Arbroath, Pipers Tales


Officiating at the annual riding of the marches was an important and essential duty of the burgh pipers. This example from Arbroath, quoted from McBains- Arbroath Past and Present, published in 1887 affords an excellent example of the old custom.

"In order that no one interested should be taken unawares of the marches riding, public notice was given by proclamation at the doors of the kirks in this and the adjoining parishes some Sundays previous to the day fixed. The ceremony itself was performed with considerable pomp. For several weeks before the event little else was talked of by old and young, and for many a day after it afforded a topic of conversation.”

The Magistrate and Deacons of the Trades met in the Town Hall with all due solemnity befitting such a high occasion. On the High Street in front of the Town House, were arranged the civic guard, consisting of two men dressed in scarlet coats and armed with halberds, the band (comprising one piper) and the dykepriser - those four forming the infantry; the cavalry composed of some thirty or forty land labourers decked out in their Sunday braws and mounted on their naigs, the manes and tails of which were done up for the day with the brightest ribbons.

The cavalcade being duly marshalled, the municipal big-wigs descended the stair with grave and solemn step, and preceded by the "infantry" and followed by the cavalry, they marched to the skirl of the pipes around the bounds of the burgh property. Many a wordy battle was fought with the neighbouring heritors, or the towns sub-feuars who in the interval since the last marches had "cribbed" a bit here and a bit there, but who on the eventful day were obliged, by the strong arm of the law, to restore the former state of matters. Returning to town after their well won fight, the rest of the day was spent in festivity ."

One piper of Arbroath is remembered in fo1k tale for the following gruesome incident. Dickmontlaw is more than a mile from the entrance of the cave, where, according to tradition, the piper and his wife entered when returning drunk from a wedding. Next morning the piper was heard at Dickmontlaw sounding his drone accompanied by his wife singing the following words in a doleful tone.

"Lone lost and weary , plays Tammy Tyrie, Beneath the Barns of Dickmontlaw."

Soon after the piper’s dog was seen to emerge from the cave with his mistress’s head in its mouth. The piper continued to play incessantly for some days after but was never again seen on earth.

History of Arbroath ,P438