Peter and Mary Bain on their wedding day. Peter was described by the late John MacFadyen as “Skye’s best piper since the days of D. A. Campbell.”

Peter Bain was a prominent piper and judge of the post-war era. Taught his piping by William MacDonald, Lairg, Peter joined the Scots Guards in 1927 and was appointed Pipe Major of the Holding Batt. in 1941 then the 4th Batt. In 1944-45 he was Pipe Major of the 2nd Batt.

Peter won the Gold Medal at the 1934 Northern Meeting, and then at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1946. He taught extensively in and around the Glasgow area for many years and was a familiar face at the ‘Uist & Barra’ contests and Scottish Pipers’ Association contests of the 1950s and 60s.

Pipe Major Peter Bain (1910-1975)
By Hugh Anderson
(from the November 2014 Piping Times)

Hugh Anderson

Born in Ross-shire but raised on the Isle of Skye, Peter Bain was the son of the late John Bain of Portree and Margaret Bain (née Nicolson, one of the famous Nicolson family of Braes, Skye, who could trace a genealogical relationship to the MacCrimmons). His interest in piping was fostered in his youth in Skye but it became professional on his entering an army career, as a Boy Piper in the Scots Guards in the 1920s. From then on he soldiered and travelled to many parts of the world, constantly furthering his art, learning at the feet of such great men as, John MacDonald of Inverness and Pipe Major William Ross at the Army School.

Peter won the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1934 playing MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart. By now, he was a Pipe Corporal in the Scots Guards, and a celebrated march player. In later years he often regaled his family and friends in his own quiet, humorous fashion with stories of these days. Clearly, he loved this period of his life.

Before the war broke out he was stationed at Wellington Barracks and was often called upon to play the pipes at Buckingham Palace for the Queen Mother.

A postcard showing the ‘clachan’ at the 1938 Empire Exhibition in Glasgow.

Prior to war breaking out, he left the army for a while and became the well-known and much photographed piper at the ‘Clachan’ of the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow in 1938. It was here he met his future wife, May, who was also employed at the ‘Clachan’. He also worked for a brief period as a postman in the Morar district, before the Second World War called him back to service once more in the Scots Guards.

After the war he settled in Lambhill, Glasgow, with his young family and in the traditional manner of the Highland piper, began to pass on to many young people his accumulated musical knowledge and experience. Many of us, privileged to have been his pupils, will remember with affection his advice and encouragement while we sat with him the front room of his home. Later, Peter returned to the site of the Exhibition at Bellahouston to teach many young players at the school there.

Men of his stature in the world of piping are rare today. He was of a quiet, reserved disposition, who in his later years shunned the limelight of piping platforms, although he was a familiar adjudicator at Scottish Pipe Band Association competitions, where he was much thought of for his fairness and impartiality. Those of us who were privileged to know him as a friend and a tutor will not forget his memory and his influence on their art.

He was laid to his final rest in Lambhill Cemetery on March 5, 1975, where, appropriately, an old friend and army colleague, Pipe Major Donald MacLeod, played MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart, the tune with which Peter had won his Gold Medal at Inverness many years previously.

Peter Bain’s sons did not take up the pipes, but his grandsons Donald, Peter and Stephen Bain have been members of pipe bands in and around Glasgow for many years, although Donald and Stephen don’t play much these days.

Peter’s eldest son, John, left Glasgow many years ago with his family and settled on the Isle of Skye where they still live today. John’s grandson, John Gillies, is now a member of the Isle of Skye Pipe Band. John was taught piping by Iain Ruairi Finlayson, Instructor at Portree High School. Iain Ruairi was taught by Iain MacFadyen who in turn was a pupil of Peter Bain. In the manner of piping tradition, Peter Bain’s teaching skills have been passed down to his great grandson.