The Clan's music

A proud history of MacGregor piping

 

Until recently the MacGregors' historical contribution to piping has been underestimated. 

 

It extended over about a century from 1700 and reached from traditional piping practices into the early days of literate-learned transmission via John Murray of Lanrick and John MacGregor, and involved the formal / quasi-formal instruction of pipers, particularly around the Perthshire Gaidhealtachd. 

 

MacGregor family histories typically mention piping as integral to the social life of Clann Griogair nan Gleann (Clan Gregor or the Glens) at all social levels.  The raw inherent warlike nature of the pipes attracted pipers from the proud Gaelic MacGregors, burdened by prosecution due to proscription and also being active Jacobites in defiance of legal stricture.

 

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One of the Clan’s many eminent pipers was John MacGregor of Fortingall (1708-89) who became personal piper and attendant to Prince Charles Edward Stewart (see below) during the 1745 campaign.  He survived Culloden and in 1781, at the age of 73, won third prize at the Falkirk Tryst which claims to be the forerunner of modern piping competitions.

 

In the 16th and 17th centuries, a MacGregor Piping School flourished near Glenlyon. Similarly, John McGregor of Fortingall established a famous school of MacGregor pipers known as ‘Clann an Sgeulaich’ in Glenlyon, Perthshire, from the early eighteenth into the early nineteenth centuries. 

Discover the fascinating in-depth story of Clan Gregor pipers provided in the member's section... (coming soon!)

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The Clan Gregor Society Pipe Band

The Clan Gregor Society Pipe Band, founded in 2001, was a Grade One pipe band based in Airth, Scotland.  The band was established by members of the Scottish branch of the Clan Gregor.  

 

In 2003 the band won four out of the five major pipe band competitions in Grade 2 including the World Pipe Band Championships.  

 

It then began its first season in Grade One in 2004 under the leadership of P/M George Shepherd and D/S Michael O Neill.  In this season, the band placed 8th in the champion of champion aggregate tables whilst also taking a 5th place at the European Championships in Lisburn.  In doing this they became the first band since 1984 to win a championship prize during their first year in Grade 1.

2004 also saw the band qualify for the World Pipe Band Championships on Glasgow Green after coming through a tough early morning qualifier, a feat they repeated in 2005.  The year 2005 saw the band cement their place in the grade by taking two 6th prizes at the British and Cowal championships, respectively.  The band disbanded at the end of the 2008 season.

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There are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm.  Unfortunately the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.

Alfred Hitchcock

A selection of MacGregor Inspired Tunes

We are proud to present a selection of tunes associated with the Clan Gregor, played by the BBC's Scottish Young Traditional Musician of the Year (2021) finalist, and the recipient of the Clan Gregor Society Piping Scholarship.

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Please refer to the Members area (coming soon!) for an extended list and Sheet Music of additional Clan Gregor-associated tunes.  There is an excellent publication 'The Clan Gregor Collection of Highland Pipe Music' written by Pipe Major Bruce Campbell, which has the sheet music to the tunes above and some wonderful history of Clan Gregor piping and pipers.  Much of the information below is derived from this document.

Our Clan Pipers...

Piping is a thriving art around the world, and the Clan Gregor has a fair number of prominent pipers of whom we are extremely proud.  A few examples are presented below... 

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Patrick MacGregor 

Known as 'Patrick M'inSkelrich', Patrick was piper to Menzies of Garth in 1706 when he was the centre of a controversy involving Alexander Menzies of Weem.

Menzies of Weem claimed that Patrick had a contractual obligation to serve as his piper and took him prisoner, only releasing him on the intervention of the Duke of Atholl.  Prior to his event, he had been the piper of the Duke of Atholl but had been dismissed for fighting.

Patrick had five sons, all pipers, although it was John MacGregor I that the fame of the MacGregor pipers spread into the modern era.

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John MacGregor I

John MacGregor I was the son of Patrick MacGregor and is famous for having been the personal attendant and piper for Prince Charlie.

He joined the Highland army at Glenfinnan and fought with them throughout the '45 uprising and was wounded in the thigh at Culloden.  The two droned bagpipes he played at Culloden is owned by the Atholl Estate and is on display at Blair Castle.

He was an excellent piper, and won third prize at the Prize Pipe competition at Falkirk in 1781, his son Patrick being placed first.  The following year he was awarded second place with another son, John II, taking out third place.  At that time John was piper to Lieutenant Colonel John Campbell of Glenlyon.

In 1783 he was an unwitting part of a controversy which saw the end of the Falkirk competition, which involved the Highland Society of Edinburgh trying to high-jack the event from the Glasgow Gaelic Club.

In 1784, at the age of 76, he won the first ever Prize Pipe at the Highland Society of Edinburgh's grand competition.  In addition to his four sons, John is said to have taught over 50 pipers.

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Alpin MacGregor 

Alpin was the grandson of Duncan Mor, and is known for having played 'Cha Till' for his patron and friend Rob Roy MacGregor at his death bed in Balquhidder in 1734.

This was rumoured to be Rob Roy's favourite Piobaireachd, and was later made much more famous as the tune Donald Ban MacCrimmon played when his company marched out from Dunvegan in 1745.

Malcolm MacGregor

Malcolm came from Glasgow and was a renowned musical instrument maker, and acted in that capacity to the Highland Society of London. His bagpipes were much sought after, and he made the prize for the Prize Pipe competitions of 1812 through 1815.

In 1804, he himself won the Prize Pipe after having come third in 1802 and second in 1803. 

He also acted as piper to the Highland Society of London on occasions  caused by the absence of John MacGregor to whom he was likely related (although the exact connection is unknown).

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Jimmy MacGregor

Jimmy was born on the Royal Estate at Balmoral where he later worked as a game-keeper.  He was taught the pipes by Willie Ross, John MacDonald of Inverness and Bob Brown.

Jimmy was a WWII wartime piper with the 5th / 7th Gordon Highlanders and was appointed as Pipe Major the day before the Battle of El Alamein.

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After the war he returned to the Balmoral Estate and became a combination of Piper / game-keeper.  In 1955 he left the Estate to become piper to the Earl of Airlie and later became the piping instructor at Glenalmond College.  He was a serious competitor and won a number of major prizes including the Gold Medal, Northern Meeting 1973, the Silver Chanter at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1977 and the MSR at the 1971 London Bratach Gorm.

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Peter MacGregor

Peter resides in Dunfermline, Scotland but is originally from Ullapool, North West Highlands.  

 

He joined the Army at age 18 and is currently Pipe Major at the Army School of Piping and Highland Drumming in Edinburgh. Peter has previously played in the Highlanders 4 SCOTS where he was Pipe Major from 2012 – 2017.  

 

He is a keen solo competitor, has played with Grade 1 Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band, and has achieved prestigious prizes in various competitions over the years including B grade Northern Meetings Inverness and The Argyllshire Gathering.

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Richard McGregor

Richard is a New Zealander currently living in Sydney, Australia.  He started learning the pipes at 13 – along with Alistair Duthie, former Pipe Major of the Royal Highland Regiment The Black Watch – at St Andrews College in Christchurch and subsequently played for the New Zealand Scottish Regiment RNZAC, as did his father Colin McGregor, QSM. 

 

Richard has played at thousands of events around the world including military parades (including Horse Guards parade and Buckingham Palace), competitions, highland gatherings, concerts, corporate events and recently piped the Clans into the Sydney 2019 Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  He is currently the proprietor of sydneybagpipers.com.au, a member of the Clan Gregor Society Council, and the official ANZ Society piper.