History: The Pipe Band of the London Scottish Regiment Part 1

london scottish logoThe following is taken from the January 1938 edition of the Piping and Dancing Journal. It evokes much of the spirit of the times, less than 18 months before the outbreak of WW2. We wonder what happened to the pipes mentioned below and which must still be in circulation with the P/M’s set easily identifiable from the silver plate inscription mentioned.

If any reader has any further information, or is able the trace the pipes, from the records of the regiment we’d be delighted to hear from you. The picture shows the band on parade with HM The Queen taking the salute. 

The London Scottish Regiment came into being as a volunteer unit in 1859 as the 7th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers and very soon Scotsmen in Lon­don rallied to the call for recruits. In its early days drills were conducted in the Great Hall of Westminster, while the humble headquarters were at Adam Street, Adelphi, with room for practising bagpipes, drums, and bugles, and physical exercise, down in the depths below the street level. 

For a pipe band the regiment had at first to employ the services of pipers of the Scots Guards or pipers of the Scots Fusilier Guards as they were then. Pipe Major Robert MacKenzie acted as P/M until his regiment went to Dublin in 1880.

ln the Volunteer Service Gazette of 1861 occurs a very interesting account of the presenta­tion of bagpipes to the Regiment in the Great Westminster Hall by Lady Elcho, which relates how at the base of the great steps was placed the trophy with the presentation pipes and banner supported by rifles. The pipe-major’s set was mounted in silver and the inscription on the plate was as follows: 

‘Presented with five sets of bag­pipes, a banner and a donation of money in addi­tion for the band of the London Scottish Rifle Volunteers by Scottish Ladies resident in London, June, 1861.’ On the silver plate is engraved ‘Cuidich in Rhi’ (Help the King). Lady Elcho, in making the presentation, said: ‘lt is especially gratifying to us to present you with the national instrument. We are proud of our National Corps and well pleased in this way to add the outward mark of your nationality. 

‘The wild notes of the pipes are, I am sure, dear to every Scotch heart, they awaken pleasant memories of home and country, they are associated with the gallant deeds of our heroic countrymen in all parts of the worId, and we are not without a hope too that the pipes may in some degree do the work of the recruiting sergeant and that, attracted by their stirring sounds, many a good Scottish heart and arm may be gathered to our ranks.’  The hopes so well expressed by Lady Elcho have been nobly fulfilled.

The date of birth of the Amateur Pipe Band of the London Scottish was 1873. The first London Scottish volunteer to be pipe-major was J. D. Mill (1879), then followed in succession Neil MacGlashen (1880, from Blair Athol), ? Farquhar (1877 from Edinburgh), Ronald Halley (1885, Perth­shire). As Pipe-Corporal, A Ferguson, at the Highland games promoted in London, won the prize for marches, strathspeys and reels. 

Another member of the pipe band, Piper Donald MacKinnon (Skye), a fine athlete, won many prizes, among them, along with Moffat and Lore (about 1883), the tug-o’-war championship against, in the final, ‘Tommy’ Hodgson, who became big drummer and later drum-major, and was an out­standing figure at the games and helped to win many trophies. He is still an outstanding figure at headquarters and a great favourite. T Hodgson was preceded by Drum Major Goodman who was immortalised in song by the late Sgt. Duncan Tovey, and by the Biggarstaff Brothers in one of their famous cartoons as ‘The Big Drum Major’. 

The writer of these notes records how en route for parade one day he persuaded Goodman, in full uniform to weigh himself on an automatic machine; round flew the pointer on the dial to over 20 stone, then gave a loud bang. Goodman stepped off and remarked: ‘I have lost my penny’ – and he had smashed the machine. Goodman was indeed a splendid figure of a drum-major and a most excellent comrade. A Gow, who followed later as big drummer, also excelled in feats of strength, putting the shot and throwing the hammer.  A splendid all-round sportsman. 

It is worth recording that in 1887 at the Great Review in the Long Valley at Aldershot the Lon­don Scottish Pipe Band had the unique honour of playing its own regiment past the saluting point when Her Majesty The Queen took the salute. All other Volunteer Corps were played past by ‘Regular’ bands. This distinction has obtained at practically all ceremonial functions ever since.

To be continued.


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