Piper John MacLeod: Indian Mutiny

The Calgary Highlanders playing Haughs of Cromdell, the tune Pipe Major John MacLeod played at Secunderbagh.

The Unearthly Visitant

Not everyone in action is considered for an award of valour or bravery. At times soldiers who we might think of as deserving are overlooked, although no end of writings, reading and re-reading of their actions offer us any explanations. Still these accounts of soldiers in action provide us with context for those who were recognized. In one such account of the Indian Mutiny, Pipe Major John MacLeod’s actions with the 93rd Regiment during the Relief of Lucknow, India were recorded. Although MacLeod received no award for valour, six Victoria Crosses were awarded to the 93rd Regiment of Foot (Sutherland Highlanders) of whom five were Scottish born. The sixth, Lance Corporal John Dunlay was born in Douglas County Cork, Ireland.

The 93rd Highlanders entering the breech at Secunderabagh, Lucknow, India, 16 November 1857.

The 93rd Highlanders entering the breach at Secunderabagh, Lucknow, India, 16 November 1857.

There was no pause, no halting hesitation of a moment. The men saw their enemy in front, and, obeying the sharp and ready words of command, dashed forward. They neither thought of the enemy’s greater numbers nor of their advantages of position. Instantly rifle and bayonet were at work, and the battle raged hand to hand. This was no conflict of a few minutes. For two whole hours it continued — the Highlanders, courageously supported by the Punjaubees [sic], performing prodigies of valour. Above the roar of battle was sounding the wild war notes of the bagpipes — sweetest music in a highland soldier’s ear — for John MacLeod, the Pipe Major of the 93rd, remembered well his duty in the turmoil. He has been among the first to force his way though the breach, and no sooner was he within the building then he began to encourage the men by vigorously playing his pipes. The more hot and deadly the battle became the more high strung became the piper’s feelings, and the more loudly did the bagpipes peal and scream — John standing the while in positions perfectly exposed to the fire of the enemy, to whom doubtless he appeared as some unearthly visitant.

Cromb, James. The Highland Brigade: Its Battles and Its Heroes, published 1886. pgs. 202-3


About The Author

pferguson
In April 2007 Paul met Casey and Ian Williams of the Paradigm Motion Picture Company in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul has worked with Paradigm since 2009 as Producer and Historian. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was amazed by films such as David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and he became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he discovered Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on his many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of the successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

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