South Uist and the Day the Barefoot Boy Piper Charmed Sheriff Grant of Rothiemurchus

John Campbell, Kilberry, has kindly forwarded the above picture. John writes: ‘I enclose a photograph that I found in a box. I don’t know who the gentleman is or the location, and even less so the child who looks a piper in the making. Perhaps he developed into a piper of note.’

John subsequently forwarded the picture to piping history researcher Jeannie Campbell. She replied: ‘I felt that I had seen the picture before and it was South Uist so I sent it to a piping friend, Jim MacLean who lives in Benbecula but was born and brought up in South Uist.

‘He too thought he had seen it before. He has done a bit of detective work and has come up with the answer. The boy is Angus Campbell from Frobost, South Uist.

‘He was the uncle of Rona Lightfoot née MacDonald who now lives in Inverness. Rona’s mother, who was 13 at the time, made the trousers for him the day before the Games by cutting down an old pair of their father’s. 

Close up pictures…

He won a lot of prizes but mainly in the islands. There is quite a lot about him in Bridget MacKenzie’s book ‘Piping Traditions of the Outer Isles’.

‘She says he went only once to the mainland and played at the Argyllshire Gathering where he was second in the Gold Medal. He died aged 102 in November 2002.

‘Jim’s brother Ronald has added the information that the photograph is in a book called ‘When Piping was Strong’ by Joshua Dickson. Ronald and Rona are both almost sure that the man is Sheriff Grant [JP Grant, Rothiemurchus].’

  • If anyone can add to this story please email the editor. Are the ages and dates correct? Angus Campbell, Frobost, would have been born in 1900 given Jeannie Campbell’s dates above. He looks about ten years old in the photograph which means the picture must have been taken in 1910, or thereabouts, when JP Grant was aged 25. Does that tally with the Sheriff’s first visits to judge at the South Uist Games? We should not be surprised at the story of the home made trousers or the boy’s bare feet, South Uist at the turn of the 20th century was one of the most deprived areas in the Outer Hebrides. In his book A School in South Uist: Reminiscences of a Hebridean Schoolmaster, 1890-1913′ author FG Rea tells of that deprivation, the poor health and the sort of illnesses that we tend to associate with cramped inner city slums. Epidemics were a regular occurence and Headmaster Rea’s school often had to close following outbreaks of measles, smallpox and whooping-cough. The book is available on Amazon here.
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1 thought on “South Uist and the Day the Barefoot Boy Piper Charmed Sheriff Grant of Rothiemurchus

  1. In a series of You Tube interviews Rhona Lightfoot talks about her uncle Angus’s influence on her when she was learning to play. I am sure many of your readers have already seen these clips but if not, there are well worth watching and the following is a link to a clip where she mentions her Uncle Angus.

    Rhona Lightfoot;clip2;Relatives.mp4
    Kind regards
    Hamish Fraser

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