Researching the Pipe Band of the Royal Company of Archers, The Queen’s Bodyguard in Scotland

I am attempting to find details of the uniforms that were created for the pipe band of the Royal Company of Archers (RCA). I am in the process of creating models of the RCA pipe band based on a very poor photo of the band I have found.

The Royal Company of Archers is a ceremonial unit that serves as the Sovereign’s Bodyguard in Scotland, a role it has performed since 1822 during the reign of King George IV, when the company provided a personal bodyguard to the King on his visit to Scotland.

By Gerard Moulin

From my research so far I have found out that the band was created in 1904 using members of the Edinburgh Post Office Pipe Band and consisted of a Pipe Major, plus five pipers, a bass drummer and two side drummers.

Their first major event was the Royal Review of all the Volunteer units of every Scottish Regiment held on the 18th September 1905 in Holyrood Park in front of King Edward VII. The pipe band led the whole of the King’s Bodyguard for Scotland who were led by the mounted Captain General  William Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 6th Duke of Buccleuch, to their station in front of the central pavilion.   

The Edinburgh Post Office Pipe Band continued to supply members for the RCA official events right up to 1956. In 1957 an approach was made to the Chief Constable of Edinburgh who readily agreed to allow the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band to accept official appointment to supply members to act as the RCA pipe band.

The uniform of the band consisted of the same green cloth, Kilmarnock Bonnet as the RCA members but with blackcock feathers as opposed to the eagle feathers of the Archers.

The doublet was dark green, double-breasted with two rows of gilt buttons and appears to be of identical cut to those worn by Scots Guards pipers.

The kilts and fly plaids I am assuming are Royal Stewart, but this is something no one seems to know. I guess this is based on a very poor hand coloured early post card. The socks and hose? I do not know what their colours were.

They wore black brogues with gilt buckles at first, and from a later photo they wore white spats or gaiters.

They appear to all wear the Archers’ gilt roman sword hung from a black baldrick (sword belt) but with an oval gilt plate and a black waist belt with archers gilt buckle. I have no idea what the colour of the pipers’ bag covers were or if they were tartan. I also need information on the tartan of the drone ribbons.

As to the Pipe-Major’s pipe banner, this I can only surmise at, also his sleeve badge. Lastly I need to know the colours of the three drums and if they had the RCA heraldic shield.

I am hoping readers of Piping Press can give me some or any answers. I have been in contact with the RCA themselves but they were at a loss as to any records of the pipe band uniform details.

11 thoughts on “Researching the Pipe Band of the Royal Company of Archers, The Queen’s Bodyguard in Scotland

  1. It is very interesting reading all about the Uniform of the Royal Company of Archers Pipe Band and all your comments. I was wondering if anyone had any information or photos of the sporran they wore ?

  2. Thank you to all who were kind enough to put down some details regarding the uniforms and instruments of the Royal Company of Archers Pipe band.
    If anyone has any knowledge of the pipe banner heraldry of the Pipe Major and the heraldry of the two side drums and base drum I have been unable to find any research.
    Wishing all a Happy, healthy Christmas and New Year.

  3. My Great Grandfather was in the Edinburgh Postal pipe band in 1895, Ron and I have communicated a number of times on this as I have some of the original pictures from my family historical artefacts. He was killed in 1915 near Ypres when serving with the Seaforth Highlanders. My Grandfather also served in WW2 and played with the RCA & Post Office pipe band. I now own the set of pipes that was originally in the hands of both men, a set of 1895 Henderson ebony, ivory & silver beauties. These were passed to me from my Uncle last year when he passed away.

    1. Many thanks for your message, The Edinburgh Post Office pipe band only supplied the members of the band. The uniforms were made in Edinburgh especially for the Royal Company of Archers and I am awaiting a reply from their manufacturers once they have had a chance to research their records. Unfortunately with Covid this will be some time.
      Regards Gerald Moulin

  4. The tartan is definitely Royal Stewart.

    The only plaid that is obvious is that of the drummer in the RCA-3 picture. It is not a Fly Plaid (a relatively modern invention) but a Drummer’s or Half Plaid.

    1. Thank you for your message regarding the tartan of the pipe band definitely being Royal Stewart. I have also just received this piece of information from the Imperial War Museum in London having been told by the Post Office museum about two photos held there of the Edinburgh Post Office band in action as the pipe band of the Archers.
      I was very pleased to be given the detail of the Drummer’s or Half Plaid, many thanks for your help,
      Regards Gerald Moulin

  5. The first Pipe-Major of the Royal Company of Archers was possibly P/M Henry Smith Flett. He was P/M of the Edinburgh Postal Workers Pipe Band around 1905/1906, a band that had been established in 1895 by former Gordon Highlanders piper James Ross Gordon.

    Flett had purportedly served prior to that for 12 years in the Seaforth Highlanders. In 1912 he left Scotland for Canada and in 1915 joined the 43rd CEF.

    Future Pipe-Majors of the Postal Workers band, and presumably the Royal Company of Archers; included John W Currie (c1920), Forbes James Walker (early 1920s), James Steen (1925 to 1931), Thomas Rutherford Hook (1931 to 1938), John Ross (c1947 to c1950) and John G Slattery (c1954).

    At one stage (early to mid 1940s?), James Hughes may also have been Pipe-Major. He had been a Corporal-Piper in the 1/4th Royal Scots during WW1.

    1. Thank you Ron for the details you have posted on the various Pipe-Majors, do you happen to have any photographs of them as Pipe-majors wearing the RCA uniform.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *