Published: October 21, 2020

Online community bands together to pay homage to past pipers’ favourite Gaelic singer

Jessie Niven MacLachlan

There are plenty of gravesites of famous pipers and drummers of the past that have sadly gone derelict. A few, like that of the great composer John “Jock” McLellan of Dunoon, have seen restoration projects to return their final resting place to a more respectful state.

The Gaelic community is gathering online to restore the gravesite of the great singer Jessie Niven MacLachlan (1866-1916) who was “a musical superstar as famous as Scottish contemporaries such as Harry Lauder and James Scott Skinner, and who was so respected by the piping community that piping legends John MacColl and John MacDougall Gillies performed at her funeral.

MacLachlan’s once hallowed plot at Glasgow’s Cathcart Cemetery is in great disrepair, and it will take about £3,000 to bring it back.

A group of dedicated Gaelic singers has banded together online for a Crowdfunder effort, and is already almost half way to the goal, and they are reaching out to the world piping and drumming community to help achieve it.

“The name Jessie Niven MacLachlan is not one that many people will recognize now but she was widely known in her day, celebrated for her expressive and captivating performance of Scottish and Gaelic song,” said Dr. Priscilla Scott, a scholar on women in the Gaelic movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. “During her career she sang in some of the most prestigious concert halls around the world, bridging the gulf of separation from home, language and culture for many of those who flocked to hear her sing.”

MacLauchlin was a Scottish rock star of her era, performing all over the world. Her final public performance was at the Amsterdam Opera House in upper Manhattan in 1914.

Jessie Niven MacLachlan’s gravesite at Cathcart Cemetery.

Few, if any, gravesites of great pipers of the past are well maintained. G.S. McLennan’s grave at Echo Bank / Newington Cemetery in Edinburgh was overgrown with weeds and dilapidated until the Friends of Newington Cemetery improved the grounds.

The aforementioned Jock McLellan’s gravesite remains small and humble, though he is memorialized with a plaque in a small public park near Dunoon’s waterfront.

pipes|drums has for many years brought attention to the gravesites of luminaries in piping and drumming history.

 


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1 COMMENT

  1. There’s a tune in the Edcath Collection, Book 1 called “Jessie’s Welcome Home” written by P-M D. MacLachlan. I doubt if it was the same Jessie, but maybe a relative? My piping teacher here, Andy McAnsh, taught me that tune and he told me the Jessie of the tune was a childhood friend of his. Maybe someone in Scotland knows?

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