Famous pipers: Aeneas Rose


Regular readers will recall our post on Jeannie Campbell’s discovery of a rare photograph showing Willie Lawrie receiving his Gold Medal at the 1910 Northern Meeting. The post also included two other rare photographs from that year’s competition, one of which [pictured] shows four judges who were seated, hidden from view of the piper on the boards behind them. What our post didn’t state was the names of these gentlemen.

Jeannie, however, has been digging further and has discovered their identities. They were, left to right: Colonel Horne of Stirkoke, Lieutenant W. D. Hepburn (Seaforth Highlanders), William Rose, Pitlochry and Major McNeill (93rd Highlanders).

William Rose was the son of Aeneas Rose and Isabella Stewart, to whom Aeneas married in 1860 in Blair Atholl. William was born in 1864 in Dunkeld and was later employed in a bank in Pitlochry. He was a good piper and judge but in his later years was unable to play due to asthma. He died in Pitlochry in 1915.

Aeneas Rose was born in Kingussie in 1832, a son of Lachlan Rose and Ann McKay. He had an elder brother, William and a younger sister, Ann. John Macpherson, (1806-1880) taught Aeneas his piping. John was the Pipe Major of the Atholl Highlanders and piper to the Duke of Atholl from 1826. He held these posts for 54 years and when Aeneas succeeded him, he, too, held his posts for a long time. Aeneas was piper to the Duke for 50 years and Pipe Major of the Atholl Highlanders for 40 years. He is probably best known to pipers as the composer of the 6/8 march, Lady Dorothea Stewart Murray’s Wedding Day.

Aeneas Rose.

There is an account on Aeneas that was serialised in the Evening Telegraph newspaper of June 10-11, 1903 on his retirement. It is fairly long but it provides some detail on Aeneas’ life and describes the esteem in which he was held. An edited version of the article is produced below:

Mr Aeneas Rose, Blair Atholl – A record of long service. Interesting career – Mr Aeneas Rose, of the West Lodge, Blair Atholl, has just retired after 531/2 years’ service with the present and the late Dukes of Atholl. Thinking that some of his experiences and reminiscences might be of interest to the readers of the Telegraph, one of our representatives called and had an interview with him the other day. And the result was not disappointing. During his long career Mr Rose has seen a great deal of life, and there are not a few incidents that will bear re-telling.

“Born at Nuide in the parish of Kingussie on 17th July 1832, Mr Rose has nearly completed his 71st year. Time has dealt with him gently and he looks a good many years younger. Well made, straight as a rash, and active in his walk, he carries himself with a lightness that some men 20 years his junior might envy. The son of a farmer, he was educated at Newtonmore, under Gordon Meldrum, a relative of the respected minister of Logierait. When only 14 years of age he was appointed teacher in a school at the east end of Loch Errochd near Dalwhinnie and had 45 scholars under his charge. He remained there for a couple of years, then removed to Glentruim, where he taught for fully 12 months. There was a proposal by the ministers of the place that he should attend the University, but about that time he got a letter from his brother, Alexander, asking if he would join him in the Duke of Atholl’s service with the otter hounds.

“Fond of fishing and all other outdoor sports, the young student, though he did not bid farewell to his books – for he remained a voracious reader though life – chose to follow the otter hunter, and instead of becoming a dominie or a minister became a ground officer and a famous Pipe Major of the Atholl Highlander.

“Leaving his mother’s house, he walked to Dalnacardoch, where he was met by his brother and a couple of ponies, and rode down to the kennels at Blair Castle. Next day he donned the kilt, and since then has seldom worn any other garb.

“… From the time he went to Blair Mr Rose was fond of the pipes, and he practised much with old John Macpherson, his celebrated predecessor, and became very proficient. The late Duchess-Dowager, who heard him playing a pibroch quietly, took a fancy to his style and asked him to go and play in the Castle one night. He was placed in an ante-room adjoining the dining-room, and during the evening he was told that there was some wagering as to who was playing, some of the party thinking that it was John Macpherson all the time.

“He went to Edinburgh to take lessons on the bagpipes, and was there when the King’s Own Regiment embarked at Leith for the Crimea in 1854. At that time he received offers of appointment from different gentlemen but would not leave the Atholl family who had been so kind to him. For a number of years Mr Rose continued to play the pipes at night in the Castle with the late John Macpherson.

“… In 1850 the Empress of the French, travelling incognito, arrived at Birnam Hotel … The Duke [of Atholl] took her into Mr Rose’s house (he was married and settled in Dunkeld at this time) and she took a glass of milk from Mrs Rose. In accordance with instructions from the Duke, Mr Rose and his brother Willie went over to Birnam on the Monday evening, and, stationed themselves immediately below the window of the Empress’s sitting room, played selections on the pipes while she was at dinner. Both were playing well then. She opened the window, and both musicians had to go upstairs, being introduced by the Marquis le Grange.

Aeneas Rose.
Aeneas Rose.

“In the following year the Duke of Atholl, Lord James Murray, the Marquis of Tullibardine, now the present Duke, Lord Dunmore and others were invited to a hunting party at Compiègne, and at the bottom of the Duke’s invitation were the words, ‘And bring Rose, the piper, with you.’

“They crossed by Dover and Calais in the middle of a severe storm, but the cordial reception and kind treatment experienced at Compiègne soon drove away all disagreeable memories of the journey. He was instructed to go to the Empress’s boudoir with his pipes. All the gentlemen were in Highland costume, and the Empress and most of the French ladies present wore Atholl tartan in honour of the Duke. When we went in the Empress shook hands with him, took the pipes, stating that she was to show to the ladies, and this she did. At the request of the Empress, he played a reel, which was danced by eight couples, Her Imperial Highness asking the Duke to be her partner. After having played three or four reels and strathspeys the Emperor came in, thanked him for his kindness to the Empress while in Scotland, and hoped that he would enjoy himself while at Compiègne.

“There was wild boar hunting, deer hunting, and shooting almost every day. And splendid sport was got. While the visit lasted, Mr Rose and the other servants had free passes to the theatres in Paris, which they attended in Highland costume. They were frequently greeted with cheers and shouts of les braves Ecossaises.

Blair Castle’s West Lodge, where Aeneas Rose lived for many years.

“In 1852, the same party got a second invitation to visit the Emperor and Empress at Compiègne … One day the Empress, who was an excellent shot, killed eight pheasants with her own gun. One of the pheasants she gifted to Mr Rose, asking him to keep it as an heirloom in his family. It was sent to Paris to be stuffed and forwarded to Mr Rose at Dunkeld about a fortnight afterwards. Ever since it has occupied a prominent position in his house.

Fording the River Tarf as John MacPherson and Aeneas Rose play.
The painting showing Queen Victoria’s party fording the River Tarff as John Macpherson and Aeneas Rose play.

“Among other things in his possession which are highly valued by Mr Rose is a picture which he got from the late Queen Victoria, through the Duchess Dowager in January 1869. It is an engraving of the painting of the Queen and the Prince Consort fording the Tarff on 9th October, 1861. Her Majesty’s pony was led by the Duke of Atholl and John Brown, while Mr Rose was there as piper and played till after Lord Fife and his men met them at the march. Mr Rose accompanied the late Duke to the station to meet her late Majesty when she visited Blair Atholl in her widowhood in 1863.

“Mr Rose was appointed ground officer at Dunkeld in 1863, and two years later he removed to the West Lodge, Blair Atholl, which he has occupied for the last 38 years, and where he hopes to spend the last days of his life. He occupied the position of Pipe Major of the Atholl Highlanders between 30 and 40 years. At first he had only four pipers, but when he gave up there was a band of 13. He always turned out with the regiment and has frequently been with them at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, while he was never absent from the Atholl Gathering. He was present at the laying of the founation stone of the Wallace Monument near Stirling, and he and his brother, William played the pipes with the Atholl Highlanders at the opening of the Loch Katrine Water Works by the late Queen on 14th October 1859. After returning home on that occasion, his brother composed the famous quick step The Atholl Highlanders’ March to Loch Katrine.

September 1913. The last full parade of the Atholl Highlanders before it was revived in 1966 by the 10th Duke of Atholl. The photo shows the regiment marching to the Gathering Park in the grounds of Blair Castle. The 7th Duke of Atholl can be seen holding his sword.

“Mr Rose always enjoyed the respect and confidence of the Ducal family and during the South African war he was in correspondence with the Dukes three sons, and sent them newspapers regularly.

“Mr and Mrs Rose have a grown-up family of five sons and four daughters, all of whom have done well and fill responsible professional positions. Than Mr Rose no one is better known in Atholl, and it is the wish of all that he may be long spared to enjoy his well-earned retirement.”

Aeneas’ died in 1905 at Blair Atholl.

As the report states, Aeneas’ elder brother, William was also in the service of the Duke of Atholl. William died in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1896. Aeneas and William’s sister, Ann, was the mother of Mary Collie, whose sons, Willie Ross and Alex Ross, would later become Pipe Majors in the Scots Guards. Willie and Alex used to visit Blair Atholl regularly to receive tuition from their great uncles.