Jackie Bogan is now a young 90-year-old, and still playing regularly with the Northampton Pipe Band. Chatting with him was like catching a glimpse of history, with names of piping legends and a time when life was very different to the one we live today.
Born in Greenock in 1931, Jackie lived his young life in Sandbank on the Holy Loch, three miles away from Dunoon. At 12 years old Jackie started his piping tuition with John McLellan D.C.M. at Dunoon Grammar School and remembers him as a gentle man, but with a strict side when giving tuition on the chanter.
After leaving school Jackie received tuition from George MacDonald who had been Pipe Major of The Royal Scots and the 8th Argylls and was then Pipe Major of the Dunoon Ballochyle Pipe Band which Jackie joined when 15. Jackie said: “I didn’t get pipes till I was 15, and it was George MacDonald who got me them though Henderson in Glasgow. George used to make reeds for Henderson, and he got me a set of MacDougall drones with a Henderson chanter. I’ve still got them and play them, they are very sweet and very light, though I’m playing them with a Warnock chanter now.”
Jackie then moved to Greenock to finish his time as a marine engineer and played with the pipes and drums of the 5/6th Argylls, with one of their duties being to play the Scottish emigrants off Princess Pier onto ships bound for Canada.
Jackie takes up his story: “The Queen caught up with me 1952 and I received my National Service papers to go to Inverness to be trained as a Cameron Highlander. After my embarkation leave, I went back to Cameron Barracks and they told me I had to go to Fort George to be kitted out as a Seaforth Highlander, as I was going to Korea.
“So off I went to Fort George. But Evan MacRae, who was Pipe Major of the Camerons, arrived back from the Suez Canal Zone and asked, ‘are there any pipers in the draft?’, and said ‘YES, SIR!’. So I ended up going to Spittal an der Drau in Austria instead of Korea.”
Jackie was in good piping company in Austria as John D Burgess was Pipe Corporal of the band with Evan MacRae as Pipe Major: “I remember coming home from Austria, and we got to Liverpool Street Station in London, and Evan MacRae had shaved his beard off leaving only his moustache. So he got CO’s Orders for ‘removing the beard without permission’ when he got back.
“When I left the army in 1954 I went back to Kincaids in Greenock and finished my time. While I was there, I wrote to BP and got a job in the Merchant Navy and went to sea as an engineer in 1955. I spent six years in the Merchant Navy, until one day my young daughter said to my wife, ‘where’s the man going to sleep?’. She had no problem with me being daddy during the day, but I became ‘the man’ at nighttime, and that was enough to make me leave the sea and go back into the boatyard at home.”
After a number of years and a few engineering jobs in Kuwait, when Jackie took his pipes and played with Kuwaiti pipers, he eventually settled down with his family to live and work in Northampton. That’s where he is now, in his 91st year, still going strong as a member of Northampton Pipe Band. Band member, Rod Elder explained: “Jackie is one of the stalwart players of the band and turns up for every engagement – even to our annual trips to Germany. The band have been going to Rehau in Bavaria for 25 years, to the Wiesenfest and have built up friendships with families that we have stayed with over the years – they love us over there.
We are a community band and do a lot of gala days and Jackie is always there, rain, hail or shine.”
The Northampton Pipe Band can be contacted through their website here.