By Jeannie Campbell MBE

In mid-April 2020 an article appeared on this website about the legendary Robert Reid (1895-1965). Born in Slamannan, Scotland, Reid was one of the finest pipers of the 20th century and the most dominant piper of the 1920s and 1930s. The article that appeared – ‘The master and pupil’ – was written by Owen McNiven, someone whose name may be unfamiliar to pipers of today, but who was an important figure in post-war Glasgow piping.

Owen was a pupil of Reid’s and had cousins in South Uist who were pipers His mother’s uncle was Pipe Major Archibald Paterson. In my research on the pipers and pipe music of the Great War, I had included a Pipe Major Archibald Paterson and I was curious as to whether this was the same man. After investigating further, it would appear so.

Donald Paterson and Ann McEachan were married in 1848 at St Michael’s Catholic Church in Ardkenneth, South Uist. In 1851 Donald (34), a tailor, and Ann (26) were living at Balgarva with their daughter, Peggy aged one. Balgarva lies at the north end of the island, facing Benbecula.

The census of 1861 indicates the family was still living at Balgarva and the couple now had more children including a boy, Archy (3). According to this census, Donald was born in Mull but the rest of the family were born in South Uist. (Archy – Archibald – was born on December 12, 1857).

The 1881 census showed the family living at Ardnamona, a few miles to the south east of Balgarva across Loch Bee. Two grandchildren are recorded.

In his early 20s, Archy enlisted in the 74th Highlanders and served from 1880 to 1902, in the Egyptian Campaign, and in India. He was with the detail that attended the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901 and also took part in the Australian Commonwealth festivities in the same year. He purchased his discharge in July 1902 and settled in the Maryhill/Kelvinside area of Glasgow (at 4 Hotspur Street). He was Pipe Major of the 1st Lanark Volunteer Rifles and 5th Batt. Scottish Rifles TA. According to the 1911 census he was then aged 50, was employed as a despatch clerk for a firm of solicitors and had been married for 24 years. His wife, Mary, (46) was born in Somerset. They had two children and both were living with them. Their son, Archibald, was aged 23 and had been born at Dagshai in India. He was an army pensioner. Daughter, Annie aged 21 was also born in India, at Cherat.

The inaugural meeting of the Scottish Pipers’ Union was reported in the Oban Times on December 10, 1910. Several letters followed the report, including one from Archibald that described the formation of the Union and the first meetings – in his home – of the Executive Committee. Archibald was the first President.

The March to the Field at the 1937 Argyllshire Gathering. Front rank: possibly PM Willie Logie (Seaforth), Owen MacNiven, Angus MacAulay, Archie MacNab, Charlie Scott. Behind Charlie is Robert Nicol, and then Louis Beaton and then Philip Melville all on that outside flank. Behind Archie MacNab is Duncan MacIntyre then Hector MacLean.

Over the following years the Union held lectures, recitals and competitions, supplied judges for other events and judged one of the Cowal Gathering composing competitions.

On November 25, 1914 Pipe Major Archibald Paterson was involved in an accident. He was struck by a tramcar on Great Western Road while playing at the head of a column of recruits. He died in Stobhill Hospital from head injuries that same night so could be said to have been an early casualty of the Great War. His son, who lived nearby, registered the death. The circumstances of Archibald’s death were reported in the newspapers the following year. On March 2, 1915 the Edinburgh Evening News had this:

“Route March Incident. Pipe Major Run Down. An action has been brought in the Court of Session by Mrs Mary Hilburd or Paterson of 4 Hotspur Street, Kelvinside North, Glasgow, widow of Archibald Paterson, pipe major 5th (Reserve) Battalion The Cameronians, and his son and daughter, against the Corporation of Glasgow for £1800 in all in respect of the death of her husband. Pipe Major Paterson served 22 years in the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry, and retired from the Army in 1902. He was attached to the 5th Cameronians, and on November 5 took part in a route march.

“He was marching at the head of the column along the Great Western Road, playing his pipes, when he was knocked down by a tramcar which had overtaken and passed the remainder of the column. He died the same night without recovering consciousness. At the time of the accident it was necessary for the column to incline to the right to avoid vehicles drawn up on the street. The defenders deny fault and plead contributory negligence. They deny that the car was proceeding at an excessive and dangerous speed, and maintain that it was being driven carefully and at a moderate speed. The column was marching parallel to the car rails, and the car was about to pass the two leading pipers when the deceased suddenly and without warning stepped in front of the car. The motorman could not have prevented the accident.’

A further article, on March 19, reported that a settlement had been reached in the claim for damages of £1800, which was £1500 for the widow and £150 each for her son and daughter in respect of the death of Pipe Major Paterson. The Corporation paid £600: £500 to the widow and £50 each to her son and daughter, with expenses.

Owen MacNiven.

By 1919 the Scottish Pipers’ and Dancers’ Union had ceased its activities but many of its former members went on to found the Scottish Pipers’ Association (SPA) in 1920. Some of the trophies previously awarded by the SPDU were passed on to the SPA and continue to be awarded annually.

In November 1885 at 27 George Street, Paisley, Archibald Paterson’s sister, Alexandrina, a 26-year-old farm servant living at Kilmacolm, married Archibald McNiven, a 26-year-old ploughman living at Highflat Farm in East Kilbride. His parents were Duncan McNiven, ploughman and Margaret McQuarrie. Duncan McNiven (36) was an agricultural labourer born at Cladville, his wife Peggy (27) was born at Corsepol and their son, Archibald aged one was born at Cladville. Alexandrina signed the marriage certificate with X her mark and gave her mother’s maiden name as McKechnie, which could be an approximation of McEachan for someone who could not sign her name.

Archibald and Alexandrina MacNiven had a daughter, Margaret, born in Paisley in 1890. In 1915 she married Patrick Gallagher at St Mirren’s Church in the town. Patrick (26) was a gas worker and his parents were Owen Gallagher, deceased, formerly a farm labourer, and Sarah, née McManus. Margaret was a 24-year-old tearoom waitress. According to the marriage certificate, her father had been a railway shunter but was now deceased. Patrick and Margaret Gallagher had a son, Owen, born 1916, a son Hector born 1918 and a son Eric, born 1924. Owen Gallagher used his mother’s name, MacNiven.

Owen was placed third in the Gold Medal at the 1933 Argyllshire Gathering and in 1934 he won the March at the SPA competition. His tutor, Robert Reid, was President of the SPA 1940 to 1948 and again from 1951 to 1956.