Piping 100 years ago: March 1924

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By JEANNIE CAMPBELL MBE • PART 3 • MARCH

Jail and hard labour for stealing pipes

On 1st March the Campbeltown Courier reported a burglary at Torrisdale. Two tinkers were to appear at Greenock Sheriff Court on Monday charged that on 10th January they broke into an unoccupied cottage of which John McCallum, Coal Merchant was tenant and stole a tartan kilt, 3 bagpipe chanters, a double blanket, a single blanket, a watch, a razor and case, a tin cash box, 8 foreign coins, a set of bagpipes, a lady’s tweed skirt, a lady’s cloth coat and skirt, two brooches and a small mirror. The trial of the two men, Duncan Williamson and John Townsley, was reported in detail on 15th March. The stolen pipes which had previously belonged to an uncle of the tenant had been in a box in the loft. The bagpipes had been traced as they were posted to J and R Glen in Edinburgh. The post mistress in Campbeltown identified Williamson as the sender and Andrew MacKay Ross of J and R Glen described having received the pipes in a parcel from Campbeltown and receiving separately a letter of enquiry about refitting the set. The pipes were identified as they had an unusual type of mounting. For Williamson the sentence was nine months’ imprisonment with hard labour, to date from the time of his apprehension. Townsley had pleaded guilty. His record was not nearly so bad and he received a lesser sentence of four months also with hard labour.

Highland Dancing was featured at a concert in Broughty Ferry on Saturday 1st March, with bagpipe accompaniment being supplied by Master James Martin and at the Fincastle Workmen’s Club the entertainment included bagpipe selections by Messrs Forbes and McLaren.

At a church social in Perth piping selections were given by Mr Peter McDiarmid and in Markinch at a church social there was piping from David Pottie.

Several English papers reported on a dog named George who apparently enjoyed bagpipe music and joined in by howling. He had performed on a children’s radio programme but when required to do the same for another programme he simply barked.

City of Glasgow Pipe Band

The Edinburgh Evening News on 7th March reported: “The Glasgow broadcasting station, better known nowadays as 5SC last night celebrated its first birthday, when a special programme was given. As on the occasion of the opening programme last year, the birthday programme began with a selection of pipe music given by the City of Glasgow Pipe Band, among the items being a march entitled 5SC Birthday, specially composed for the occasion by Pipe Major William Fergusson.”

On 8th March the Campbeltown Courier reported on a Leap Year dance at Ballochantuy with piping from John MacLean and a concert at Clachan where the piper was W Hampton.

At the Clydebank Highlanders concert in the town hall there was a performance by the Singer pipe band under PM D S Gray.

The annual dinner of the London Fife Association took place on 8th March at the Connaught Rooms. The musical programme included stirring bagpipe selections by Messrs Robertson, Pullar and Nicol.

Dr Charles Bannatyne, pipe tune composer and collector dies

The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser on Saturday 8th March reported “Dr Charles Bannatyne, Salsburgh, died in a nursing home in Glasgow on Wednesday. The elder son of the late John Bannatyne ex-Provost of Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, Dr Bannatyne was educated at Ayr Academy and Glasgow University. Descended from an old Bute family who migrated to Arran towards the middle of the seventeenth century, he was keenly interested in everything pertaining to the Highlands and he composed many bagpipe marches, strathspey and reels which were played in all parts of the world. Possessed of a magnificent tenor voice, Dr Bannatyne frequently appeared as a vocalist at charity concerts, and he wrote articles on ‘The Voice and Voice Production,’ which were regarded as authoritative. He was 56 years of age and unmarried.

“Charles Bannatyne was born on 13th June in 1867 in Ayr. He qualified MB CM (Master of Surgery) at Glasgow University in 1890. He was Surgeon British India Navigation Co and RMS India, then in practice Southend, Kintyre 1897. By 1900 he was in practice at Luing and medical officer to the Luing and Oban Slate Quarries. He then practised briefly in Glasgow and Rutherglen, then he was in practice at Salburgh, Lanarkshire from 1903 and also medical officer to mining companies in the area until his death. He studied piping with William Sutherland, Airdrie He published books and articles on singing, medical subjects, lectures and articles on piping, wrote over 200 letters to the Oban Times, collected, copied and amended piobaireachd manuscripts, and composed many tunes, the best known being The Blackbird and The Brolum. He was involved with the Scottish Pipers’ and Dancers Union, the Scottish Pipers’ Association, the Piobaireachd Society and the Cowal Gathering. He died on 5th March 1924.”

Later in the month the Campbeltown Courier added more information. Dr Bannatyne had obtained a copy of Gesto’s Canntaireachd in 1903 and had been able to master the notation and produce a key to it. His manuscript collection of piobaireachd transcripts included those belonging to John MacKay, brother of Angus MacKay, Angus MacArthur, William Sutherland and Michael MacCarfrae.

The Oban Times published an obituary with additional information. “He was a composer of merit and his marches, strathspeys and reels are everywhere popular.  He was an early member of the Piobaireachd Society and took a share in editing some of the publications of the society. He had an intimate knowledge of pipe music and was frequently called upon to act as a judge at Highland Gatherings. He was perhaps the first in recent times to revive interest in the ancient canntaireachd method of writing piobaireachd music. He possessed a valuable collection of piobaireachd manuscripts some of them written in canntaireachd. He was very successful as a composer of bagpipe tunes. He won the first prize for a reel in a competition arranged by the Cowal Highland Gathering in the composition of marches, strathspeys and reels in which most of the leading pipers were competitors and in a subsequent competition in 1920 he was awarded the first prize for a strathspey.”

At the March musical and social evening of the Gaelic Society of Perth the programme was opened by PM Kennedy and PM McPhee giving selections on the bagpipe.

On 12th March the Daily Mirror reported that: “The strains of the pibroch were heard in the quadrangle of Magdalen College, Oxford, which adjoins the ‘High’. An undergraduate in evening dress was playing the bagpipes, and from twenty to thirty undergraduates, also in evening dress, were dancing in the moonlight.”

In Blair Atholl a dance was organised by the young men as a compliment to the ladies who had organised the Leap Year dance. Music was provided by Mr Blyth’s orchestra and Pipe Major Pirnie.

On 14th March the Edinburgh Clan Donnachaidh held a gathering and dance. Among those providing the music was PM Prentice deputising for the Clan Piper PM Ian Robertson Dey who was absent.

On 15th March the Oban Times reported on a piping competition in Islay, organised by the Islay Pipers’ Society and held in Bowmore Public Hall on the evening of Wednesday 5th March. There were 16 competitors and the judge was PM MacLean, Glasgow. A new feature was the playing of piobaireachd. The results were, Practice Chanter, members under 20: 1. H Campbell, Bowmore; 2. C Campbell, Bowmore; 3. N McAffer. Piping. March, members under 20: 1. Ian C Cameron, Newton; 2. Archd Williamson, Octofad; 3. Wm MacDonald, Coille. Strathspey and Reel, as above: 1. D Mackenzie, Port Charlotte; 2. 2. Ian C Cameron; 3. John Brown, Ballygrant. March, members over 20: 1. Chas McCalman, Port Ellen; 2. John Woodrow, Bridgend; 3. A L McArthur, Lagavulin. Strathspey and Reel, as above: 1. D Ramsay, Bunahaven; 2. A Lamont, Port Charlotte; 3. Chas Fletcher, Bowmore. MSR, former first prize winners: 1. D McPhee, Port Askaig; 2. Ian C Cameron; 3. Hugh Gray, Ballinaby. Piobaireachd open to members: 1. D McPhee, Port Askaig; 2. C McCalman; 3. Ian C Cameron. There were also two dancing events, Highland Fling and Sword Dance.

Ian C Cameron (1909-1990) served with the 11th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during World War Two and was wounded in action. In 1940 he was commissioned Captain. He was a well known judge of piping.

On 23rd March the Edinburgh Battalion of the Boys’ Brigade had their annual church parade. This was followed by the piping competition in which 17 boys took part. The result was, Piping:  1. H Rayner, 45th coy; 2. C Watson, 16th coy; 3. M Henderson, 4th coy. Drumming: 1. G Jamieson, 41st coy; 2. Equal William McPherson and William Leslie 41st coy.

The Aberdeen radio station broadcast a Scottish Night on 15th March, which included selections from G Reid.

H S Strafford wrote to the Oban Times and the Scotsman on 17th March: “Sir, As secretary of Cowal Highland Gathering may I crave space in your columns to record a tribute of respect to the memory of the late Dr Bannatyne, who for a quarter of a century was in active sympathy with the objects and prosperity of Cowal gathering? I do not think that throughout that long period he ever missed attending the annual gathering, certainly not since 1906, when the Argyll Shield Band Contest was inaugurated. During all these years he acted as a judge of piping, giving his decisions without fear or favour, with credit to himself, and, as far as possible, satisfaction to competitors. His knowledge of pibroch and history of piob mhor was of high standard and extensive. He was ever ready to give advice, and I had frequent occasion to appeal to him how best to foster and encourage bagpipe playing, the primary object of this Association, in which he mostly heartily joined. Probably his last proposed act in this connection was to examine the pupils of the Cowal School of Bagpipes on the Wednesday before he died. Pipers throughout the country will remember him with great respect and high appreciation. We in Dunoon will endeavour to keep his memory green by annual competition for the Bannatyne Shield, his generous gift to this Association some years ago.”

A strange item appeared in several papers on 18th March: “After Mr Ramsay MacDonald’s solo on the Welsh harp, Mr Lloyd George cannot do less than learn to play the bagpipes.”

Comunn Gaidhealach an Obain held a Grand Concert in the Argyllshire Gathering Halls on Thursday 20th March. Among the performers was Piper Kenneth Lawrie.

The West Lothian Courier on 21st March had a small advertisement stating, Bagpipe Tuition. Miss A B Williamson is prepared to take in pupils. Terms moderate. 24 Mosshall Place, Blackburn, by Bathgate.

Danced before Royalty. Death of Pipe Major McGregor.

The Edinburgh Evening News on 21st March had this: “The funeral has taken place in the quiet churchyard of Blackford in Perthshire, of Mr Andrew McGregor, Greenloaning. Deceased who was a native of Currie gained considerable renown as a professional piper and dancer. He was pipe major with the Earl of Ancaster at Drummond Castle, where on several occasions he danced before Royalty. He was a Highland Society pipe medallist, and frequently acted as a judge of pipe music at Highland gatherings. He was well known in Edinburgh dancing and piping circles. In his younger days he was well known as an athlete and his sons the McGregor brothers have a high reputation as wrestlers. Mr McGregor was also an excellent shot and secured several cups and medals for shooting. For 15 years he was gamekeeper at Carim with Captain Home Drummond Murray and for the past 12 years he had acted as bailiff to the Allan Water Angling Association.”

A concert in aid of the Coatbridge Burgh War Memorial Fund was held in the town hall on 21st March. Among those those taking were PM Ferguson and Piper Nicol.

A display of dancing by 60 pupils of Miss Lena Miller took place in the Foresters’ Hall, Dundee on 21st March. Piping was provided by James Miller and William Allardyce. On the same evening in the Foresters’ West Hall, a concert organised by the Scots National League included piping selections from Mr W Salmond.

An Comunn Gaidhealach, Fortingall branch held a concert on 21st March in aid of distress in the Western Highlands and Islands. The proceedings opened with bagpipe selections from Mr J Fraser. A concert for the same cause was held at Kenmore with piping from Duncan McNiven. On 21st March in Birnam a concert included piping selections from Mr Donald Allan and in Broxburn a dancing exhibition took place. Music for the Highland dancing was provided by Piper William Neill and the judges were Dr Alex and Dr Angus Kelso.

Dr Alexander Sim Kelso, 1862-1938 had a medical practicein Broxburn and was a great benefactor to the local community. Towards the end of 1904, he was asked to help start a pipe band. He accepted, and bought instruments and outfits for the band. In addition, he paid for the teaching of the band and its Highland dancers for a year. The band became known as Dr Kelso’s Lothian Pipers, with the tartan worn named after Dr Kelso. An offshoot of the band was Dr Kelso’s Lothian Ladies. Both bands were active in the years prior to the Great War.

Around 22nd March several papers had a strange article stating: “Bagpipes are not peculiar to Scotland. You will find them in almost any hilly country. If a man is walking uphill he naturally gets out of breath, and he needs an instrument that will play itself when he has no wind left. A goatskin forms an excellent air reservoir. It can be blown tight whilst walking on the level, and during uphill walking it will go on playing if it is squeezed between the arm and the side.”

On 23rd March the Edinburgh Battalion of the Boys’ Brigade had their annual church parade. This was followed by the piping competition in which 17 boys took part. The result was, Piping:  1. H Rayner, 45th coy; 2. C Watson, 16th coy; 3. M Henderson, 4th coy. Drumming: 1. G Jamieson, 41st coy; 2. Equal William McPherson and William Leslie 41st coy.

On the same date the 4th Battalion Gordon Highlanders had their annual church parade, marching from Woolmanhill Drill Hall to the church under the command of Lt Col C D Peterkin CBE and led by the pipe band and the brass band under Drum Major Stewart, Pipe Major Cruickshank and Bandmaster J Upton.

The Oban Times on 29th March reported the wedding at Coll of Charles Edward Stewart of Coll to Margaret J MacDonald of Balranald on 12th March. Pipers Donald Robertson and Duncan MacFadyen played suitable tunes including Highland Wedding, Woo’ed an Married an a’ and Happy We’ve Been a’ Thegether.

Scottish Pipers’ Association competition

The same paper reported that: “The bagpipe competition held in the Religious Institution Rooms, Buchanan Street, Glasgow, under the auspices of the Scottish Pipers’ Association attracted a large number of competitors and others interested in pipe music. In opening the proceedings Pipe Major William MacLean, Lochiel Camerons, Stirling, made sympathetic reference to the death of Dr Charles Bannatyne, a life member of the Association, and a recognised authority on pipe music, who was ever ready to encourage the young in the art of bagpipe playing. He was pleased to say that the Scottish Pipers’ Association was doing everything possible to encourage the playing of Piobaireachd, Ceol Mor, Marches, Strathspeys and Reels. To become a member of such an excellent association of bagpipe enthusiasts was a very easy matter as the membership fee was a very modest one. Numerically and financially the Association was in a flourishing condition, and its membership included some of the best known Highlanders and pipers in Scotland. The officials of the Association were much indebted to the secretary PM Malcolm MacLean Currie for the excellent arrangements made. The following were the prize winners, March (confined to juveniles who never won a first prize at any competition): 1. J S Burnie, Glasgow; 2. B Ferguson, Glasgow; 3. R Cowie, Glasgow; 4. J Brassie, Lanark. Strathspey and Reel: 1. J Brassie; 2. J Cowie; 3. H Bradshaw, Glasgow; 4. P Hay, Glasgow. March, Strathspey and Reel (confined to amateur members): 1. H Kennedy, Tiree; 2. J McNicol, Islay; 3. Cameron Hutcheson, Dalmuir; 4. R Davidson, Glasgow. Piobaireachd: J MacDougall Gillies Trophy and gold medal: 1. John McL McIntyre, Glasgow, MacKay’s Banner; 2. H McTavish, Glasgow, Earl of Seaforth; 3. John Kerr, Dollar, Kinlochmoidart Salute; 4. H Kennedy, Tiree, Glengarry’s March; 5. N Shaw, Islay, Groat; 6. Cameron Hutcheson, Dalmuir, MacLeod of Raasay Salute. The judges were PM John MacDonald, Stirling and Mr James McIvor, Govan.

Hugh Kennedy was born in Tiree c1908, but the family moved to Glasgow. He won the Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1928. By profession he became a school teacher.

Also reported was a concert organised by the Tir nam Beann Society in Edinburgh which included piping from Mr W Thomson and the Jubilee concert of St Columba Gaelic Choir tin the City Hall, Glasgow, where Pipe Major Edwin MacPherson and party played bagpipe selections.

The Scottish Society of Bathgate held their annual Highland Ball on 28th March. PM Strathearn and Piper Strathearn played the music for the Grand March and also for several of the Highland reels.

Falkirk and District Highland Society hells a concert in aid of the Highland Distress Fund. The programme included Highland dancers and music from Piper Finlayson.

The Glasgow Gaelic Musical Association held their 30th annual concert on 28th March. The Piobaireachd Mary Macleod played by accomplished young piper John McLellan MacIntyre was the first item on the programme.

At the gathering of the Gaelic Society of London the programme opened with selections from the King’s piper, Pipe Major Forsyth. Later in the programme there were selections from Piper D Pullar.

A popular variety artist was featured in some English papers during the last week of March when he was appearing at the Coliseum in London. He was Neil MacKay, still aged under 30 and described as “a very fine comedian, he has a fund of good stories, is a very good acrobatic dancer, plays the bagpipes magnificently and manages to be screamingly funny in everything he does. In fact he is a real artist in the great tradition.”

At the final An Comunn Gaidhealach concert of the season at Kinloch Rannoch there were bagpipe selections from Miss May Cameron, Craignevis and Cpl Donald MacMaster.

On 29th March 300 emigrants left Lochboisdale pier for Red Deer in Canada on the Canadian Pacific liner Marloch. Among them was Pipe Major John MacMillan, formerly of the 6th Camerons and a great composer of pipe music. He led the Cameron pipe band in their famous war march into Brussels. He was now emigrating with his family of three young children, accompanied by his brother Duncan with his family of six children. The ship departed to the sound of bagpipes on the ship and on the shore.

On Sunday 30th March the war memorial in St Andrews was unveiled and dedicated. Pipe Major Kirk played the lament.