A contemporary painting of siege of the Alamo. Around 200 ‘Texans’ and 600 Mexicans were killed when General de Santa Anna stormed the Alamo in San Jacinto after a 13-day siege in March 1836. Just over three quarters of the Texans who died at the Alamo in 1836 were Scots or of Scots descent.

Among the men who fought and died at the Alamo during the Texas War of Independence were several Scots. The best remembered of these brave Celts was John MacGregor. Born in Scotland, he was 34 years old and held the rank of Second Sergeant when the Alamo fell.

During the siege, when the fighting would slacken, MacGregor would play his bagpipes to raise the spirits of his fellow soldiers.

A friend of David Crockett, MacGregor would team up with the famous naturalist, who played the fiddle, and give musical performances to pass the time. Some called these performances “contests to see who could make the most noise.

A contemporary sketch of John MacGregor at the Alamo.

A Mrs Dickerson, sole Texan survivor, remembered in later years that MacGregor always won as far as she was concerned, for he made a ‘‘strange, dreadful sound” with his pipes. There is no record of what the Mexicans thought of MacGregor’s pipes.

The above was sent by Paul Hinson, of Illinois. There is, however, an interesting tradition which does tell what the Mexicans thought of MacGregor’s pipes. Apparently Santa Anna, the opposing general, sent under flag of truce a request for MacGregor to stop playing. It was only when this request was refused that he ordered the red flag to be run up, signifying that no prisoners would be taken.

It would be of great interest to know who exactly John MacGregor was. Born in Scotland with that name he was almost certainly of the MacGregor pipers of the Clann an Sgeulaiche [of Drumcharry, 10 miles from Aberfeldy in Perthshire – Editor] and may well have been a grandson of the John I who was piper to Prince Charles Edward. John I had four sons (two of them called John) and eight grandsons, at least two of whom were called John.

John I took third prize at the first piping competition, at Falkirk in 1781. His son, Patrick na Coraig was placed first. The family dominated the Highland Society of London competitions for the first 30 years. A full account is given by Archibald Campbell of Kilberry in Piping Times Vol. 2 Nos. 10, 11 and 12 (1950).

John of the Alamo may have competed at these competitions before deciding to emigrate.

• From the March 1985 Piping Times.