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The Sovereign Piper

 

Queen Victoria first heard the bagpipes in 1842 when she and Prince Albert visited the Highlands for the first time. They stayed at Taymouth Castle with the Marquess of Breadalbane who had his own personal piper, John Ban MacKenzie. Queen Victoria was much taken with the idea, writing to her mother,

"We have heard nothing but bagpipes since we have been in the beautiful Highlands and I have become so fond of it that I mean to have a Piper, who can if you like it, pipe every night at Frogmore."

Angus MacKay was the first personal piper to the Sovereign. He served Queen Victoria until 1854.

The Marquess of Breadalbane was able to recommend Angus MacKay, Piper to Campbell of Islay, to the Queen. In 1843, MacKay became the first personal Piper to the Sovereign. He was also a noted composer of Pipe music, publishing a collection of Piobaireachd as well as a volume of reels and strathspeys.

As well as playing regularly after breakfast, MacKay played at balls and special occasions including the erection of a cairn in 1852 on the top of Craig Gowan to commemorate the Queen's acquisition of the Balmoral Estate. The Queen wrote that he played for the hour it took to build the cairn and "some merry reels were danced on a stone opposite".

In 1854, Angus MacKay was replaced by Pipe Major William Ross who had served in the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, the Black Watch, before joining the Royal Household. An extract from the Privy Purse shows that Ross was employed as a Gentleman Porter of various residences and that he was also Groom of the State Chamber.

 

Sovereign Piper

 

 

 

 

 

 

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