Rare photo of piping legend / Grandfathers clocked in Kilmarnock


A rare photograph of Pipe Major John McLellan DCM of Dunoon is the latest addition to the website created by a distant descendant of McLellan.

The photograph, below, shows McLellan as a young soldier and was taken during the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902. At the time of the photograph, McLellan would have been around 24 years of age.

Despite his legendary status, there are not many photographs of John ‘Jock’ McLellan (1875-1949) in existence.

John ‘Jock’ McLellan. He was mentioned in despatches for bravery while in charge of the stretcher-bearers at Magersfontein.

Duggy Day, who has built the website to his illustrious family member, tells us the photo appeared on an internet forum dedicated to the Boer War. Among other items pertaining to McLellan are a letter he wrote from South Africa to his brother in Dunoon. The letter was published in the Dunoon Herald of Friday 9th February 1900:

“Dear Brother, I must say I am in the best of health and spirits, hoping you are all the same. I suppose you would see in the papers about the big fight we had at Magersfontein. It was a very hard fight, indeed, and the Highlanders lost very heavily. We fought for fifteen hours and a half in the burning sun without food or water, and the bullets flying about our heads put me in mind of a hailstorm.

“Our object was to surprise the Boers early in the morning, when they were supposed to be asleep; but when we got two hundred yards off the trenches they fired a terrible rifle fire on us, and of course we were forced to retire. We were scattered about the field – nobody seemed to be in charge of us – so with the help of some volunteers the Highlanders formed up on their own accord and made for the trenches again. But although we fought all day we did not take the position. I was knocked about the field several times playing Highland Laddie on the pipes to gather the Highlanders together – some of them being very much disheartened after the hot reception they had in the morning. The pipes seemed to cheer them up, and the officers told me to keep on playing, although the bullets were whizzing past me like hail. The humming of my pipes prevented me from hearing them, and I imagined I was quite safe.

“The Gordon Highlanders joined us in the middle of the day and made for the trenches, but as they got near them were mowed down like grass. I don’t think the Highland Brigade will attempt it again.”

One of McLellan’s best known tunes is The Highland Brigade at Magersfontein. It featured in our Stories of the Tunes series.

Duggy’s website can be found at https://johnmclellandcm.weebly.com/

Stuart and Kenny pictured in October 2018 at the McCallum Bagpipes’ 20th anniversary ceilidh.

Congratulations to Kenny McLeod and Stuart McCallum of McCallum Bagpipes on them both becoming grandads for the first time.

Their respective grandsons were born within ten days of each other, Kenny’s on March 9 and Stuart’s on March 19. The babies, respectively a boy named Archie Jamies Hamilton Hudson and a girl named Kylie Henry, are reportedly healthy and growing.

A spokesman for McCallum Bagpipes said: “Both grandads recovered well from their hangovers.”