Piping 100 years ago: February 1924

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By JEANNIE CAMPBELL MBE • PART 2 • FEBRUARY

At the beginning of February 1924 several papers in the south of England had a small advertisement in the Situations Vacant column: ‘Wanted. Bagpipe Player, for street advertisement; good money for right man. Gaiety Theatre.’ At the end of the month local papers described a picturesque Highlander in full kit being used for attracting the crowds to the Gaiety where a production of Young Lochinvar was taking place. The skirl of the bagpipes and the commanding bearing of the player were a fine advertisement.

Willowfield Prize Pipe Band in Ireland

In Ireland the Willowfield Prize Pipe Band held their annual meeting on 6th February. The band officials elected included PM S Scales, Assistant PM J Bingham and tutor PM William Hope. The same column reported that at the meeting of the NIBA a heated discussion arose condemning registrations and bands signing on players who were not transferred according to rules. Three forms were to be returned to the Woodvale band. Delegates were reminded that trophies were now due to be returned. The North of Ireland Bands’ Association (NIBA) had been formed in 1907, a time when Ireland was all one country. It covered Brass and Reed Bands and Flute Bands in addition to Pipe Bands.

The Scotsman advertised a concert by the Edinburgh Tir Nam Beann Society for 6th February. The programme included bagpipe selections by the Society Pipers.

On Wednesday 6th February Edinburgh Gaelic Choir held a Grand Concert in Broxburn Picturedrome. The entertainment was advertised as Scottish, Highland and Hebridean Songs, Highland Piping and Dancing etc. The piper was PM Duff.

The February meeting of the Perth Gaelic Society featured a talk on the Rattrays plus bagpipe music and Scottish songs.

The Farmers’ Ball in Oban took place at the beginning of February with PM A Lawrie and Piper Stewart playing for the reels.

During the early months of the year the various Highland or Gaelic Associations and Societies held their annual gatherings, concerts or dances, often with a piper taking part.

4th Cameron Highlanders

The annual reunion dinner of the officers of the 4th Cameron Highlanders was held in the Caledonian Hotel, Inverness on 3rd February with piping from PM John S Ross. In Kingussie the local company of the 4th Cameron Highlanders held their annual dance with piping from Ian Johnstone and John MacKenzie. The Strathbraan WRI held a social and dance which included bagpipe selections by Mr A MacGregor. A bal masque in Pitlochry was held to raise money for the Juvenile Rechabites. Highland dances were performed to the music of pipers A Fraser and C Miller.

Little Alva Fraser

Advertising in The Stage on 7th February included among the variety acts ‘Little Alva Fraser. The Lassie frae Inverness. Scottish Comedienne, Highland Dancer and Bagpipe Player. Vacant for Variety or Revue, Feb 18. This, Metropole, Manchester: Next, Hippodrome, Salford.’ Advertising of various shows featuring Little Alva Fraser continued over the following months.

Entertainment at the annual Choir Social in Comrie early in February included selections from PM D McFarlane.

Piper Duncan Lamont

In Pennyghael the Women’s Rural Institute were entertained to a concert and dance by the Tiroran WRI. The programme included Piper D Lamont.

Duncan Lamont (1894-1973) had served with the Cameronians during the Great War and was batman and piper to Brigadier General Cheape of Tiroran. He then served with the 8th Argylls TA from just before the second world war then in served France until 1940 then at Perth barracks tutoring pipers. He had worked as a gardener then was the postman at Pennyghael until retirement.      

Piping and dancing competition in Clydebank

A piping and dancing competition was held at Whitecrook Hall, Clydebank on 9th February. The Chairman, Mr Peter Robertson, Home Farm, Dalmuir was supported by PM McLean Currie, PM McLean, Lochiel Camerons and Mr James Johnston, Govan. The judges for piping were Mr Thomson, the Distillery, Bowling, and Mr P Melville, Glasgow Police. Stewards were PM Wm Gray, Glasgow Police and PM Hutcheson. The prize winners were, Juvenile two part March: 1. Chas McKechnie; 2. T Hay, Dennistoun; 3. D Fleming, Dalmuir; 4. W McCulloch, Dalmuir. Juvenile four part March: 1. Cameron Hutcheson, Dalmuir; 2. Miss Fitzpatrick, Partick; 3. R Cowie, Townhead; 4. A Fletcher, Maryhill. Juvenile Strathspey and Reel: 1. Cameron Hutcheson; 2. Miss Fitzpatrick, Partick; 3. T Hay; 4. A Fletcher. Amateur March: 1. John Keir, Dollar; 2. Cameron Hutcheson; 3. J Grant, Barrhead; 4. J McIntyre. Amateur Strathspey and Reel: 1. A McKechnie; 2. J Grant; 3. J McIntyre; 4. J Keir. Slow March (open): 1. J Grant; 2. Miss Fitzpatrick; 3. A McKechnie; 4. Cameron Hutcheson.

C Company, 4/5 Black Watch

A Military Ball was held in the Drill Hall, Arbroath under the auspices of C Company, 4/5 Black Watch. Music was provided by a Regimental Band from Dundee and a Pipe Band under PM Lundie. At the Dundee Clansmen’s Musical Assembly there was piping from J Rattray. At the Seaforth Highlanders Association concert there was piping from PM MacPhee. At Perth Gaelic Society there were selections from PM Kennedy and PM MacPhee. The Black Watch Association held a social evening in Perth City Hall, with music from PM Cameron and others.

Mr Kenneth Mathieson

On 11th February the funeral of Mr Kenneth Mathieson, a familiar figure in the glen, took place at the kirkyard in Glendevon. He was the son of a former provost of Dunfermline and had been educated at Merchiston Castle school. He belonged to an old Highland family, was proud of his descent, invariably wore the garb of old Gaul and was an efficient player of the bagpipes. The coffin was wrapped in a tartan plaid and a piper played the Flowers of the Forest as it was carried to the kirkyard.

The Kintyre Homing Pigeon Society held a Grand Concert in Drumlemble Mission Hall on February 15th. Included were piping selections from Mr R McCallum and Highland Dancing by pupils of Mr P McCallum.

A concert and dance under the auspices of the Auckengill Ploughing Association was held on 15th February. Included in the programme were bagpipe selections from Mr D Steven.

The Westminster Gazette on 18th February reported, ‘In response to an order from Scottish residents in the Fijis, a Glasgow firm has sent an expert in the art of piping, accompanied by a complete set of bagpipes and drums, for the purpose of establishing a Scottish pipe band on the islands. The man has gone out on a three year contract.’

In Berkshire a whist drive to raise funds for the 1st Berks Scout Troop was held on 20th February. During the interval Scout Hubert White, a member of the Troop Pipe Band gave a selection on the bagpipe.

At the Vancouver Gaelic Society’s monthly meeting on 21st February there were bagpipe selections from Mt E Murray.

In Halkirk a concert in aid of the Street Lighting Fund was held on 22nd February. The programme began with bagpipe selections from pipers Asher and Macdonald. Both played again to start the second half. A dance followed the concert, music being supplied by pipers Asher and Campbell, a melodeon player and a pianist. 

The NIBA Band contest for the Championship of Ireland was advertised for Thursday and Friday evening 28th and 29th February.

A Grand Concert in Lasswade

A Grand Concert in aid of a pipe band or other Burgh Scheme was advertised to take place at Lasswade on 7th March. On the bill among others were PM William Ross, late of Scots Guards, Edinburgh Castle; PM J A Gordon, Premier Dancer of Scotland; and Miss Cecily Ross, Edinburgh Castle, pianist.

The concert was reported on 12th March. PM Ross opened the programme with a bagpipe selection and later in the evening delighted the audience with various selections and was deservedly encored. Miss Cecily Ross, a promising young pianist gave a tasteful selection and along with PM Ross contributed a popular martial air.

Willie’s daughter Cecily was born in the Tower of London in December 1908. She married in Edinburgh Castle in 1935 and her two daughters were born there. Cecily inherited her father’s musical talent but her chosen instrument was the piano not the bagpipe, although she played bagpipe music. At the age of thirteen in 1922 she competed at the Mod, winning third prize and two years later in 1924 at the age of fifteen she won the first prize for the playing of a march, strathspey and reel on the piano. She won many other prizes at various events around the country.

The Drawing Room Bagpipe

PM Alexander Ross formerly of the Scots Guards, younger brother of PM William Ross, applied to patent the drawing room bagpipe in 1923 and the patent was granted in 1924 as patent number 217511.  The manufacturer of the instrument was James Robertson. A newspaper article describing the pipes stated that ‘The bagpipe is not generally viewed with favour as an instrument for the house, especially in towns or cities. The miniature bagpipe overcame the difficulty of playing indoors but it did so at the expense of usefulness as the miniature pipes required more tuning and the sounds were more difficult to blend. To get a pipe that, when tuned, would remain so for a reasonable length of time, and would remain in rhythmical harmony with the piano and other instruments was the ambition of piping experts. In the end success has come and a pipe called the Drawing Room Pipe has been invented and patented. The blowing and manipulation are alike easy and simple. There are two drones, bass and tenor, and the chanter reed is the conducting element so to speak. The sweetness of tone is pleasing to the ear and to show how well the tuning is maintained the writer has heard the inventor play ten four parted marches and six strathspeys without having once to touch the reeds or drones. A peculiarly ingenious arrangement does away with the old moisture trouble entirely, and the pipe goes well with the piano.’

William Ross and his daughter Cecily were known to play duets on these drawing room pipes and piano. They broadcast on the Glasgow station in 1928 and again in 1929 then in 1930 they made a record together.

Mrs A R Campbell’s March

On 28th February the Daily Record reported that at a fund raising concert in the Highlanders’ Institute, Glasgow, some curiosity was expressed when piper Hugh Kennedy played an unfamiliar tune. This was the first time the tune had been played in public. It had been composed by PM Peter MacLeod, a native of Lewis, now resident in Glasgow, in honour of Mrs Campbell, wife of Captain A R Campbell, manager of the Institute and had been given the title Mrs A R Campbell’s March. The same paper reported that ‘The achievement of the Glasgow Police Pipe Band in winning the World’s Championship for the fourth time at Cowal Games last year was recalled when at a supper and social held in the Grand Hotel on Friday gold medals were presented to each of the players and drummers. It had been expected that General Dudgeon HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland would hand over the medals but he is laid up with influenza, as is Chief Constable Sillitoe so it fell to Assistant Chief Constable Walter Doherty to make the presentations.’

The annual Masonic Ball in Lanark was reported on 29th February. The programme included bagpipe selections from George Allan.

Cleland Pipe Band

The Wishaw Press and Advertiser on 29th February reported on a bazaar and sale of work held the previous Saturday to raise the funds to equip the Cleland Pipe Band in full Highland dress. The sum required was £250. About two year previously a few young men in the district who were pipers had decided to co-operate and in a short time they were in a position to pay a teacher. Inside twelve months they had a combination of thirteen pipers and twelve drummers with all the necessary instruments, pipes and drums. It said much for the personal effort put in by these lads that their accounts were clear with £20 to their credit. During the afternoon there were various activities, hoopla, clock golf, hat trimming, washer pitching etc in addition to the stalls and refreshments were sold. At the conclusion of the sale the sum of £240 was realised with a large amount of goods unsold. Dancing followed in the evening.

North of Ireland Bands’ Association Annual Championships

On 29th February the results were announced for the annual Championship Contests held under the auspices of the North of Ireland Bands’ Association held the previous evening in the Wellington Hall, YMCA. The adjudicators were Mr William Halliwell, Wigan and PM W Ross, Edinburgh. PM W Ross has had the distinguished honour of teaching the Prince of Wales to play the bagpipes. Mr William Halliwell has also had the honour of conducting his bands before the King and Queen. The results were announced at 11.40pm. Pipe Bands: 1. Sir Henry Wilson Memorial (conductor Thomas Graham); 2. Lebanon Street Pipe Band (conductor William Hope); 3. Duke of York Pipe Band (conductor W Anderson; medal for best drummer, Kitchener Memorial. Results followed for bands in the Brass and Reed Section and for Intermediate Flute Bands. Eight pipe bands took part. Mr J Farr, Pipe Major Kitchener Band, met with an unfortunate accident in falling off the platform but he pluckily returned and played. Balmoral Industrial School Band had also a misfortune, one of the lads fainting on the platform, this affecting the band. In more band news, Willowfield Pipe Band held a parade in full uniform on the evening of the previous Saturday. Mr Skeates had charge of a large turnout of members and some fine marches were played in good style. The Earl of Beaconsfield Pipe Band held their annual meeting in their room in Larch Street. Officials elected included Pipe major Mr W Rainey and teacher Mr Steenson.

The contest was concluded on Friday evening with the sections for Junior Second Grade, Brass, Junior First Grade and Senior Flute Bands.

At a Leap Year Dance in Inveraray Piper Duncan MacArthur played for the reels in a most accomplished manner. He had received his training from PM George MacKenzie and was an expert player.

A concert to raise funds for the District Nursing Association was held in the Drill Hall, Kilchenzie and featured bagpipe selections from Mr R McCallum. In Inveraray a meeting of An Comunn Gaidhealach bagpipe selections were discoursed by Mr P C Maitland in a spirited manner.