening.

The 60,000 Australians who died - many during the horrific eight-month Gallipoli campaign of 'blood, death and fire', were commemorated with Peebles songwriter Eric Bogle's And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, played and sung by Stephen Quigg.

Closer to home, Dick Gaughan performed Childhood's End in tribute to the 1,151 servicemen from the Isle of Lewis who never returned.

Far, Far From Ypres' narrative also brought home the humour from the front as well as the longing of soldiers missing their young sweethearts.

Jimmy McDonald did survive Flanders, but his disillusionment with war and his resentment towards those who had sent him to the trenches, and those who had avoided taking up arms grew ever stronger with each passing month.

And in the final days of the conflict he became one of the 100,000 young Scots who didn't come home after dying from the influenza pandemic which swept the continent.

Far, Far From Ypres remembers all of them.

Professor Norman Drummond, chair of the Scottish Commemorations Panel appointed to oversee the WW100 commemorations on behalf of the Scottish Government, said: "By the end of the war, thousands of men from Scotland had gone valiantly to the frontline, a high proportion of whom never returned.

"For many survivors, devastating injuries and the trauma of war changed their lives forever, while the nation as a whole grieved the vast loss of loved ones.

"It is vital that we continue to commemorate these losses today, and the Far, Far From Ypres tour, a key part of Scotland’s Armistice centenary programme, will carry this message to people of all ages across the country as we encourage families to attend with all generations in tow for what will be a highly moving and educational experience."

Anyone who missed the opening night of Far, Far From Ypres at the Victoria Hall can still catch performances in Dundee, Stirling, Inverness and Dumfries.

The tour will come to a close with a performance at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Armistice Day.

The Selkirk opening night was also filmed and is now available on DVD from Greentrax Recordings.