February 26, 2020

Willie Lawrie rises again, and G.S. McLennan himself identifies those in the Inverness 1912 pic

pipes|drums readers are a curious bunch, and no sooner did we publish the rare photo of prominent pipers and others at the 1912 Northern Meeting did we hear from Hamish McLennan, grandson of the great George Stewart “G.S.” McLennan. Here’s the photo again:

It so happened that among the artifacts that G.S. left behind was a copy of the same photo, and on the reverse in his own hand a list of all those in the picture whom he knew.

Standing: L to R     James Campbell (Piper to Queen Victoria), Willie Lawrie (Ballachulish), George Ross (ex Black Watch), Donald Iain MacKenzie (Tongue), James Gordon, Drum-Major Laidlaw, unknown, Angus MacPherson, unknown, William Taylor, MacGregor Murray, Jock Stewart, DM (drum-major) Beattie, J.P. MacLeod (Tain)

Sitting: John MacDonald (Inverness), John MacDonald (“Coomassie John”), G.S. McLenann, John McDougall Gillies, Bob Meldrum, Jack Lawrie (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders), Murdo MacKenzie (4th Battalion Seaforths)

We were correct in our identification of the elusive Willie Lawrie, standing second from the left, but incorrect in surmising that Chorriechoillie and Willie Ross were also in the shot.

But, as identified by G.S., we see Murdo MacKenzie, sitting furthest right, namesake of the great 6/8 march, “Murdo Mackenzie of Torridon.”

All wonderful and good.

(For just about everything you need to know about G.S. McLennan, be sure to check out the fantastic website created by his family and dedicated specifically to him.)

But it turns out that the elusive Willie Lawrie is becoming a little less hidden. He might well have been a veritable photo-hound of the time.

Hamish McLennan searched the G.S. archives and uncovered what appear to be two more images of the great piper and composer of Ballachulish.

The first is a similar image from the 1913 Northern Meeting and another that seems to show a powerful group of pipers at what appears to be the steps of the Northern Meeting Park in Inverness.

In each photo we see our man, Lawrie, along with a few of the same and a few new luminaries.

Excluding the photobombers in the background, Willie Lawrie is fifth from the right. Interestingly, John MacDonald, Inverness, looks wholly displeased with the process, arms folded fifth from the left, and the gent in the Peaky Blinders-type cap is a rare image of G.S. McLennan in non-Gordon Highlanders duds. A younger Archibald Campbell of Kilberry appears to be kneeling at the front.

L-R front row: Willie Ross, G.S. McLennan, John MacDonald Inverness, Willie Lawrie, and the person second from the right is probably Willie Gray of Glasgow Police Farewell fame. . . and that’s everyone we’re sure of.

By no means should we assume that pipers then were a somber lot. Due to the lengthy exposure involved with cameras of the time, subjects had to be as still as possible and were told not to make facial expressions. By relaxing, their faces would appear unsmiling.

Then again, if these photos were taking before competing, their expressions might be accurate.

We’re now up to seven known images of the great Willie Lawrie, who left the world at the age of 35, but who left behind a legacy of some of the greatest pipe tunes ever created.

For more on Willie Lawrie, be sure to read up at pipetunes.ca.

Our thanks again to Jim McGillivray and to Hamish McLennan for their contributions.



The elusive Willie Lawrie: an image appears from the past


Centenary jewel: 100 years after Willie Lawrie
November 26, 2016

G.S. McLennan site updated for 90th anniversary

New G.S. McLennan march now has a name – and a new manuscript version

Newly discovered six-parted 2/4 march by G.S. McLennan published first on pipes|drums

Glorious online homage to G.S. McLennan unveiled




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