Regimental Pipes and Drums of the London Scottish
Being founded right after the regiment was raised, the Regimental Pipes and Drums of The London Scottish is one of the oldest army pipe bands in the world. It wears its distinctive Hodden Grey tartan maintaining the traditions of the original London Scottish. The pipes and drums accompany the entire regiment during official dinners, military parades, presentation of colours and other regimental functions, effectively providing musical support. It has performed at many high-profile events in the City of London as well as Greater London, most notably the Beating Retreat, Lord Mayor's Show and The Royal Caledonian Ball. Outside of the United Kingdom, the band has had the opportunity to perform at many parades and military tattoos in countries such as Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Uzbekistan and Jamaica.
From 1953 to 2002, the Pipe Major of the London Scottish held the position of Piper to the Queen Mother.
The roots of the London Scottish Pipes and Drums can be traced back to the first Scottish volunteer forces that were formed during the invasion panics of the Napoleonic era. The Highland Armed Association (renamed the Royal Highland Volunteers), formed in 1797, were shortly proceeded by the formation in 1803 of the Loyal North Britons and it is in 1803 that the first ever documented evidence of pipes and drums playing together on the march is found. This marks the very birth of pipe band history.
The pipers were tutored by pipers from the Scots Guards, as well as the Sovereign’s Piper, William Ross, and the drummers by an instructor from the Royal Marines Band, which was a mark of the prestige and position held by this new-found volunteer regiment. Band practise first started on a Thursday evening and this unbroken tradition remains in place today.
In 1861, the Regiment was presented with six sets of pipes, made by the ‘King of the Pipers’ John Ban McKenzie, along with a pipe banner and £100 for the band fund. The presentation pipes, with a silver inscription commemorating the event, can still be seen in the Regimental Museum.
The Pipes and Drums were a fixture of Victorian society, playing at prestigious events throughout the era, include Queen Victoria’s Gold and Diamond Jubilee parades, where troops from around the Empire paraded through the streets of London, with over three million spectators in attendance. ‘Big Drum Major’ Goodman was a household name throughout this period, with a famous music hall song written in his honour. In fact, the Pipes and Drums were held in such high regard that they were often given the honour of playing London Scottish troops past on parade, where all other volunteer regiments would be played past by the Band of the Household Division or the senior band on parade.
In 1998, Pipe Major Reith and his younger brother, made further piping history by performing the first ever recorded bagpipe music for Emile Berliner on the newly invented 7 inch gramophone disc. The first track recorded was The Barren Rocks of Aden and the last Cock O’ The North, both tunes still standards of the current Band.
The turn of the century saw one piper and two drummers join three different regiments to fight in the Boer War. One of these regiments was the Gordon Highlanders, who took a contingent of London Scottish troops to South Africa, which marked the first time volunteer regiment troops were used as an organised unit in battle and played on the march by their own piper. This would be a poignant precursor to the coming events of the new century.