A small number of civilian pipe bands claim to be the oldest – or, at least, among the oldest. Wallacestone, Inveraray, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, are among the small list and all four date to the mid-1880s. We think the latter two are in abeyance these days but Wallacestone is still competing (currently in Grade 2 under the leadership of its able Pipe Major, Neil Henderson) and Inveraray was reformed in 2005 and is doing rather well …

Then there’s Lonach Pipe Band, which is mentioned in a Scottish newspaper report from 1868 although only one drummer is mentioned and it would be 1895 when another report states that a local parade “was headed by six pipers and four drummers”.

Other ‘bands’ of this period were comprised solely of a handful of pipers and no drummers.

In this article, piping historian Jeannie Campbell suggests the oldest proper civilian pipe band may actually have been founded in Perthshire in the late-Victorian period.

By Jeannie Campbell

Towards the end of 2010 Annie Grant sent me prints of two photographs which Robert Stewart of Inveraray had received from his cousin in Australia. The first is of the Breadalbane Pipe Band and appears to be taken in front of Taymouth Castle. On the right of the picture is Pipe Major Duncan MacDougall and next to him is Robert Stewart’s grandfather, Robert Morrison. On the left of the picture is Pipe Sergeant Duncan Campbell. Duncan’s wife, Ann MacCallum, was Robert Morrison’s aunt. Some research has now uncovered more information about the band and its members.

The Breadalbane Pipe Band played on special occasions to entertain guests at Taymouth. On September 28, 1883 the Glasgow Herald newspaper reported on a supper and ball which took place at the castle on the return of the Earl of Breadalbane’s brother, the Hon. Ivan Campbell, a Lieutenant in the 79th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, the regiment in which Duncan Campbell had served as Pipe Major. A presentation was made in appreciation of Ivan’s gallant conduct at the battle of Tel El Kebir in the Egyptian campaign of 1882, a battle commemorated in a 6/8 march by Pipe Major John Cameron. After the presentation and supper, “Dancing commenced about nine o’ clock and was kept up with great spirit until an early hour this morning. The music was supplied by Mr William McLeish, Aberfeldy, and was much admired, as was also the reel-playing of the Breadalbane Pipe Band under chief-piper Duncan MacDougall, Taymouth.”

A report of two more of their performances appeared in the People’s Journal in 1893:

“When his Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge [grandson of George lll and cousin of Queen Victoria] visited Taymouth Castle in 1882, the Breadalbane Pipe Band of 16 pipers, under the leadership of Pipe Major Duncan MacDougall, entertained H.R.H. and the distinguished company who were present, every evening during dinner and after, to choice selections of pipe music, and so highly delighted was His Royal Highness with the performance of the pipe band that he sent for Pipe Major MacDougall to the drawing room, and in a short speech complimented the pipe band on their playing, at the same time asking Pipe Major MacDougall to convey to the members of the pipe band that he (H.R.H.) had heard all the pipe bands of the British Army, but had never before listened to such grand pipe music as had been rendered by the Breadalbane Pipe Band during his visit to Taymouth. Oscar, King of Norway and Sweden, when at Taymouth in September 1883, was highly pleased with the pipe music of the pipe band, and on the occasion of the King’s visit a grand ball was given in the Banner Hall in his honour. During the evening Pipe Major MacDougall, assisted by Sergeant Piper Campbell of the band, played all the Highland Reels, Hullochans, and Schottisches. The King had to get the bagpipes fully explained to him, and had a trial of the pipes, playing some of the Norwegian airs on them, the blowing and the filling of the bag being done by Pipe Major MacDougall, to the evident delight of the guests present.”

People’s Journal, 1893.

This might be the origin of the often quoted statement that 16 pipers were employed at Taymouth Castle. All the band members may have been estate employees but the castle records show that they were not all employed as pipers. The date of the band’s formation is not yet known but as it was active in 1882 it should be a candidate for the title of the oldest known civilian band. Duncan MacDougall’s sons John and Gavin would have been aged 11 and eight in 1882 so were probably too young to be members of the band at that time.

Breadalbane Pipe Band – possibly the oldest known civilian pipe band.

On September 22, 1884 the Dundee Courier newspaper reported on the Dundee Reform Demonstration* which consisted of a parade and speeches. There were groups representing all the trades and organisations in the city, with floats and banners. The report stated:

“To supply music for all there were no less than 24 brass bands and 5 flute bands, while of pipers and their drummers there were 67 performers in all. The fishermen had a band of six pipers, the plumbers had a pipe band, the Dyeworks had a band of pipers and several other groups of workers were led by one or two pipers. The Bleachers were led by the Dundee pipe band, the Sawmillers were led by the Arbroath pipe band and the employees of McGregor and Co’s Hosepipe factory were led by Lord Breadalbane’s pipe band.”

Dundee Courier, September 22, 1884.
Taymouth Castle
Taymouth Castle near Aberfeldy.

The Breadalbane band pre-dates the Aberfeldy one. When that photograph of the Aberfeldy band first appeared many years ago it was dated at about 1906 and the three seated at the front were named as Gavin MacDougall, Pipe Major Neil Menzies MacGregor and John MacDougall. In a photo of the band that appeared in the August 2010 Piping Times, the Pipe Major in the centre of the picture was said to be John MacDougall. Pipe Major Neil MacGregor, born in 1861, was a member of the Clann an Sgeulaiche, the Glen Lyon family of storytellers and musicians. His father was John MacGregor, Piper to Sir Neil Menzies of Menzies. Neil MacGregor was piper to Sir Robert Menzies from before 1888 until the death of Sir Robert and sale of the castle in about 1903. The band appeared in the Post Office Directory for 1907-08 as ‘Aberfeldy Prize Pipe Band, conductor Gavin MacDonald, sec. D Anderson, jeweller’. The position of ‘conductor’ seems unusual for a pipe band. In 1911 the entry in the directory appeared as Aberfeldy Prize Pipe Band, PM Neil MacGregor. This entry continued until 1924 when PM David Glen, a grandson of the bagpipe maker Alexander Glen took over. He was the Pipe Major until 1933.

The second photograph, pictured below, is of Duncan Campbell with his wife and children. Judging by the ages of the children the photograph probably dates from the mid-1880s.

Duncan Campbell and family.

Duncan Campbell was born at Weem in Perthshire in 1839 and enlisted in the 79th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders at Perth in April 1858. He is possibly the Duncan Campbell listed in the 1861 census at Edinburgh Castle as a soldier aged 20 and born in Perthshire, although he is said to have served in India 1860-1871. He became Pipe Major of the 79th in 1877 and continued in that position until 1880. In 1875 he was living at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire but was serving overseas at Gibraltar in 1879. He retired in 1880 after 21 years service and became Piper to the Marquis of Breadalbane and Custodian of Finlarig Castle at Killin. He can be found there in early 1881 when he appears in the census records.

The family lived at nearby Milton of Finlarig. Duncan was listed as aged 40, occupation piper, born at Weem, Perthshire. His wife, Ann was also 40 and was born at Ardchattan, Argyll. Son, Duncan, aged five was born at Balmoral and daughter Ann aged one was born in Gibraltar.

By 1883 Duncan was Pipe Sergeant of the Breadalbane Pipe Band. A search of the 1891 and 1901 census records provides very little more information. In 1891 the family was still at Finlarig and. Duncan Campbell was described as a “Gatekeeper”. With him were his wife Annie, son Duncan, now 15 but with no occupation listed and daughter Annie, a scholar aged 11. In 1901 they lived at Finlarig Cottage. Duncan (59) was described as Piper, his wife Ann was now 57, son Duncan was no longer at home and daughter Annie (21) was a dressmaker. Their niece, Sarah McCallum (14) stayed with them.

Duncan joined the 5th Volunteer Battalion Black Watch and served with the Killin Company as Pipe Major at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in London in 1897. A letter from Duncan to Lord Breadalbane has been preserved in the Breadalbane papers and was found by Keith Sanger during his researches. The letter is written from Finlarig Castle on May 11, 1899 and concerns uniforms for the band. Duncan writes that he needs four sets of wings for the band members and a new Pipe Major’s coat for himself as the one he has is very shabby and worn under the arms.

Duncan remained in Breadalbane’s service for 41 years then retired to live at Aberfeldy. His house is still called Allanbank today and is situated very close to where Duncan MacDougall had his house and factory.

Allanbank, the house in Aberfeldy where Duncan Campbell lived.

Duncan was pictured in the Oban Times when attending the Breadalbane Gathering at the age of 84. He died in July 1924. His compositions include Captain Campbell of Drumavoisk, Kilmartin Castle, Captain Archibald Leslie’s March, Murray’s Welcome, Leaving Dunkeld and The Duchess of Atholl’s Jig.

The best known of Duncan Campbell’s tunes appear in two modern collections of pipe music, William Ross’s Book 3 as Captain Campbell of Drum a Voisk (where it is stated the composer was D. Galbraith), and in the Glenallan Collection as Captain Campbell of Drumvuick (which attributes the tune to Duncan). Not only does this tune appear to have two names and two composers but to further complicate the issue there were two Duncan Campbells, both composers and both living at the same time. However, the tune first appears in David Glen’s second collection in 1890 under the name Captain Campbell of Drumvuick’s Quickstep and composed by Pipe Major D. Campbell 79th Q.O.C.H. We can assume that as this book is the earliest and gives the fullest information on the composer this is the correct man.

Duncan’s most famous composition as it appears in Willie Ross’s Book 3 were the composer is stated incorrectly.

Little is known of Donald Galbraith except that he is thought to be from Islay and a pupil of Angus MacKay, who was in Islay during the years 1835-1843. Galbraith won several prizes in the years 1850-1875. The other Duncan Campbell was born at Fortingall in Perthshire in 1816 and died in Edinburgh in 1860 after a fall while on duty as a nightwatchman at the Royal Bank of Scotland. He broke his leg in the fall and this was amputated but he died a week later. He was Piper to the Duke of Atholl from 1842-48, Piper to William Campbell of Tullichewan Castle (1849), Piper to Sir Charles Forbes of Newe (1850-58), winner of the Prize Pipe at Inverness in 1850 and composer of Sir Charles Forbes Farewell to Edinglassie, Edinglassie House, Edinburgh Volunteers March, Leaving Strathdon and many other tunes.

Drumavuick is on Loch Creran side in Argyll. In census records for 1881 it appears as Drimavuich and in 1891 the spellings Druimvuich and Druimvuick are used. On a modern road map it appears as Druimavuic. Balleveolan is sometimes used as an alternative name for the area and the name Baileveolan appears in 1891 adjacent to Druimvuich.

A daughter of the Campbell of Drumavuick family was named Veola from the place name. The Breadalbane estates at this time extended from Aberfeldy to the west coast. The Campbells of Drumavuick are a cadet family of the Campbells of Barcaldine who in turn were a cadet branch of the Breadalbane Campbells, so Captain Campbell may have been known to Duncan Campbell through this connection. There is no such place as Drumavoisk but I have been informed by a Gaelic speaker from the area that Drumavuick when pronounced correctly sounds like Drumavoisk.

* Nearly 16,000 Dundonians marched to the city’s Magdalen Green to demonstrate against the House of Lords’ rejection of William E. Gladstone’s Bill to improve the electoral system. Similar demonstrations took place all over the UK. Even after the 1884 Act, only about 5.6 million men (about 40% of the total population) were entitled to vote.

• First published in the January 2015 Piping Times.