The stories of Queen Victoria’s pipers are well known and there is no need to repeat them here, but there were several more pipers, perhaps less well known, who were employed by other members of Queen Victoria’s family.

Colin Cameron

In late April 1866 several newspapers carried this item: “Piper to Prince Alfred — Mr Colin Cameron, at present piper to William Malcolm, Esq. of Glenmoraig, Argyllshire, has been appointed piper to Prince Alfred, and enters upon his duties next month at Windsor Castle, where he has already played before her Majesty.  Mr. Cameron is a nephew of the champion piper of Scotland, Mr. Alexander Cameron, of the Museum Hotel, Greenock and his father piper to the Earl of Seaforth, Brahan Castle, Ross-shire.”

Prince Alfred, 1844-1900 was the second son of Queen Victoria. In 1866 he was given the title Duke of Edinburgh. In January 1867 the Duke left England for a visit to Australia where he was shot and wounded. He soon recovered, but the man who fired the shot was hanged. The piper accompanying him on this tour was John Forbes Farquharson. (J.F. Farquharson’s piping life is discussed in more detail below.)

Colin Cameron was born at Rosehaugh on January 26, 1843, son of Donald Cameron and Margaret MacKenzie. He was trained as a valet and piper. He won the Inverness Prize Pipe in 1861 aged 18 when described as piper to Keith W Stewart MacKenzie of Seaforth and was still described as such in October 1862. By July 1864 Colin was described as Piper to William Malcolm of Glenmorag, Dunoon, and was still in that position in September 1865 when he won the Former Winners Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting.

•Colin Cameron (centre), piper to the Duke of Edinburgh, was pictured in 1867 at Osborne with William Ross, piper to the Queen (seated) and William MacDonald, Piper to the Prince of Wales on the right

Competition results in August 1867 describe Colin Cameron as Piper to Mr G F W Callander, Argyllshire.  On August 15, 1867, the Glasgow Evening Post had this: “George Frederick Callander, the young Laird of Ardkinglass completed his 19th year, which was the occasion of great rejoicing on the estate. The neighbouring gentry and the tenantry were all invited, and a splendid dinner was given in the house. Dancing took place on the green opposite the house to the music of Cameron, piper to the young Laird, and his uncle, Alexander Cameron, champion piper, Greenock. In 1869 Callander left for Canada as an officer with the 78th Highlanders.  Callander’s older half sister, Janey, married Lord Archibald Campbell, brother of the Duke of Argyll and their children were Niall 10th Duke of Argyll and Lady Elspeth Campbell, who was herself a piper and an early member of the Piobaireachd Society.”

On September 1, 1868, Colin Cameron was described as Piper to George B Forbes of Asloun and on September 18, 1868, he was described as Piper, MacKenzie Volunteers. In 1870 he became Piper to Lord MacDuff MP.

Alexander Duff (1849–1912) was the eldest son of the 5th Earl Fife. On his father’s death in 1879, he became 6th Earl Fife.  In 1889, he married Louise, (1867-1931) the eldest daughter of the Prince of Wales and was created Duke of Fife.  Colin Cameron lived in London until his wife Ellen died in 1891 and then he returned to live at Seaforth Cottage, Fodderty. He continued to act as the Duke’s piper when the Duke was at his Scottish estates. Colin Cameron died on December 22, 1916, at Seaforth Cottage.

John Forbes Farquharson

John Forbes Farquharson was born in 1845 on the Edinglassie estate of Sir Charles Forbes on Donside, in Aberdeenshire. Donald MacPhee’s Collection and David Glen’s Collection Part 9, include a tune named Sir Charles Forbes of Edinglassie’ s Quickstep. According to the Oban Times the composer of this tune was Duncan Campbell of Aberfeldy, piper to Sir Charles Forbes of Castle Newe, Strathdon.

•J.F. Farquharson

Farquharson, a right shouldered player, received tuition first from Duncan Campbell in 1859, from Donald Cameron in 1861, from John Ban MacKenzie 1863-4 and then from John MacAllister, Piper to the Duke of Sutherland. During this time he was also studying medicine at Aberdeen Medical College. There are no newspaper reports of Farquharson’s appointment so the exact date is not known.

According to the Notices of Pipers in which he is named as James Forbes Farquharson, Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor to Edinglassie and visited Farquharson’s mother’s house. On the Queen’s recommendation J. F. was appointed as medical adviser and piper to Prince Alfred Duke of Edinburgh. Again, according to the Notices, Farquharson was a very superior type of man and a great favourite with Queen Victoria and all her children. Farquharson went on a series of tours with the Duke, during which he went to Australia, played before the Emperor of China, the King of Portugal, the Emperor of Brazil, Queen Emma of the Sandwich Islands, the Emperor of Japan, and various Maharajahs of India and Delhi. In 1867 he played at a banquet given by the Emperor Napoleon III in Paris during the Great Exhibition.

He was in Scotland again in 1868 to play at the Northern Meeting where he took second prize in the piobaireachd and second also in the strathspeys and marches, being described as J. F. Farquharson, Piper to the Duke of Edinburgh. In 1872 he was again second in the piobaireachd, playing The Blue Ribbon, and in 1874 was first for strathspeys and marches, winning a dirk. In 1874 the Duke of Edinburgh was married to Marie of Russia, only daughter of Tsar Alexander II and sister of the future Alexander III. J. F. played at the banquet given by the Tsar to celebrate the marriage. A tune named ‘Farquharson’s Farewell to Strathdon by J Campbell, piper to the King’ was published in later editions of Henderson’s Tutor. There was no King until 1901 when Victoria died but the tune may have been composed earlier.

At the time of the census in 1881 John F. Farquharson, aged 36, was one of 37 domestic servants listed at Clarence House, St James’s Palace, in London. He was described as a Domestic Servant, Valet. The head of the household and the only other person listed was Frederick William, Prince and Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, aged 61 whose occupation was given as Grand Duke and Prince of Great Britain. The Duke was a close relative of Queen Victoria. His grandmother Mary was a daughter of George II and his aunt Charlotte who married George III, was the grandmother of Queen Victoria. In addition he had married Augusta sister of the Duke of Cambridge who was his and Queen Victoria’s cousin.

After the death of the Duke in 1900, J. F. was appointed King’s Messenger for Home and Foreign Services, an appointment he held until his retirement in 1918. In the census for 1911 he was listed as John Forbes Farquharson, aged 65, servant, King’s Messenger, living at Buckingham Palace. He was said to be a very fine specimen of a Highlander and a great favourite with the Royal Households. He was decorated by 28 crowned heads of Europe, including the Tsar of Russia and the Sultan of Turkey. He retained his knowledge and interest in piping to the end of his life and was still playing the chanter until a week before his death. He died at his home in London in 1935 in his 92nd year. He was buried in Wandsworth cemetery and in accordance with his wishes his favourite piobaireachd Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon was played at the graveside by David Ross. He was survived by his wife and a son and daughter.

William MacDonald

William MacDonald, another right shouldered piper, became piper to the Prince of Wales in 1866. He was born in 1842 at Glenurquhart, a younger brother of Alexander MacDonald who had been piper to Robert MacPherson of Glentruim and later piper to the 5th Earl of Fife. William was Piper to Macpherson of Glentruim for two years then to John Fisher, Balavil, Kingussie for two and a half years then Piper to the Prince of Wales from 1866.  He composed the march Leaving Glenurquhart. The Northern Meeting report in the Edinburgh Evening Courant on September 22, 1866, indicates that his appointment with the Prince was about three months before: “Among the bagpipers who competed were William Macdonald, piper to the Prince of Wales; and William Mackay, bagpipe instructor to the Royal Caledonian Asylum, London. Macdonald carried off the second prize, and Mackay the third. Macdonald, who is a native of Glen Urquhart, received the appointment of piper to the Prince Wales about three months ago. He regularly accompanies the Prince, and was sent to the Gathering by his Royal Highness. He wears the Duke of Rothesay tartan, and is a handsome young man. He is considered to be excellent player but he is inferior, however, to his brother, Alexander Macdonald, Glentruim’s piper, who, it seems, was offered the appointment of piper to his Royal Highness, but declined to accept the office. So skilful is Alexander at the pipes that he has carried off almost all the valuable prizes at the competitions in the north, and he is now debarred from entering the lists on that account.”

William MacDonald won the Northern Meeting Prize Pipe in 1868 and the Former Winners Gold Medal in 1869. He was a prize winner at the Northern Meeting in 1866, 1867, 1868 and 1869 and in each report was listed as Piper to the Prince of Wales. There are numerous newspaper reports of him over the following years. The last report to refer to him as Piper to the Prince of Wales was in April 1873 but he may have continued until later that year. According to the Notices of Pipers ‘Latterly he was seized with religious zeal, and, it is said, would hear no music of any kind, destroying his pipes. His portrait as Piper to the Prince of Wales appeared in The Highlanders of Scotland – The Complete Watercolours Commissioned by Queen Victoria From Kenneth MacLeay. A portrait of the Queen’s Piper William Ross was also included.