C. A. Malcolm’s 1927 publication, The Piper in Peace and War, says he was Pipe Major of the 78th (Ross-shire Buffs) from 1853-1862, including during the Indian Mutiny (1857).
Originally from Loch Fyne, he is known primarily for the first two parts of one of the most popular pipe tunes ever, “The Barren Rocks of Aden,” though in fact the original melody was composed by James Mauchline.
Bridget MacKenzie, in “Piping Traditions of Argyll” claims that Mauchline’s original tune was “acknowledged to be much in need of improvement.” Both men were members of the 78th Regiment, later the Seaforths, Mauchline from 1836-45. Mauchline is said to have agreed that MacKellar’s setting of the “Barren Rocks” was superior to his original.
JM, May 2009
-with notes and photo from The Cabar Feidh Collection, Pipe Music of the Queen’s Own Highlanders, 1983.