Can You Help Identify These Pipers?

Reader and well known amateur piper Dugald Macleod has sent us three striking photographs. He writes: ‘I wonder if you or your readers could help in identifying the pipers in these photos.

‘I think they are of the South Uist Games in the early 1930s, and were taken by Margaret Fay Shaw.

‘I wonder if they show John Macdonald, South Uist, (Seonaidh Roidean) and his brother Ruairidh?’


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The editor writes: I don’t think either of the pipers has the posture/stature of the MacDonald brothers Dugald. I knew Roddy quite well through his living and judging in Glasgow and I met John at South Uist Games in the early 80s.

I think the person second from the left in the first photo is Angus MacAulay later of London and then New Zealand. I met him there in 1983. He was a softly spoken islander and a man with a huge knowledge of piping. Clearly a top player in his day, we see his name in all the prize lists of the era both in South Uist and London.

In the second picture (below) I suspect the judge second left to be Sheriff Iain Grant, Rothiemurchus, a great champion of piping on the islands and a stalwart of the Piobaireachd Society.

He was an officer in the Lovat Scouts and I assume that is the military uniform worn by the competing pipers. To Rothiemurchus’ right may be a Dr Simpson, another whose name features in cuttings from South Uist in the 30s.

The dancer may be known to the Highland dancing fraternity. Not a cloud in the sky as Ben More looks down on the scene, presumably Askernish Machair where the games are still held today.

Wikipedia: Margaret Fay Shaw (9 November 1903 – 11 December 2004) was a pioneering Scottish-American ethnomusicologist, photographer, folklorist, and scholar of Celtic studies. She is best known for her meticulous work as a folk song and folklore collector among Scottish Gaelic-speakers in the Hebrides, Canadian Gaelic-speaking communities in Nova Scotia, and among Connaught Irish speakers in the Aran Islands.

After her parents died when she was 11, she moved to Scotland as a teenager and attended St Bride’s boarding school in Helensburgh, near Glasgow. It was there that she was first introduced to Scottish traditional music and started learning to speak Gaelic. The first performance of Gaelic song she heard was during a special concert at St. Bride’s by the famous song collector Marjory Kennedy-Fraser……..’The songs entranced Margaret, but at the same time she was aware that there must be more to them and determined that one day she would hear the originals.’

Please use our Comments section if you can help in identifying those in the pictures.


3 thoughts on “Can You Help Identify These Pipers?

  1. These photos were taken by Margaret Fay Shaw at the South Uist Games held on the Askernish Machair c.1930-31. They are from an archive of thousands of fascinating photos taken by her and left to the National Trust. The tall piper in the group photo is Angus MacAulay (Aonghas Sheòrais) with Willie Walker (from Daliburgh) on his left. He is also the piper performing in the other photo that also show judges (L-R) John MacDonald of Inverness, Lord Alexander MacDonald of Sleat, Major Fincastle and Seton Gordon.

  2. The tall piper, second on the left, I think is my grandfather, Donald John MacPherson as he was a piper. I am looking for more information if possible. Thanks.

  3. That’s Lovat Scouts pipers kit. I’m sure you would find the names on records especially the sergeant and corporal there.

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