Piping in WW2: Heroes of the Scottish Pipers’ Association

The second excerpt from Jeannie Campbell’s history of piping 1939-1945 which first appeared in Pipe Band magazine in 2007…….

During the war years the Scottish Pipers’ Association continued to meet in Glasgow and to run their amateur/juvenile competitions. At the beginning of the War, Malcolm MacLean Currie was the Association Secretary. The full committee is pictured above in 1936.

Malcolm Currie had served during the First World War as P/M of the R.A.M.C. pipe band and later as staff sergeant forming camps for convalescent soldiers. Since then he had been caretaker of the Royal Field Artillery Hall at Yorkhill Parade in Glasgow. Although greatly harassed by the many increasing duties brought about by the Second War he never failed to give of his best for the SPA.

He was on his way home from one of their weekly meetings on the evening of Saturday 28th December 1940 when he died suddenly, aged 75. He was buried at Cathcart Cemetery where the cortege was met by a large representation of the Association headed by a band of pipers under the leadership of P/M Archie MacPhedran.

As so many members were away on militaruy service, the Treasurer, Hugh Kennedy, the 1928 Argyllshire Gathering Gold Medallist, took over the Joint Office of Secretary and Treasurer and kept the Club going during the remaining war years. Meetings continued on Saturday evenings every week in Room 7 of the Highlanders’ Institute in Elmbank St., Glasgow, under the leadership of Pipe Major Robert Reid who was the President from 1940 to 1948.

Hugh Kennedy, Tiree and Glasgow

Robert Reid had been a boy piper in the 5th Highland Light Infantry TA before 1914, then served during the First World War with the same regiment. After the war he had a bagpipe making business in Glasgow. He was one of the top competing pipers in the years between the wars. During the Second War he was an Royal Artillery small arms and drill instructor until 1945. 

All pipers on military service were made welcome at the Club meetings and members were kept informed when news was available from members on active service. Young members were welcome too and even young beginners were encouraged to play a tune on the Club pipes.

A number of pipers from the Canadian forces called when on leave. One visitor was Piper John MacDonald from Nova Scotia who was glad to meet up with his namesake P/M John MacDonald of South Uist and the Glasgow Police.

The Juvenile Competitions continued during the war and these events also provided encouragement for the younger pipers to improve their playing.  

Prize winners at the 1940 SPA Amateur/Juvenile competition were Robert Hardie, John Love, John MacFadyen, Angus MacLeod, Robert McFie, Hector MacFadyen, Archie Taylor and William Simpson. 

The 1941 prizewinners were Donald Macpherson, Iain Macpherson, Roderick Morrison, Angus MacLeod, John MacFadyen, John Love, Archie Taylor, Hector MacFadyen and Donald Campbell. Some of these young pipers reached the age for military service during the war years. 

Iain Macpherson was a piper with the Territorial HLI at the beginning of the war but was soon away on active service, firstly with the HLI and later with the 5th Parachute Regiment. He returned after his service with the Military Medal and was awarded a life membership of the SPA.

Iain Macpherson was, like his younger brother Donald, a top piper and a fine composer. He won the Military Medal in WW2

His younger brother, Donald Macpherson, was a prizewinner again in 1942, with Angus MacLeod, John Love, Roderick Morrison, John MacFadyen, George Rich and John MacLean. Following this Donald too went away on war service with the RAF. During his service his left arm was injured in an accident leaving him with a permanent disability, which made his subsequent piping career a little bit more difficult. 

With the return of members from the forces there was a boom in piping and the Club then moved from Room 7 to the Gym Hall of the Highlanders’ Institute. Some of the members who had distinguished themselves during the War were awarded life memberships, some who did not come back were honoured with memorial trophies. 

Duncan McIntyre was born in Islay but lived in Glasgow. He came from a piping family, as his father and his cousin, John C. Johnston of the Glasgow Police, were pipers. Duncan was a piper in the Glasgow Transport Pipe Band and a member of the Scottish Pipers’ Association where he was a regular player at Club nights.

Duncan McIntyre, Islay and Glasgow. He was killed at El Alamein. A trophy in his memory is still competed for at the SPA

He had begun to compete professionally at the top level and won the Strathspey and Reel at the Northern Meeting in 1938. When the War came he enlisted in the Black Watch but was killed at El Alamein on 23 October 1942 aged only 28.

He led his battalion into the battle, playing his pipes all the way. He was hit several times and eventually was killed, but not before he had inspired all within earshot with the sound of his pipes. In the morning he was found dead, lying in the sand with his pipes still under his arm.

He was recommended for the Victoria Cross but it was not awarded to him. In 1946 the Glasgow Transport Pipe Band presented the Duncan McIntyre Memorial Trophy for the Strathspey and Reel to the Scottish Pipers’ Association to commemorate the life of a fine young piper. This is still competed for annually at the Association’s competition.

  • To be continued.

2 thoughts on “Piping in WW2: Heroes of the Scottish Pipers’ Association

  1. Is there any mention of my father John Massie who won three Cowal medals was in the Argyll & Sutherland Hlders TA and enlisted in the Royal Scots Fusiliers at the beginning of WW2. When the then CO heard him competing at Cowal he soon became P/M of the regiment.

    1. No, we have nothing on that Ian but if you could forward any information about your father and and photographs we will be sure to use them. PP

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