History: P/Sgt John Maclean, Scots Guards, the 1930 Northern Meeting and a Tribute to Mary Queen of Scots

I was interested in the Piping Press article (6th Sept. Donald Morrison Archive) regarding the Northern Meeting piping competitions 1930, which mentioned my father John Maclean (North Uist). Only minor error in the newspaper’s report was that my father was in fact Pipe-SERGEANT, not Pipe-Major. He was later Pipe-Major 2nd Btn. HLI.

In the Gold Medal he, like Nicol, played Cille Chriosd (Glengarry’s March). His fellow Guardsman, Malcolm ‘Baggy’ MacMillan was also in the prize-lists.

By Archie Maclean

When the downpour occurred, piping judges and competitors abandoned the field. The remaining light music competitions were held in the grandstand under the shelter of its roof!

The Strathspey & Reel results for that day were as follows:
1 RB Nicol (Piper to King George V)
2 Pipe-Sergeant John Maclean (1st Btn. Scots Guards)
3 Pipe-Major Robert Reid (7th Btn. HLI)
4 Pipe-Corporal Malcolm MacMillan (1st Btn. Scots Guards)

[The results of the Gold Medall and Marches were in the original article. Click on the link above.]

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I thought history-minded readers might be interested in the two attached photos from the previous year, 1929 [first one above].

They are extracts from ‘The Peterborough Advertiser’, commemorating the burial of Mary, Queen of Scots in Peterborough Cathedral.

Six months after her execution at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587, her remains were interred in the cathedral by order of Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1612, Mary’s son, King James I, had her remains removed from Peterborough and buried in Westminster Abbey.

The 1929 commemoration was organised by Peterborough Caledonian Society. In both photos, my father is the Pipe-Sergeant on the right, and his Pipe-Major, John D. MacDonald (Melness), is on the left.

Inside the cathedral, they played The Garb of Old Gaul as two Scottish standards were placed at the site of Mary’s former tomb.

In the group photo of dignitaries, the gentleman standing fifth from the right is John Buchan – lawyer, MP, and famous author of ‘The 39 Steps’ who was the guest of honour and guest speaker. He was later Governor General of Canada.

4 thoughts on “History: P/Sgt John Maclean, Scots Guards, the 1930 Northern Meeting and a Tribute to Mary Queen of Scots

    1. Hi Aad,
      In response to your query – my father John Maclean was Pipe-Major of the 2nd Btn. HLI from 1933 – 1943. He served on the NW Frontier 1933-38 based at Razmak garrison. In 1938 the battalion served in Palestine as part of the British Mandate. When WW2 broke out in 1939 he was in Egypt. He served in the Eritrea campaign against the Italians, and later in the Western Desert against Rommel’s Afrika Korps. The battalion was then in Iraq and later in Egypt. He left the Middle East in April 1943 after years abroad, to serve for a year on Home Defences. Jimmy McGrady took over as Pipe-Major.
      My father then served in the NW Europe campaign as Company Sergeant-Major HQ Company 1st Btn. HLI – Normandy, Operation Market-Garden, Battle of the Bulge (Ardennes, Belgium), over the Rhine to Hamburg via the Reichswald Forest. In Hamburg he became Regimental Sergeant-Major (RSM) 1st Btn. HLI, later RSM 5th Btn. HLI (BAOR). In 1946 he returned home as RSM 71st Primary Training Centre, Maryhill Barracks, Glasgow. In 1948, he left the army after 25 years service.

  1. The mention of Malcolm “Baggy” MacMillan caught my eye: he is in the 1928 photograph of the 1st Bn. Scots Guards to be found in the ‘Scots Guards Standard Settings of Pipe Music’ (Book 1), He is seated, second from the right, next to the pipe major.

    Malcolm’s sons Iain and Hugh were also pipers in the 1st Bn. Scots Guards, during the late-40s and early-50s, under P/M John Roe. I knew Hugh MacMillan in his later years, up to his death in September 2016: he was also nicked-named “Baggy”. Hugh helped P/M Roe to compile the tunes for the Scots Guards Book 1 in the early-50s.

    When their time in the Scots Guards was over, both Iain and Hugh emigrated to Australia. When they finally arrived at Sydney Harbour, a policeman confronted them, “Are you the MacMillan brothers ? Follow me into my office.” Naturally, they wondered what they had done wrong. They sat opposite the policeman at his desk, and he pushed two sheets of paper towards them, saying, “I want you to sign these.”
    The brothers looked at one another with worried looks, but, when they read the sheets of paper, a big grin came over their faces – they were application forms to join the New South Wales Pipe Band: their piping reputation had arrived before they did !

    After decades in Australia, and, at some stage, also working for an Arabian princess, Hugh MacMillan eventually returned to live in England in the late ’90s. He would tell me of his childhood in Glen Lyon, and later when the family moved to London and lived next-door to P/M J.B. Robertson (the judge in my first ever piping competition when I was 17).

    Hugh had played with the 1st Bn. Scots Guards for the 1953 Coronation of our Queen, so, 49 years later, when the Scots Guards Pipes & Drums played for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Hugh was invited to join them, resplendent in his Ancient MacMillan tartan.

    Hugh was an avid member of the Scottish Piping Society of London, and, for two years, was their President, during which time we enjoyed many top pipers travelling down from Scotland to give recitals. He, P/M Roger Huth (ex-Scots Guards) and myself used to teach beginners on behalf of the SPSL at the Horseferry Road HQ by kind permission of the London Scottish Regiment. Both P/M Roger Huth and Hugh MacMillan also taught and led the ‘Pinstripe Highlanders’ for many years.

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