The old pipe tune “Dumbarton’s Drums” that came to be used as the Regimental March Past of the Royal Scots, takes its name from the Drums and Drummers of Old Dumbarton.
In September 1625 the Dumbarton Town Records tell us that Thomas Schaw was paid 8 shillings (Scots)
“for going throw the toun with the drum twyse at the tyme of the bonfyris maid on the tyme of His Majesties mariage and als geving warning thereby to all wha wold work at the work to go thereto”. Again in December 1625 the Drummer of Dumbarton Castle was paid 30 shillings, “for strayking his drum at the waponschawing” and “ to the pyper the same - 12 shillings.”
These are not however the earliest mention of the Dumbarton musicians. The Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer for Scotland for 1497 has the following entries.
Item - to the pyper of Dunbertane at the Kingis (James IV) command -23 shillings
Item -that samyn day -to the man that playit to the King on the clarscha (harp) be the Kingis command -24 shillings
and in 1504 - Item to the piparis of Dunbertane - 24 shillings
The Dumbarton Records give us a clear picture of the duties and costume of the drummers and some interesting information on the drum itself.
1625 - Item to David Scot for small beltis to be drawers and a braid belt to be a hinger to the drum and threid thereto and for dressing the said drum - 23 shillings.
1626 - Item to James Gairdiner for ane pair of schoone to John McCauss in July for stryking the drum the tyme of the dreilling and mustors - 16 shillings
1626 - an attempt to repair the drum - Item to avid Scot, cowper (barrel maker) , for dressing the auld drum and for glew and cordis bot thereto.
1627 - the repair was unsuccessful -item for ane new drum in Apryle - 10 punds 8 shillings.
Item - in June 1628 to Thomas Schaw for going throw the toun twa severall tymis with the drum in the grit drouth to adverteis to be cairfull of the ingill and fyre - 4 shillings.
1628 - Item to John McCaus for going throw the toun with the drum in August to discharge the scherars to go aff the toun in harvest and to inhibit ony dirt to be set on the calsey and hie street - 2 shillings 8 pence.
1634 - Item to Robert Cuthbertson, drummer, for his claithis and livray the toun promeisit him for the first yeirs service - 16 pounds.
1645 - Item for ane pair of doubell sollit schoone to William Scot, drummer.
1639 - To Robert Cuthbertson, drummer, in satisfaction of his bygane service and for dressing heiding and upholding of his drummes - 10 pounds
1643 - Item givin to James Gilchreist as drummer..at the touns mustor - 18shillings.
1644 - Item for gartaning to James Gilchreist to hing the drum about his craig, gottin frae Adam McCleut - 2 shillings.
1644 - Item gevin to William Scot as drummer for touking the drum at setting the watche and uther occasiounis, ane stand claithis contening ten quarters and ane half blew claith at 40 shillings the ell - 5 ponds 5 shillings. Mair for hardin to lyne them being sex quarters and ane half at 8 shillings the ell - 14 shillings. Far threid and buttons thairto -4 shillings. Mair for twa ell and ane half to be ane sark to him - 1 pound. Mair for maiking of the claithis and sark to him - 14 shillings. Mair for ane bonnat to him = 13 shillings 4pence. Mair for ane pair doubill sollit schoone to him - 14 shillings.
1644 - Item for twa pairchment skinis in Glasgow for heiding to the touns drumm.
1651 - Item to William Glen, wright, for twa drum sticks - 6 shillings.
1651 - Item to William Scot for touking the drum that night the bonfires were maid - 1 shilling 4pence.
1651 - Payit to William Glen, wryt, for the toun drum - 12 pounds.
As far as Dumbarton is concerned, the long line of those whose duty it was to blow the pipes, tuck the drum and ring the bell ceased when John Orme was deprived of his office as town drummer and bellman in 1889.
Tam was a tailor to trade, and for many years dwelt in Walkers Close in the early 19th Century. He was a dapper spruce little man, with a dignified carriage, and looked quite important in the Town’s uniform. Before the advent of the local newspaper, Tam Watson filled an important part in the corporate life of the Burgh. the arrival of a Highland wherry at the quay with a cargo of potatoes or herring, was duly notified by him to the inhabitants by tuck of drum. Not infrequently, when making these announcements he carried with him samples of herring etc, to testify as to their quality. These samples were required to be shown by order of the Dean of Guild.
Tam was a “grand hand at a crack”, especially when the “malt got abune the meal” and used to tell with great gusto of the the time within his recollection when Dumbarton contained only one Irishman and one pig.