The 1844 Prize Pipe Competition

We continue our look back at piping in the 18th and 19th century with the ‘youngest’ poster in our archive from the Highland Society of London’s competitions. This one concerns the 1844 competition. The tunes played could all quite easily have come from a competition in the modern era: Viscount of Dundee, Donald Ban MacCrimmon, In Praise of Marion, though there are a few you would not see in this level of competition today, tunes such as Struan Robertson’s Salute and the Massacre of Glencoe. We see mention of Donald Cameron, Donald MacKenzie (John Ban’s son and the subject of his celebrated lament), John Smith and Duncan Campbell of manuscript fame.

Unfortunately Angus MacKay’s notes on this competition conclude with the 1839 event. Perhaps someone could check the archives of the Highland Society of London and pass on the name of the 1844 prizewinners.

Beginner Piobaireachd

The promoters have clearly decided that 15 piobaireachd interspersed with dances is the ideal format for a successful day of Highland arts and it would be hard to argue with their decision. So many pipers have turned up to compete that a ‘rehearsal’ or first heat had to be held to decide who would go forward for the main competition. The list mentions the prizes gained by some pipers in earlier competition.


The poster reads…

Competition for Prizes given by The Highland Society of London

to the

Best Performers of the Ancient Music of the Great Highland Bagpipe

to be held in the 

Theatre Royal on Wednesday the 10th of July 1844 at 12 o’ clock noon in the presence of Judges named by the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland


Other great history features from

What Pipers Played in 1785

What Pipers Played in 1823

John MacDonald of Inverness


1 Peter Maclaren, late Piper to John Stirling Esq of Kippendavie – gained 2d Prize –  Failte Phrionnsa – Prince’s Salute

2 Alexander Campbell, Piper to the Right Hon. Lord Lovat – gained 3d prize – Cumha Iain Ghairbh Mhic Ghille Challuim – John Garve Macleod of Rasa’s Lament
3 James Mackenzie, Piper to Duncan Davidson  Esq of Tulloch – Cumha Chlaibhers – Viscount of Dundee’s Lament

A Dance – The Ancient Sword Dance called ‘The Ghille Chalium’ – a Strathspey Dance

4 Roderick Macdonald from Lochcarron, Ross-shire, – gained 4th Prize – Bratach Shith Mhis Leoid – Macleod of Macleod’s Fairy Flag
5 Duncan Mackay, formerly from Kintail, now in London – gained 5th Prize – Cumha Mhic an Toisich – Macintosh’s Lament

A Dance – The Sword Dance

Donald Cameron

6 Donald Cameron, Piper to Sir James JR Mackenzie of Scatwell, Bart – gained 2d prize – Failte Iarla Shiphorth – The Earl of Seaforth’s Salute
7 John Thomson, Piper to Alexander Macalister, Esq of Loup and Torrisdale – Cumha Dhomhnuill Bhain MhicCruimen – Donald Ban MacCrimmon’s Lament
8 John MacKay, Piper to Charles Power Leslie, Esq Invergarry – gained 4th Prize – Cumha Ban Righ Anna – Queen Ann’s Lament

A Strathspey Dance – A Dance

9 James Mackintosh, Piper to Colonel Murray of Polmaise – Failte Thighearna Sthruthain – Strowan Robertson’s Salute
10 Archibald Forbes from Killiechassie – Blar Bhaternis – The Battle of Waternish

The Sword Dance –  A Dance

11 Duncan Campbell, Piper to the Right Hon.Lord Glenlyon – gained 3d Prize – Moladh Moraig – The Praise for Marion
12 John Macalister, Piper to John Hay Mackenzie Esq. of Cromartie – Failte Mhic an Aba – Macnab’s Salute

A Strathspey Dance – A Dance – The Sword Dance

13 Donald Mackenzie, from Taymouth Castle – ‘Slean fein an Gleann – The Glen is Mine
14 Gilbert Stewart Gordon from Lude, Blair Atholl – Mortadh Ghlinne Comhann – The Massacre of Glencoe

The Sword Dance – A Strathspey Dance

The Judges will retire to decide the Prizes. In their absence, Donald MacInnes from Lochaber, now with Sir Charles Gordon at Drimmin, and who gained the Prize-Pipe at the last Competition, will perform a Salute on the Prize-Pipe to be now awarded. There will also be favourite Scottish Airs by the Band and National Dances. On the return of the Judges, the Prize-Pipe, and the other Prizes, will be announced by the Preses of the Committee, and delivered to the preferred Competitors.


At the previous Rehearsal in presence of the Judges, it was found necessary to shorten the Exhibition in Public. Besides those named in the above List, the following Pipers also appeared, some of whom are performers of merit:

Angus Cameron from Rannoch, John McGregor , Piper to Sir Neil Menzies, Bart., John Robertson from Fincastle, John Glen, Edinburgh, Thomas Maclachlan from Fincastle, William Campbell, Piper to his Grace the Duke of Roxburghe, John Lamont, formerly from Cowal, now at Kelso, Norman Macleod from Rasa, Alexander Stewart, Piper to Captain Houston Stewart of Gart., Alexander Sutherland, late Piper-Major 25th Regiment, John C. Macleod, Piper to the Celtic Society of Scotland and to the Lodge Celtic of Edinburgh and Leith, John Smith, formerly from Strathnairn, now at Portsoy, Archibald Stewart from Rannoch, Hugh Lindsay from Jura

The whole Pipers, Dancers and Competitors for Dress receive each a share of the Money collected from the sale of Tickets.


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