December 15, 2023

Plans in the works for Jock McLellan DCM memorial in Dunoon for 150th birthday in 2025

John McLellan, DCM [colourized by Ronan Maguire]
If the dreams of relatives of the great composer and poet John “Jock” McLellan of Dunoon, Scotland, become reality, they will raise enough funds to create a new memorial in the Argyllshire town to be unveiled in 2025 – 150 years since he was born.

Duncan MacGregor and Jim Henderson, both grand-nephews of McLellan, hope to raise £60-70,000 to commission a statue of McLellan, regarded as one of the greatest composers of Highland pipe music in history.

Fundraising plans are still to be formalized, but if MacGregor’s success with social media and a McLellan tribute website are indicators, there could be substantial interest from the piping and drumming world. The site and a recent TikTok video have achieved more than 100,000 views.

In addition to MacGregor and Henderson, former Cowal Highland Gathering Chairman Ronnie Cairns and Highland Society of London Gold Medallist Alasdair Henderson, also related to McLellan, have said they will get involved with the project.

In the early 1970s, a small plaque for McLellan was unveiled in Dunoon’s Castle House Gardens by the local council, his relatives and friends. If enough funds for a commissioned statue can’t be raised, the group would at least like to upgrade the existing memorial, which has fallen into some disrepair.

Jock McLellan’s grave at Dunoon Cemetery. [pipes|drums]
McLellan is the creator of several of the most-played tunes in the piping repertory, including “Lochanside,” “Men of Argyll,” “The Bloody Fields of Flanders,” “Highland Brigade at Magersfontein,” and “South Hall.” Also a poet, he wrote lyrics for many of his compositions, such as “The Road to the Isles,” which ranks among “Amazing Grace” and “Scotland the Brave” as the most-loved pieces of Highland pipe music worldwide.

McLellan was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for bravery when he served with the Highlight Light Infantry in the Boer War. He succeeded James Wilson, who succeeded Willie Lawrie, also a renowned composer, as pipe-major of the 8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in 1919. “DCM” often deservedly accompanies McLellan’s name, differentiating him from other prominent John Mac/McLellans in piping.

“I started meeting with some folks in Dunoon earlier this year, to try to start the ball rolling towards raising awareness about Jock’s 150th,” MacGregor said. “Hopefully, things will come together sooner rather than later.”

He added that other events are planned in Dunoon and elsewhere in 2025.

McLellan’s compositions became public domain in 2019, 70 years after he died in 1949. He neither married nor had children, but his surviving relatives would have owned the copyrights to his universally performed and recorded music and poetry until then.

Stay tuned to pipes|drums for details of tributes to Pipe-Major John McLellan, DCM, as they come together.




  1. So glad to read about Dunoon finally memorializing the great man. Jim Henderson is the guy to get it done. My father was the local photographer for the unveiling of the plaque in the Dunoon Argyll gardens. Prior to this when they were still deciding what to do, (Cowal Games committee) being a local man myself, I had offered my services in writing to the committee as a journeyman Sculptor, I offered to do a bronze bust of J.McC. and to do it pro-bono as long as the games committee covered the foundry costs. I didn’t even get a reply! My father said, “your mistake was offering to do it for free, if you had named an exorbitant fee they still wouldn’t have taken you up on it, but, you’d probably have received a reply”! Anyway glad to hear the good news.



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