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The Piper In Peace And War
By C. A. Malcolm, M.A., Ph.D.

By The Duke of Atholl, K.T., G.C.V.O., C.B.

Mr Charles A. Malcolm has asked me to write an introduction to his book The Piper in Peace and War. Every one who reads the book will admit that Mr Malcolm has taken an extraordinary amount of pains to collect his data, and that he has written a book which will be read with much interest by those who are fond of the pipes.

Tradition, unless set down on paper, is apt to become lost or inaccurate. It is well, therefore, that these traditions should be handed down in writing by those who are capable of doing so, and I think no one will deny Mr Malcolm’s capability and zeal.

Probably there were never more pipers in existence than there were during the Great War, and never at any time were their services more appreciated. No good
pipe band ever belonged to a bad regiment, and to those who understand the pipes

it is a simple thing to judge of those who follow them. In times of peace the pipers keep the men together. Every individual man in the regiment takes a pride in the band because it is distinctive and of his own nation, proud and full of courage, but not aggressive, sometimes sad but always appealing.

The wide extension of pipe music in these days, when every mining village in the south of Scotland and every tourist resort in the north has its local pipe band, may have increased the number of pipers, but I doubt if it has improved their quality. But few of the modern airs have the special character or the distinction of the old music, and the old tunes, when played, have little difficulty in holding their own. While it is everything to have good band pipers in military units, the local bands are doing much to eliminate the old individual player, who was a musician first and a bandsman second. Some of the best pipers that I used to know in the old days—men with beautiful fingering and who put their whole soul into a piobaireachd— were indifferent players of marches. While the old airs are not being lost, for they are written down, very few of the modern pipers have a good repertory. Many of the best of them seem to have a sort of musical circle, like that on a roulette table. You can pick any number you like so long as it is shown on the wheel. These are their competition tunes, but outside that you must not and cannot go. Publishers, presumably for financial reasons, appear to be more interested in publishing the new tunes than the old ones, and in pushing their sale. The result is that many young pipers do not know the grand old tunes, but are experts at inferior modern ones, and if, by chance, one strikes their fancy, we hear that tune and no other till we are sick to death of it The old tunes, in their names and characters, remind us of our hills and glens, of our history, of brave men, of national sorrow and of times of national joy. Can that be said of most of the new ones?

While we have splendid pipe bands in the Army, they are bound, for purposes of playing together, to be stereotyped. One always feels when they are playing that the pipers have one eye on the Drum-Major in front and the other on the Regimental Sergeant-Major behind. I remember one young regimental piper, when checked for indifferent playing, saying “My thochts were on the counter march.” Under such conditions, it is difficult to have one’s mind up in the heavenly sphere of music.

We find the same thing in Highland dancing, where large numbers are taught by the same instructor at the same time. The boys at Scottish Institute Schools dance beautifully. They all skip at the same time in the same way and to the same height. As a gymnastic or ballet display it is fine. As Highland dancing the soul and joy is gone out of it. When watching such displays or competitions, I sometimes feel more joy in the one that has strayed that in the ninety-nine that have not.

In other words, the general extension of piping, while it may have done much to popularise the instrument, has not improved things from a musical point of view, and the efforts of those who love pipe music should be used towards maintaining standard and character rather than in increasing numbers. That Mr Malcolm should remind us, therefore, of the days that are gone is all to our advantage.

September 1927.


It is not the purpose of the writer to treat of the various forms of bagpipe used in the past by the different nations of the world, but to trace as far as possible the work in peace and war of the skilful and intrepid masters of the “great war pipe of the north.”

It may be noted, however, that the oldest memorial to a piper is not one to any distinguished Highlander or Borderer, to a M'Crimmon, a M'Intyre, a Mackay, a MacArthur, a Habbie Simpson, or a Hastie, but to an unknown Roman legionary, a member of the Roman Army of Occupation in Britain. His statue occupied a niche in the great Roman Wall from the Tyne to the Solway. Though Time hasdealt gently with the effigies of this piper, it is to be regretted that it has not left his pipes in such a state as to enable us to trace the details of their construction. The bag is there, but not the drones. Yet here is evidence, though all the historians are silent on the point, that the legions of Cassar marched to the strains of the pipes, and that the piper was a person of some consequence in the great armies of Rome. It is strange to reflect that, just as in later times the Scottish bagpipe has contributed to victory, so the armies of Imperial Rome seem to have been led to conquest by pipe music.

This attempt to rescue what might have been forgotten and to focus what has been stated in various regimental records, newspapers, and public speeches, imperfect as it is, would not have been possible but for the kindness of officers, noncommissioned officers, and men of II.JI. Forces of Great Britain, Ireland, and the Dominions overseas, whose names are too numerous to mention; officials of the War Office, Public Record Office, and Canadian Headquarters. In particular I owe thanks to Colonel John Murray, D.S.O., for many helpful suggestions and reports; to Major Ian II. Mackay-Scobie who, besides revising proofs, lent prints and communicated numerous interesting facts; and to Mr Kennedy Stewart, M.A., and my brother Mr Peter Malcolm, M.A., for their labours in the revision and the correction of the typescript and of the proofs of this book.



I. (1) The Army and the Piper (2) Status of the Army Piper
II. The Piper in Barracks and Camp
III. The Bagpipe in Battle
IV. The Pipes in Strange Places
V. The Influence of the Pipes
VI. Pipe Music


Scots Guards
Royal Scots
Royal Scots Fusiliers
King’s Own Scottish Borderers
Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
Highland Light Infantry
Seaforth Highlanders
Gordon Highlanders
Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Lovat Scouts
Scottish Horse
London Scottish
Liverpool Scottish
Tyneside Scottish
Irish Regiments
Canadian Forces
Australian Forces
New Zealand Forces
South African Scottish
Royal Navy


Some Well-Known Army Pipers
Note by the Earl of Dartmouth, K.C.B on the Picture at Patshull House


George Clark, the Piper of Vimiera. From a print in the possession of Major Mackay-Scobie Frontispiece

"Jock in the thick of it: coming away from the Trenches.” From a drawing by Georges Scott By permission of The Graphic

“The Piping Times of Peace.” From a picture by Fred Roe, R.I. By permission of The Graphic

Piper Laidlaw outside the British Trench playing “Blue Bonnets over the Border.” From a picture by S. Begg. By permission of the Illustrated London News

Piper Donald MacDonald, 42nd Highlanders, 1743. By kind permission of H. D. MacWilliam, Esq.

Piper of the 74th Highlanders of 1850 (now 2nd Bn. Highland Light Infantry). From the Historical Record of the 74th Regiment (Highlanders)

The Irish Guards Pipers

The Mole of Tangier in 1684. From a picture by Stoop in the possession of The Earl of Dartmouth

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