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Piper John McLellan D.C.M., Highland Light Infantry 8 months 2 weeks ago #67027

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In Castle Gardens, Dunoon, Argyll.



The following letter has been received from Piper John McLellan, 1st Highland Light Infantry, and is addressed to his brother who resides in North Edward Street: -
Modder River Camp,
Jany. 11th, 1900.
DEAR BROTHER , - I must say I am in the best of health and spirits, hoping you are all the same. I suppose you would see in the papers about the big fight we had at Magersfontein. It was a very hard fight, indeed, and the Highlanders lost very heavily. We fought for fifteen hours and a half in the burning sun without food or water, and the bullets flying about our heads put me in mind of a hailstorm. Our object was to surprise the Boers early in the morning, when they were supposed to be asleep; but when we got two hundred yards off the trenches they fired a terrible rifle fire on us, and of course we were forced to retire. We were scattered about the field - nobody seemed to be in charge of us - so with the help of some volunteers the Highlanders formed up on their own accord and made for the trenches again. But although we fought all day we did not take the position. I was knocked about the field several times playing "Highland Laddie" on the pipes to gather the Highlanders together - some of them being very much disheartened after the hot reception they had in the morning. The pipes seemed to cheer them up, and the officers told me to keep on playing, although the bullets were whizzing past me like hail. The humming of my pipes prevented me from hearing them, and I imagined I was quite safe. The Gordon Highlanders joined us in the middle of the day and made for the trenches, but as they got near them were mowed down like grass. I don't think the Highland Brigade will attempt it again.

Dunoon Herald, Friday 9th February 1900

DUNOON PIPER'S BRAVERY AT MAGERSFONTEIN . - Piper John M'Lellan, of the Highland Light Infantry, who is mentioned in Lord Methuen's despatches for bravery while in charge of the stretcher-bearers at Magersfontein, belongs to Dunoon, and the news of his distinguished conduct in the field has called forth the highest admiration of all classes in the community. Piper M'Lellan, in a letter to his brother in Dunoon, gave a graphic description of the disaster to the Highland Brigade. He described in this how he had to play the pipes amid a hail of bullets, encouraging the scattered Highlanders to re-unite in the attack.

Dunoon Herald, Friday 23rd March 1900

Death of Pipe-Major John M'Lellan.

It is with deep regret we record the death, which took place in Dunoon Cottage Hospital on Sunday, of Pipe-Major John M'Lellan, D.C.M. Pipe-Major M'Lellan's fame as a composer of pipe music as well as a piper spread far from his native shores, and he will long be remembered in every corner of the world where Scotsmen foregather.

Perhaps the most famous of his compositions is the music to which "The Road to the Isles" is sung. Other famous airs composed by him include "Morag's Glen," "Campbell of Southall," and "Bonny Dunoon." Prior to the War the Cowal Gathering Committee invited composers to compete in a tune which would be played at the grand finale at each gathering. Once again Pipe-Major M'Lellan demonstrated his musicianly skill by winning with "Cowal Gathering," which will keep his memory among all lovers of pipe music evergreen.

Pipe-Major M'Lellan had a distinguished Army career. He joined the H.L.I. as a piper in 1892 and served with the regiment in the Boer War, in which campaign he was decorated with the D.C.M. Later he transferred to the 8th Bn. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and served in France during World War 1. In 1919 he was promoted to Pipe Major and retired in 1930. In his many years of service he won a number of medals.

He was a native of Dunoon and had a large circle of friends locally and for a number of years was employed with the Burgh as a painter. For a spell he was piping instructor to the grammar School Cadet Corps Pipe Band.

His sister is Mrs M. Henderson, Atwood, Hanover Street, Dunoon, whose sons have inherited their uncle's love of pipe music, one of them, Neil, being the present Pipe Major of Dunoon Ballochyle Pipe Band.

The funeral, which took place to Dunoon Cemetery on Tuesday was attended by a large and representative gathering, including a great number of ex-Servicemen. Pipers who attended played the lament "The Flowers of the Forest" as the cortege made its way to the cemetery and later played "Lochanside," one of the late Pipe Major's own compositions. There were many beautiful floral tributes.

The funeral service was conducted by Rev. G. Chas. Smith.

The Dunoon Herald, 5th August 1949

I went to Dunoon Cemetery to try to find his grave, but couldn't. When I got home I discovered that he's in an unmarked grave, in a plot with other members of his family.

'The Highland Brigade At Magersfontein' -

'The Road To The Isles', played by the Cape Town Highlanders -
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