Famous pipers: the MacIntyre family


Those who have bought a copy of the inaugural Piping Times Annual will have read historian, Keith Sanger’s article on the myth of pipers formerly living rent-free. One of the case studies Keith focuses on is Donald Roy MacIntyre, the Earl of Breadalbane’s piper in the late 17th century. This particular family was one that ran through a number of generations. Here, Keith details them.

By Keith Sanger

Donald Roy MacIntyre appears in the Breadalbane estate records as a piper in 1674. His birth, therefore, is placed at least ten years earlier. Likewise, his wife Margaret Dunster’s birth will have been earlier than her minimum legal age for their marriage in 1678. All references to Donald Roy with a location always place him in the vicinity of Kenmore (that is just generally under ‘Kenmore’ in the earlier rentals), at Balloch in his marriage entry and more specifically at Wester Stucks (modern Stix) in the later entries.

Donald was the incumbent piper when “the piper was sent to Edinburgh for pipes” in 1679. When he first appears he is described as a piper, but is also being given £40 to learn his trade plus £4 to buy him clothes. Unfortunately, it does not record where he was going to learn that trade, but since a similar sum of £40 was given to Donald’s son, John when he was sent to “mc Crooman” it would seem to be a reasonable assumption that Donald may also have preceded his son to Skye.

Donald Roy and his wife were clearly still alive and healthy in 1722 when they petitioned the new Earl for a recommencement of the weekly meal allowance that had ceased at death of the previous Earl. In their petition they describe themselves as “now turned very old and infirm” but an alternative view was given in another petition that same year from the four other tenants of Wester Stucks, who complained that the piper not only abused their arable lands with his beastes “but when we challenge him therefore threatens and abuses us, and besides a great many loose persons frequenting his house brings us his neighbours under every bad character” and whose horses were also in what would have been an unenclosed holding, abusing the arable land.

Stix (or Styx) is in the foreground. In the distance are Carse, Camserney, Dull and Menzies Castle. (Photo: Stuart Letford)

Clearly, Donald Roy’s home was functioning as a sort of ceilidh house with people being drawn there for the music from his pipes. The other tenants had clearly had enough and even offered “if it please your honour to remove the said Donald from our neighbourhood they would pay the rent of his croft if it could not be re-let”.

Donald died before 1728 when a Testament was recorded.

John MacIntyre, Donald’s son, appears in the Breadalbane records being sent as a “prentice” in 1697. His birth is therefore place at least ten years earlier. Unfortunately, the Kenmore parish records have a gap between the end of March 1678 until re commencing in 1687 so his birth would probably fall somewhere within this period.

His time in Skye was over by March 1700 when Breadalbane requested his Ground Officer in Glenorchy to find a set for him and that he was allowed £24 as his fee. Presumably, no set was free so he then turns up between 1701 to 1703, along with two of his Skye buddies, John and Donald MacCrummen, listed under “Drummers” in Captain Campbell of Fonads Company of soldiers.

By 1705 he was acting as piper to Breadalbane’s son, Colin Campbell on his estate in Nether Lorn and was holding one merkland rent free in the 20 merkland of Degnish, about five miles south of Ardmaddy.

Colin Campbell died young in 1707. Presumably, John MacIntyre stayed on in Degnish for a while, since he was still in Lorne when in 1709 the factor there, responding to a request from the Earl, arranged for him to go to Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe. His father’s home at Wester Stucks by Kenmore was at that time right at the edge of the Breadalbane lands. North across the river Tay was the Menzies estate, and Easter Stucks was also held by Menzies.

At that time, MacIntyres can be found on both estates so when John got a tack on the Menzies lands in Rannoch in 1711 the MacIntyres already in the area were probably related to him. Rannoch was not the most settled part of the country as far as the rule of law went, (probably why it was easier to get a holding there), and by 1712 John McIntyre, piper in Rannoch, was already pursuing an unsuccessful Sheriff Court claim for three stolen cows. Whether it was the need to recoup his losses or simply using his piping skills to earn extra income he is next recorded as receiving remuneration in 1713 for his piping services at the deer hunt in Atholl and at the Fortingal market. In the record of payment he was described as piper to Finab, (Campbell of Finab/Fonab) but this seems to have only been a short term or temporary position, possible connected with the military post which had been placed at Rannoch to police the area, an aim which given his loss of cows, he would have probably supported.

By the following year he was certainly back as “John McIntyre pyper in Kinchlacher” when he was paid by the Menzies estate for attending Dull market. From then on he is firmly associated with “Kinchlacher” where he is shown in the rentals but without the attribution of ‘piper’ although when he appears elsewhere  in for example the accounts for buying in meal he is always described as piper in “Kinchlacher” or piper in Rannoch. The implication is that from the start he held the tack on the same basis as any of the other tacksmen and not for his services as a piper, which when used by for example Finab or for attending markets and other occasions were paid specifically for those events. However, as time went on while he is still not described as a piper in the rentals, he starts to get a ‘salary’ which offsets about half of the rent of his tack and it has to be assumed that this was certainly connected with his skill as a piper.

Looking south over Kenaclacher. The farm is now holiday accommodation. (Photo: Stuart Letford)

The reason appears to be that there was already a piper, one Donald MacGregor formerly employed as such on the Menzies estate, initially in Camserney and then after 1722 when Menzies of Weem acquired part of the forfeited Kynachan estate MacGregor was given half of Bruce Croft rent free. It is very significant that when Donald MacGregor disappears from the rentals circa 1734, probably having died, John MacIntyre at Kinchlacher starts being described as piper in the rentals.

Duncan MacIntyre was the younger son of Donald Roy. Other than the entry in the Kenmore Parish record for the September 13, 1691, recorded as “Baptised to Donald McIntyre & Margt Dunster his wife a child called Duncan” nothing more is heard of him. Is he the Duncan MacIntyre who turns up as piper to Clanranald?

John’s son, Donald was described as a man of 75 years of age when he competed and gained first prize in the 1785 competition. Uniquely, this was his second prize pipe since he had also previously been awarded the prize pipe in the Edinburgh competition in 1783. However, as this followed that year’s official Highland Society of London (HSL) competition which had earlier been held in Falkirk, it presumably did not count as an HSL prize.

Another one of John’s sons, Allan, competed in the second competition of 1783, where he was described as late of the 71st Regiment, and resident in Edinburgh. This was probably his second spell as a resident there since a letter written to Sir Robert Menzies by his son in Edinburgh in 1771 has what appears to be a reference to him “and have at last got Allan McIntyre made a Town Guard Soldier”. He competed again in 1785 when he was described as Allan McIntyre of Edinburgh, and again in 1786 when he was described as “of Rannoch”.

John MacIntyre appears along with his father and two brothers in a list of all adult males on the Rannoch tacks, which differed from the normal rentals by listing all the cotters (sub tenants) and servants. The document was undated but suggested to be later than 1743, although probably not by much and may have had some sort of connection with the events leading to the ’45, but what is not clear since most of the Menzies tenants took their lead from Menzies of Weem himself who endeavoured to stay aloof from both sides of the conflict. However, since John MacIntyre senior died around the beginning of 1743, it must be before then.

Donald MacIntyre competed in 1785 when he was described as Donald M’Intyre jun. from the estate of Sir Robert Menzies of that Ilk in Rannoch. He competed again in 1786 when he was described as Donald M’Intyre from Sir Rob. Menzies estate. As the father of Robert MacIntyre (No 9) he is probably the ‘Donald Bàn’ of the Gaelic poem composed in praise of his son. In 1797 he was a witness to the marches of the Menzies Rannoch estate and was described as being 70 years old.

Dugald MacIntyre gained second prize in 1794 and first in 1799, on both occasions being described simply as Dugald MacIntyre from Lorne, Argyllshire. In the account of the 1783 competition Donald MacIntyre was described as “piper to Sir Robert Menzies. This man has bred two sons pipers, and he himself is son to the late celebrated M’Intyre who was bred at the College of Dunvegan.” Taken as read it clearly refers to Donald senior son of the John MacIntyre who was sent to Skye in 1697 and means that he had another piping son apart from Donald junior. Lacking any other suitable candidate and given the MacIntyre families previous associations with the Campbells then Dugald seems to be the likely missing member of the family. It also adds an interesting point that if correct it means that after Donald  Senior had won the double prize pipes in 1783 and 1785, a member of each of the next two generations, Dugald in 1799 and Robert in 1790 were also winners of prize pipes.

Looking northwards over the western end of Loch Rannoch to Kenaclachar and Ardlarich. (Photo: Stuart Letford)

Robert MacIntyre was baptised in Fortingal parish on the April 2, 1769 to parents Donald McIntyre and Christine McGregor in “Kinchlacher”. He gained third prize at the 1787 competition when he was described as piper to John MacDonald of Clanranald. Gained second prize in 1788 and first prize in 1790. Sometime after Clanranald died in 1794 he seems to have been taken on by MacNeil of Barra as he was described as “servant to Mr MacNeil of Barra” when he petitionedthe Tutors of the Clanranald estate in 1799/1800 for a farm in Arisaig or alternatively Benbecula. Robert immigrated to Nova Scotia circa 1810-1813 leaving the ‘MacIntyre Pipes’ behind with MacDonald of Kinlockmoidart. The pipes are now deposited in the West Highland Museum in Fort William.

According to the short account on the Menzies pipes in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland volume 29, (1894/95), “John MacIntyre the brother of Robert, lived in the Menzies Rannoch country where he died about 1834-5, leaving a son, Donald, who had a farm called Allarich, at the top of Loch Rannoch”. This farm name was presumably a mistake or misprint for ‘Ardlarich,’ which is on the north side of the loch just a few miles east from Kinchlacher. The MacIntyre family connection with the farm may go back to Allan MacIntyre whose wife Elizabeth Kennedy was described in their marriage entry as “in Ardlarich”.

Donald MacIntyre is probably the son of John MacIntyre (Robert’s brother). He competed in the HSL competitions of 1816 and 1818.

Family tree of the MacIntyre pipers (provisional)