1921 comes to its Census


By Stuart Letford for Bagpipe.news

Pages from the 1921 Census in the United Kingdom (UK) were made available for the first time yesterday. Unfortunately, the pages only cover England and Wales. The pages that cover Scotland won’t be released until late this year due to “complications” as a result of the pandemic.

The pages give an indication as to how the UK was recovering from the end of the First World War and from the so-called ‘Spanish’ flu pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, there were many single mothers listed in the 1921 Census. Very few were single as a result of divorce, however – almost all were as a result of the First World War.

City of Glasgow Pipe Band pictured in 1921 with the Argyll Shield.

For the first time, the Census – this was the 13th – allowed respondents to identify themselves as being divorced and most tenants lived in privately rented housing, often in squalid conditions.

The population of Scotland on Census Day – June 19, 1921 – was 4,882,288 with just over half that figure being female. This was an increase of 121,384 from the 1911 Census.

Robert Reid.

In piping, 1921 saw Pipe Major Robert Reid of the 7th Bn. Highland Light Infantry win the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting. His winning tune was MacLeod of Raasay’s Salute. At Oban, 1921 Pipe Major David Mathieson, of the Seaforth Highlanders won the Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering*. We are not sure what tune he played. In the Open Piobaireachd at Oban, Pipe Major Willie Gray won for the third time.

At the 1921 Northern Meeting, the great G. S. McLennan he won the third of this three Clasps. A year later he was discharged from the Army after 22 years of service.

The City of Glasgow Pipe Band under Pipe Major William Fergusson won the World Championship that year. Interestingly, John MacColl’s son, also called John, played in this band. In the Juvenile world, Stirlingshire’s Fallin Pipe Band was the World Championship-winning outfit. (Fallin was the last Scottish mining village built as a direct consequence of the discovery of an abundance of good quality coal in the area).

Alexander Fettes, the composer of the well-known 6/8 march, Glendaruel Highlanders, died in 1921. Fettes was born in Aboyne but immigrated to South Africa in later years.

In 1921, a pipe band competition took place for the first time at the Maryborough Highland Gathering in Victoria, Australia. Maryborough hosts the oldest continuous games in the continent. Meanwhile, in Canada, Duncan MacTavish, a former policeman from Glasgow was appointed Pipe Major of Vancouver Police Pipe Band

Pipe bands that formed that year include St Thomas Legion of Ontario, Cullybackey, the Regimental Band of the NI Constabulary, the Jordanian Armed Forces Pipe Band, the MacLean Pipe Band, Peterhead British Legion, Chicago Highlanders (later the Chicago Stockyards Kilty band). 1921 was also the year the Boys’ Brigade introduced its Pipers’ and Drummers’ badges.

Elsewhere that year, insulin is discovered at the University of Toronto, the first recorded public performance of the illusion of ‘sawing a woman in half’ is given in London, the full-length silent comedy film The Kid, written, produced, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin (in his Tramp character) is released and the Irish War of Independence begins. Also, the British government formally returns the coal mines from wartime control to their private owners, who promptly demand wage cuts; in response, the miners strike, leading in turn to the government declaring a state of emergency On April 1, a lockout of striking coal miners then begins. Around Europe, communism takes hold. Meanwhile, in Wichita, Kansas, the world’s first fast food chain is founded, luxury goods brand Gucci is founded in Italy and Albert Einstein is awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Oh, and the first birth control clinic in the UK opened in London.

1921. What a year!