Continuing a tradition going back to Queen Victoria's days and beyond, as a professional deerstalker and piper, it was a great honour for me to be asked by HM The Queen in 1989 to play for her as a personal piper at Balmoral Castle.
Many people know about "The Sovereign's Piper" or "Queen's Piper", (which has been an Army appointment since 1965), but few know that for many years there has been an additional piping presence of men who had other main occupations at Balmoral.
From mentions in Queen Victoria's Journals and still a tradition to the present day at Balmoral, these men tended to be mainly deerstalkers, gamekeepers or fishing ghillies. Probably the most well known of these, Bob Nicol, Bob Brown and Jimmy MacGregor went on to become Pipe Majors in The Gordon Highlanders during WWII.
[The "Two Bobs" especially are very highly regarded in the piping world for their teaching of piobaireachd, the ancient classical music of the Highland bagpipe.]
But there were others. Unfortunately no proper records have been found about most of them. However in the years following WWII there were 6 pipers plus The Sovereign's Piper marching round the Royal dinner table, all men who had other "day" jobs on Balmoral Estate. Most of these men would have done a hard day on the hill, maybe walking between 5 and 15 miles, before getting home to change their wet tweeds and travel more miles to play in the Castle that same night. Men such as Duncan MacNab Duncan in the 50's, Charlie Wright in the 60’s and 70’s. Alec Ogilvie in the 80’s and not forgetting my former colleague Tom Peggie in the 90’s who has now retired.
Bob Brown who went to Balmoral in 1926, lived for a long time (until his death in 1972) at Garbh-Allt Shiel in the Ballochbuie Forest of Balmoral where he was stalker/fishing ghillie. He was followed by the above mentioned Charlie Wright in the same position/house until 1983. In 1989 I myself arrived at Garbh-Allt Shiel to continue the tradition of stalker/ghillie/piper in that house, until leaving Royal Service in 1999.
Since then I continue to be invited back to play for Her Majesty although I now wear my own uniform on these occasions as I am no longer in her direct employment.