History: South Uist’s Forgotten Piper

Further to my ‘Sheepwife’ story and Pipe Major Mick Haggerty, I wish to let you know that since his passing in 1974 the grave site of P/M Haggerty at Sandgate Cemetery (near Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia) has been unmarked. Two months ago (Saturday, 8th May) Graham Adams, Paul Ross, Ron Lightfoot and I placed a cross on Mick’s grave to help perpetuate the memory of such an influential piper.

By Dennis Browning

Graham was in Scotland 1967-68 and received tuition from Bob Pitkeathly whose son was Captain Andrew Pitkeathly, Sovereign’s Piper 1966-1973 and former Director of Army Bagpipe Music. Paul was in Scotland 1977 – 1978 and received tuition from Malcolm McRae. Ron was a drummer with Cardiff RSL Pipe Band in the early 1970s.

A brief history: Mick Haggerty, was a native of South Uist and information from the 1901 Scotland Census indicates he was born in 1896, the sixth of eight children, born to Michael and Margaret Haggerty.



He joined the Cameron Highlanders and attended the Pipe Major’s course at Edinburgh Castle under P/M Willie Ross. I am lucky to have in my possession his music book from the course which is where I noticed his gracenoting of the Sheepwife and the similarities with it and the version mentioned in Robert Wallace’s introduction to his ‘Glasgow Collection’. 

Mick’s name appears on two honour boards in the Pipers’ Hut, Cameron Barracks, Inverness, indicating he was Pipe Major of the Camerons 1935-1939.

Honour boards at Cameron Barracks. Readers will note the other well-known names: P/M Evan MacRae, Gold Medallist and early schools tutor in Lochaber, William Young, uncle and tutor of the late Jimmy Young, Edinburgh Police, and College of Piping, and John Steele, also South Uist

Information on his military service cannot be accessed as his service medals bearing his service number were buried with him. His miniature medals, which he can been wearing in the pictures of him, are in the possession of a former pupil – their image is attached below indicating his serving in Africa and Italy during World War 2:

Shipping records indicate his arrival in Brisbane in 1955 where it is understood he had an aunt. Not long after arriving he moved to Newcastle, N.S.W.

In 1960 he took over the Pipes and Drums of the 15th Northern River Lancers (NRL) and in the following two years the band reached a very high standard winning all contests in which they took part. 

The Pipes and Drums stood down from competition in 1964 as undefeated State Champions. The 15th NRL were later to become the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Australian Army Corps of Transport. 

A reunion of the five Pipe Majors who served in the 15th NRL and RAACT Pipes and Drums: Frank Baillie, Mick Haggerty, Len Sands, Alec Douglas and Gordon Body

During this time Mick was tutoring many young local pipers – some of whom joined the newly formed Cardiff RSL Pipe Band under P/M Frank Baillie (former P/M 15th NRL). This band had a very successful reign from the 1960s through to the 1980s.

Most, if not all of the local pipers in the Newcastle area came under the influence of Mick’s tutelage.

The cross and plaque which now mark Mick Haggerty’s grave

I was introduced to Mick when I moved from Maclean to Newcastle in 1972. I was a side drummer in the Maclean Pipe Band during my secondary school years. At the age of 18 I decided that piping was the way to go and with Mick’s help I managed to have a solid start to my piping journey.

Up until his death in June 1974, a small group would attend Mick’s unit on Maitland Road, Islington every Saturday afternoon for tuition and a chance to play to each other.

His patience and the knowledge he bestowed on pupils willing to learn was second to none. His influence on Newcastle’s piping culture was considerable.

He taught piobaireachd in the oral tradition and influenced his pupils as to how to play – not what to play. Mick lives on through the legacy he left behind in his pupils.  

I would be interested if there was any way of getting information on his attending the Pipe Major’s course in the 1930s. I cannot get anything at all from this end. Could someone at the Army School of Piping help please?


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11 thoughts on “History: South Uist’s Forgotten Piper

  1. As pointed out already, Michael was born in Uist on 20th May 1908. His parents were John Haggarty (born Barra, 31 March 1864) and Ann Johnson (Born in Iochdar 7 Feb 1868 – an aunt of Ruaraidh Chailein) and not the Michael of Ireland and Margaret of Neilston who were the parents of the Michael mentioned in 1901 as being born in 1896. In the 1911 census, the family were at Holmar,Lochcarnan: John 42, Annie 41, Roderick 13, Murdoch 11,Chirsty Flora 10, Flora 8, Maggie 6, John 4,Michael 2, Peter 1. Michael and his siblings were my dad’s third cousins. In 1955 in left for Australia and his last address in Scotland was 121 Weir Street, Glasgow the home of his sister Chirsty Flora and her husband Angus MacDonald.

  2. As noted already, Michael was born in Uist on 20th May 1908 to John Haggarty (born Barra, 31 March 1864) and Ann Johnson (Born in Iochdar 7 Feb 1868 – an aunt of Ruaraidh Chailein) and not the Michael of Ireland and Margaret of Neilston who were the parents of the Michael mentioned in 1901 as being born in 1896. In the 1911 census, the family were at Holmar,Lochcarnan: John 42, Annie 41, Roderick 13, Murdoch 11,Chirsty Flora 10, Flora 8, Maggie 6, John 4,Michael 2, Peter 1. In 1955 he left Glasgow for Australia, his last address in Glasgow being 121 Weir Street the home of his sister Chirsty Flora MacDonald nee Haggarty. Michael and his siblings were my dad’s third cousins.

  3. The Michael Haggarty born ‘about 1896’ as recorded in the 1901 census was actually born in 1895 in West Calder as were his siblings. Furthermore, neither his father nor his mother were from South Uist. His father was from Ireland.

    There was however a Michael Haggarty born in South Uist on 20th May 1908 and that man sailed for Australia in 1955.

    Then there is also the issue of the Haggarty/Haggerty name spelling although perhaps not of such importance.

    Sure you have the right man?

    1. Thank you for your input Ron. It has been a very long hunt by quite a few people just to get the small amount of information I have so far. It seems you may be on the right track with your information regarding “a Michael Haggarty born in South Uist on 20th May 1908 and that man sailed for Australia in 1955”. I know I have the right man as far as his time in Australia goes – he was a very private man when it came to his past which makes it very hard to get the facts. I know he wore the MacPherson tartan as I believe his mother’s maiden name was MacPherson. I am hoping that this article may shine a light on his past – particularly his army service.

    2. FWIW – from online school records.
      “Michael Iain Haggarty
      Michael was a son of John Haggarty and Ann Johnson and he was born at Holmar on 20 May 1908.
      After he left Carnan School, Michael went to the mainland and did some mental nursing. At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the Cameron Highlanders and attained the rank of Pipe Major.”

      1. Yes David…..that is the man (identical DOB….born in Holmar) who sailed for Sydney in April 1955 aboard the ‘New Australia’. He left a contact address : c/o Mrs MacDonald, 121 Weir Street, Glasgow.

        Furthermore Dennis…..Aad Boode in his ‘PipeMajors of Military Pipes & Drums from 1679 to Present Day’ has Michael Haggerty recorded as Pipe-Major of the Northern River Lancers from 1955 to 1956 and thereafter, Pipe-Major of the 1/15th Royal NSW Lancers from 1956 until 1960.

      2. From the same source, his older brother John and his sister Margaret (Mrs MacKinnon) both married and settled in Barra. Can their families not shed any light on what you need?
        As an after-thought, I’m sure Norman Johnson in Uist was a Cameron Highlander and would have played alongside him if he carried on serving after the war. Rab Wallace might be able to get in touch.

  4. A very interesting article. If I may add a footnote, the late Jimmy Young was also Pipe Major of 153 (Highland) Regiment, Royal Corps of Transport (Volunteers) which he led to 6th prize in the 1973 World Pipe Band Championships. As well as his many accolades in solo piping Jimmy considered that his greatest achievement, according to his family.

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