Editor’s Notebook: Spotlight on London/ Ross of the Guards/ Sunbelt Contest/ Lachie Robertson

London’s piping heritage will come under focus this evening in the fourth of the Piobaireachd Society’s season of ‘Talk Piobaireachd’ sessions.

In the hot seat will be the Society’s Treasurer Roddy Livingstone.

The ‘first city of the Empire’ has always had a prominent role to play in pipng too.

Consider the regimental bands of the Guards, the Queen’s Piper, Campbells at nearby Cambridge, Dr MacPhail, the Bratach Gorm, Les Cowell and D Naill, Henry Starck, the B Cal airways bands, the school at Pirbright, David Ross, JB Robertson, Angus MacKay….

They’ll all be there in tonight’s pot pourri of illustrated history. To enjoy, settle down for 8pm; not a PS member? Join here.

Thanks to Clive Douglas for forwarding the picture up top. It’s of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards at Aldershot in 1910. The caption states that the piper bottom right is L/Sgt A Ross. However I think it looks a bit like Willie Ross as per this snap from the front pages of the Scots Guards Volume 1. What do you think?

Incidentally, the only thing missing from Clive’s interesting history of Campbell McGougan and Hugh MacInnes on Monday was a sound clip of the Lanarkshire Police band. Many readers of a certain age will, like me, remember the tone this band had.

Quite outstanding and had they had an extended run in Grade 1 then I am sure they would have done a lot of damage. As it was they were swallowed up in the big police amalgamation of 1975 which saw the bands of Lanarkshire, Renfrew and Bute and Glasgow Police lumped together into the titan that became Strathclyde Police.


Angus MacColl is the latest addition to the line up of top pipers signed up to play in Eric Stein’s new ‘Sunbelt Invitational’ competition being held in Florida in November. Also on the roster are Stuart Liddell, Bruce Gandy and Glenn Brown with other places being filled by the winners of the All Ireland Solos and US contests such as Dunedin and Grandfather Mountain Games.

Pipers will play a piobaireachd and a medley. Date for the contest is November 12 and the venue the Sheraton Orlando North Hotel in Maitland, Fl. Contact Eric for more information.


Lachie Robertson

West of Scotland fisherman, piper and Gaelic singer Lachie Robertson was lost to the sea last summer. It was a tragic loss particularly hard for all who knew him. A few days ago I came across these touching lines Angus MacPhail of the band ‘Skippinish’ penned in Lachie’s Memory:

A hard-working man whose world was the sea, of long days and nights at the wheel
Of shoot, tow and haul and born to be, a skipper of strength and of steel;
Steaming for home at the end of the trip, and the peace of being tied at the pier
The landing ashore, and hose down the ship, and mending and sorting the gear.

Then the Lachie most knew, Lachie ashore, a man of family and home –
Warmth and love to the depth of his core when not fishing the merciless foam
Or a pint with the boys and a toast to the sea, some drams and a verse of a song
And the wondering lust for a tune and spree, in a blink the session was on!

To Mods he would travel on the pull of the tide, festivals, parties or fèis.
His passion for music he spread far and wide, as the nights moved into the days.
His pipes striking up and hitting the notes of richness and wonder of life
He played them on piers, at parties, or boats, and blessed many a husband and wife!

His nature was kind and always to give, and always the good he would see.
With a wonderful mind, he knew how to live, his company easy and free.
He emitted a warmth of goodness and trust, of decency, mischief and fun
And tomorrow could wait till next week if it must, if the tunes they welcomed the sun.

His magic would spread to all who he’d know, and the better for knowing him we are
Like his own Reul a’ Chuain eternal the glow, of the gift of Lachie’s bright star.
Now he’s moved on but his spirit’s not gone, he’ll be here long into the years
And with laughter and song and tunes all night long, here’s to Lachie with joy in our tears.

Angus adds: ‘The night Lachie was lost, I was sitting in the Heathbank Hotel in Northbay, Barra, with my friend and partner in fishing Donald Uileam MacLeod (Copper Top).  Word had reached Donald that there had been an incident on Reul a’ Chuain and that Lachie had been in the water. A short while later the dreadful news came that, as Donald put it at the time, ‘He didn’t make it’. 

‘The shock we felt that night would have been felt far and wide as the news spread.  The sea is a callous and dangerous place and fishing its rich bounty comes too often at the ultimate cost.  That someone as fit, able, experienced and careful as Lachie can be taken in the blink of an eye is a cruel reminder of the toll the sea takes on those who work upon it.’  

2 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: Spotlight on London/ Ross of the Guards/ Sunbelt Contest/ Lachie Robertson

  1. If you look at the ears of the Ross brothers I think you will find them quite different. I would say that the Piper in the first picture, bottom right would be A. Ross, not W. Ross. Just my opinion.

  2. Hi Rab

    The caption on the photo is indeed accurate as it shows the Pipe Corporal, Company Piper of G Company of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards as Alexander Ross who became Pipe Major of the battalion the following year in 1911.
    His brother became Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards in 1905 and could be distinguished from his younger brother by his Boer War medals which Alexander did not have as he didn’t go overseas for the conflict.

    Hope this garbled explanation helps.

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