Donald MacKillop/ Sandy Hain/ Lexy MacAskill/ Tommy Shearer

There is so much history all freely available to those prepared to search through the pages of Piping Press. Today we add to that fund of knowledge with this from reader Iain MacKillop…

Dear Piping Press, I hope this message finds you in good health as it leaves me. I write in connection with what is admittedly old news. I refer to an article dated 7 January 2016 ‘Sandy Hain/ Donella Beaton/ SPA/ South Florida etc.’

The article on Sandy Hain stated that the subject of the jig Donald McKillop was a Black Watch piper of that name from Wick. This is not in fact correct, but may be attributed to Sandy getting a little mixed up in old age. He supplied a manuscript copy of a handwritten copy of the jig Donald McKillop to my father Donald MacKillop, who was living at that time in Dunbeath, Caithness, and I subsequently photocopied and which your editor Robert Wallace may remember that I gave him some time in the late 1980s in Skye.

Sandy Hain

My father died in Wick, Caithness, in 2014, aged 83 and the coffin was carried to the graveside by family members and by his great friend Benny Manson, while Ronnie MacLean from South Uist played the pipes.

In actual fact no one by the name of Donald MacKillop has ever been born in Caithness at all – although there was a MacKillop family in Caithness since the 1870s (they originated from Berneray, Harris) and one of the clan is commemorated in the War Memorial at Thrumster, near Wick – William McKillop (1899 – 1918).  Strange to say he was a first cousin twice removed of the wife of my first cousin four times removed on my mother’s side.

The jig Donella Beaton

William McKillop was ‘sort of’ related to Donella Beaton, also mentioned in your article, being the first cousin 1x removed of the wife of Donella’s second cousin twice removed. Donella herself was a fourth cousin of my mother May Margaret MacDonald from Berneray, Harris.

Donella’s mother born Lexy MacAskill was a full first cousin of Lexy MacKillop from Berneray who was more widely known by her married name Lexy MacAskill due to the pipe tune composed by her son John Napier MacAskill.

Just to make a long story boring, I enclose photos of my father (on the left) and George Johnstone (on the right). They were in the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders together and were often taken for brothers. Kind regards, Iain MacKillop

• I do remember getting a copy of the tune from you Iain and many thanks for sending on that fascinating information about your family. The picture up top is of the pipers on the 1950 -51 course under Willie Ross at Edinburgh Castle. They are: L/Cpl George Johnstone, Cameron Highlanders; Cpl. Sandy Hain, Black Watch; Cpl. T. Shearer, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; Cpl. Peter Forbes, Highland Light Infantry; P/M Bob Crabb, Scots Guards; Bobby Cuthbertson (the dancer, who taught the course Highland dancing); Cpl. G. Symon, Gordon Highlanders; and L/Sgt. Ramsay, Irish Guards.

Another thought occurs to me re the list of pipers in the top photograph. Is the T Shearer in fact Tommy Shearer formerly Pipe Major of the Renfrew Pipe Band spoken of so highly by P/M Ian McLellan, Strathclyde Police? I’d also be pleased to receive further information on the careers of Peter Forbes, Dundee, and P/M Bob Crabb and of course any of the others mentioned..Ed.