Bagpipes with a story arrive at Lathallan School

Lathallan School recently celebrated the remarkable story of Johnshaven man Harry Scott, a piping instructor who led the formation of the school’s pipe band almost 60 years ago.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 9:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 9:28 am
The Lathallan School Pipe Band at a Remembrance Parade in Montrose

At the heart of Lathallan School’s nine-decade history is the steady production of pipers and drummers who have continued the Lathallan School Pipe Band to this day.

Although Mr Stott was named in the yearbooks by previous headmasters, little was known about him until the moment occurred when a link from the past opened up through a person in the present.

Current Lathallan School Information Technologist, Myles Beattie, introduced the fact that he was Mr Stott’s great nephew.

The pipes are an integral part of the school's history

And he was able to give new insight into the activities of the Lathallan Pipe Band during his tenure as their founding instructor.

Myles has been able to produce actual artefacts from his great uncle’s life and times and Joanne Beattie, a noted local researcher and author, supplied a very interesting history of Mr Stott and some of the unknown but remarkable events that occurred during his life.

“Harry Stott was born on July 18, 1893 at Townhead Road, Fettercairn to Jane and David Stott.

At the age of 19, he enlisted in the 6th Battalion of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. This is where he learned to play the bagpipes and became a member of the band.

A solo piper performs for the crowds

During the First World War the piper always went over the top first to play and encourage the soldiers to feel they were fighting for Scotland.

In the KOSB’, it was normal to play the regimental tune “All the blue bonnets are over the border” interspersed by “Highland Laddie”.

The regiment was fighting at the Battle of Loos which took place in France from September 25 to October 8, 1915. A total of 21,000 men were killed in the battle and 7000 of them were Scots.

Pipe Major Robert McKenzie went over the top first as all pipers did, and had started to play the regimental tune when he was struck by enemy fire and fell aged 59 on September 25.

Mr Stott with his presentation pipes

He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Harry Stott took the pipes from McKenzie and without fearing the consequences leapt from the trench and struck up the pipes playing “Highland Laddie” followed by the regimental tune.

He often said he had fully expected to be shot and was amazed he wasn’t.

After the war, Harry received a set of bagpipes which Robert McKenzie’s wife donated. Myles now has that set of pipes at Lathallan School.

John Nevans with Myles Beattie

Harry survived the war but lost many friends and remained angry at the way the pipers were sacrificed.

Because of his experiences he never wore a kilt again despite regularly being called on to play the pipes.

At one of these occasions, the then Headmaster of Lathallan School heard Harry play the pipes at the war memorial on Remembrance Sunday and on talking with him, the idea of forming a pipe band comprising of the pupils was first discussed.

And so it was that every Thursday for the rest of his life Harry went to the school and taught those pupils who wanted to be in the band to play the pipes.

The band went on to play at many events always with Harry always in attendance.

He never asked for, or received, any payment for his services.

Mr Stott died on December 10, 1972 at the Royal Infirmary in Aberdeen.

But his legacy lives on in the many awards won by Lathallan Pipe Band and is a fitting memorial to a brave man.

Current Lathallan School Piping Instructor, John Nevan said: “The pipes which were given to Piper Stott after the war are of particular interest.

"On first glance they seem like a well-made set of early Peter Henderson bagpipes, ebony with ivory mounts and nickel silver ferrules, there is a degree of ‘bloom’ on the combing which is the result of them being tucked away for many years.

"Judging by the decoration of the wood and the ivory mounts they might have been manufactured in the late 1800’s.

"Apart from their value as an antique set of Hendersons, they seem pretty bog standard.

"It is only when you pay attention to the commemorative plaque mounted on the bass stock does the history of this set of pipes fan into a flame.”

The plaque reads:

“Presented by Mrs J.A Doig in memory of Pipe Major R McKenzie, N.C.O’s and Men of K.O Scottish Borderers

Who fell at the Battle of Loos 25th of September 1915.”

Lathallan School Headmaster, Richard Toley said: “Lathallan School recognises Mr Stott’s gallantry during the war and his unwavering commitment to the development of pipes through the Lathallan School Pipe Band.

"The school will preserve the memory of Piper Harry Stott within its annals and records,” he said.

Current piping instructor, Mr Nevans, has been the beating heart of Lathallan Pipe Band for almost 15 years and has continued to develop the skills of hundreds of fledgling pipers. His lessons kept going throughout the lockdown period as he persevered, along with drumming instructor, Mr Niven, to teach pupils virtually.

The Lathallan School Pipe Band led this year’s Remembrance Day Parade on Sunday continuing on a great tradition.