OT: 20 March 1948 – “Fifty-two Years’ Piping Record”

The Oban Times, 20 March, 1948



 Fifty-two Years’ Piping Record
Mr. John Grant, Edinburgh

Mr. John Grant, 35 Groathill Avenue, Edinburgh, began his study and training in the art of piping over 52 years ago, under that distinguished master, Pipe-Major Ronald Mackenzie of the Seaforth Highlanders, and he can trace his tuition back to the MacCrimmon School in Skye. Ronald McKenzie was taught by his uncle, the famous John Ban Mackenzie, piper to Breadalbane, who was taught by John MacKay, piper to Raasay, who was taught by his kinsman Iain Dall Mackay, Gairloch’s Blind Piper, who in turn was taught by Patrick Og MacCrimmon, piper to MacLeod of Dunvegan. 

Mr. Grant’s period of instruction and training extended over seven years, and he had to walk a distance of 22 miles twice a week from his home to Gordon Castle and back in summer and winter, often carrying a set of bagpipes with which to break the monotony of the march by having a “skirl” on the way. He was a chosen pupil of his master, who spent much time and pains upon his education as a piper. 

Soon after having been able to play a number of Marches, strathspeys and Reels, Mr. Grant began to play Piobaireachd, the classical music of the Piob Mhòr. He was also trained in pipe band playing, being a member of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, and won the Championship Gold Medal of that band of 32 pipers. 

He was appointed family piper to Captain Home Drummond Murray, of the Scots Guards, at Abercairny, where he remained for about five years, after which he went to Edinburgh in 1903. He collected a great deal of ancient Piobaireachd from valuable and reliable manuscripts and copied hundreds of pages of MSS. 

During the 1914-18 War Mr. Grant taught scores of young pipers and carried on five classes. 

Mr. Grant’s first composition was a piobaireachd entitled “His Majesty King Edward Seventh’s Salute,” which was accepted by the King in July, 1906. Since then, within a period of 42 years, he has composed 85 tunes: 61 piobaireachd, 18 marches, and 6 strathspeys and reels. 

Most of the piobaireachd have been dedicated to Scottish noblemen and gentlemen who have done much to encourage the cultivation and preservation of the art of piobaireachd. 12 of them are Royal Piobaireachd, and others commemorate events in the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars. Mr. Grant retired from the staff of the Collectors Department of the Inland Revenue, Edinburgh, after completion of 28 years’ government service, and much of his work has been completed since that time. He is in his seventy-second year, and still enjoys playing a tune on his beloved instrument, the Great Highland Bagpipe.