Published: April 20, 2020

Just in case . . . a look at Captain John’s most prized prizes

He was one of the greatest pipers ever, borne out by the impressive showcase of medals of which he was most proud.

Captain John A. MacLellan’s achievements went far beyond simply winning prizes, including a tenure as Senior Pipe Major of the British Army and Director of the Army School of Piping at Edinburgh Castle for many years, the composer of great music, the publisher of several collections of music, the editor of the first real alternative to the Piping Times magazine, the Honourary Secretary of the Music Committee for the Piobaireachd Society, tutor to many of the world’s greatest pipers . . . the list goes on. Despite not being knowns as a pipe bandsman, he even judged the World Pipe Band Championships on many occasions, such was the respect that he carried.

He was named to our 2014 juried list of the 20 Greatest Pipers (deceased) of all time.


The Greatest 20 Pipers in History
December 21, 2014


In addition to his compositions, his music collections and his enormous legacy as a military man and leader of pipers, Captain John MacLellan MBE’s left behind a case of the medals that he most prized, still kept by his son, Colin R. MacLellan.

It harks to an era, not so long ago, when every decent solo piping competition offered gorgeous medals and trophies to the esteemed winners of their event’s most prestigious awards.

We are excited to provide pipes|drums readers with an image of the medals as they were left behind, as well as an annotated version of the contents.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
  1. Rothiemurchus Trophy Medal (Northern Meeting)
  2. The Balvenie Medal (Grant’s/Glenfiddich Championships)
  3. Four Chieftain’s Prizes, Invergordon Games
  4. Scottish Piping Society of London
  5. Francis Cameron Head Medal, Glenfinnan Games
  6. Millar Weir Medal, Luss
  7. Four Dunvegan Medals, Portree, Skye
  8. Another Francis Cameron Head Medal, Glenfinnan Games
  9. Highland Brigade MSR Medal
  10. Piobaireachd Society (Canada) Gold Medal (Honourary Gift)
  11. Four Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society Bronze Stars for Former Winner’s MSR at London (one clasp only; whereabouts of Bronze Star unknown)
  12. Five Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society Silver Stars (eight won in all, four at Oban, four at Inverness. Missing stars probably not presented that particular year.)
  13. Highland Society of London Gold Medals, Oban and Inverness
  14. Medal for Bratach Gorm, London
  15. Clasp to the Piobaireachd Society’s (Canada) Gold Medal (Honourary Gift)
  16. Captain MacLeod of Cadboll Medal, MSR, the Highland Division, 1939 (the first prize ever won by John MacLellan)
  17. Eight Dornoch Games Gold Medals
  18. Murray Cup Silver Medal
  19. Four Strathpeffer Games Silver Medals
  20. Royal Scottish Pipers Society Silver Star, Lochearnhead Games
  21. Gold Clasp, the Northern Meeting (two were presented in 1958, 1963, but no Clasp was awarded in 1958 due to MacLellan having not won by that time the Inverness Gold Medal)

“Captain John” also won the March and Strathspey & Reel at Oban, which alternated a Silver Star for one or the other each year. Unluckily, he won both on the years the Silver Star was awarded for the other one.

We are indebted to and thank Colin MacLellan for helping us with this annotation.

Stay tuned to pipes|drums for more looks at medal cases and trophy cabinets.

Be sure to check out our Big Prizes database to see all of the most major awards that Captain John MacLellan won, as well as most of the biggest prizes ever awarded in solo piping history.

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