John MacDonald (72nd Highlanders)

Tiree, Pipe Major, 72nd Highlanders (1824-1884)

John MacDonaldThe “Notices of Pipers” describes John MacDonald of Tiree as follows:

A native of Tiree. Studied piping under John Ban Mackenzie. Joined the 72nd Highlanders as a piper in 1843, and became Pipe Major in 1856. He was an entrant for piobairachd playing at Inverness in 1854, being described as “Pipe Corporal, 72nd Highlanders”.

Served with his regiment in the Crimean war, where as Pipe Corporal he won the first prize for piobaireachd, and for marches, strathspeys and reels at the piping competition open to the Highland Division held at Kamara Camp, August, 1855.

He was Pipe Major of the 72nd during the Indian Mutiny. Retired on pension in 1865, and was appointed pipe major of the Stirlingshire Militia, with which he remained for five years, and then became Piper to the Marquess of Lorne who was Governor General of Canada.

He died in Tiree, in 1894. Being a fine stamp of Highlander, he attracted the notice of Queen Victoria when his regiment was being inspected by her upon its return from the Crimea. His photograph was specially taken by Royal Command, a copy of which (in color) hangs in the officers’ mess of the 72nd (now first Seaforth’s), and was also reproduced in the “Illustrated London News” of 31st January, 1857.

He was an excellent piper and probably composed “The 72nd’s Farewell to Aberdeen”. It is said that while piper to Lord Lorne he rather stood on his dignity, and objected to doing anything but play the pipes.

His elder son, Peter, was a good performer, and possesses the pipes his father won in the Crimea, and also a manuscript of pipe music given to his father by John Ban MacKenzie’s widow.

JM, January 2015
-with notes from ‘Notices of Pipers’, ‘Piping Times’, September 1970.