Musselburgh Pipers Tales

This old Burgh had its town piper who officiated at all important occasions.

In 1691 Captain Burnett was recruiting for a regiment in Holland, and such was the popular reluctance to engage in this campaign that all fair and unfair means were used to “list recruits”.

The town-piper of Musselburgh, James Waugh by name, while playing at the head of the troops and thinking no harm, had been carried off for a soldier. “If it was true”, said his masters, the magistrates, “that he had taken money from the soldiers it must have been through the ignorance and inadvertency of the poor man, thinking it was given him, for his playing as a piper.” “He had,” they continued, “been injuriously used in the affair by sinistrous designs and contrair to that liberty and freedom which all peacable subjects ought to enjoy under protection of authority.”

From Domestic Annals of Scotland Vol III, Dr Robert Chambers 1874 pp44

The listing for the campaign in Holland continued in the year One thousand seven hundred and ane (1701) upon the twentie aught day of March, Our regiment from Musselburgh came, and into Leith they came that night and ther they did embarque, and on Leith rade that night abade, and fareweel of Scotland did take, two new companies were ordained now, and two new Captans and some subletenants, a haste were a recruiting sent.

From the remembrance - The Scots Brigade in Holland, Scots History Society, Vol III 1572 -1782

The Enlistment of the Town Piper of Musselburgh

The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland for 12th February 1691 reveals the following drama:-

The magistrates of Musselburgh petition the Crown on behalf of themselves and James Waugh, common piper of the Burgh.

Petition by the magistrate of Musselburgh for themselves and James Waugh, common town piper of the Burgh:

Within these few days a battalion of foot coming from Haddington to be embarked at Leith, quartered at Musselburgh for two days. During that time James Waugh was called by some officers to play before them and, when the battalion marched to Leith, he was carried along with them by force and put aboard the ships now at Burntisland, where he is kept prisoner to be transported to Flanders on the pretext that he had taken money from the officers. If true, this was through ignorance, thinking it was given him for his playing. They crave the Lords to grant warrant to the magistrates of Burntisland, the commanding officer of the forces there or whom else they think fit, to set him at liberty and that the master or skipper of the ship be discharged to transport him with the rest of the soldiers. The Lords command Major McGill, brother to the Viscount of Oxenfoord, and Captains William and James Douglas to set ashore James Waugh and commit him to custody in the Canongate Tolbooth, ordain the magistrates of the Canongate and keeper of their tolbooth to detain him there till further order and the major etc to appear before the Lords on Tuesday next to answer for their conduct.

On 26th February 1691 the Privy Council said that Waugh has voluntarily enlisted.

“Warrant for delivering Wauch and Murdoch to Ensign Campell. “The Lords of their Majesties Privy Council doe heirby give order and warrand to the magistrates of Edinburgh and baillies of the Canongate and keeper of their tolbooth to delyver to Ensign James Campbell, ane of the officers of the forces presently designing to Flanders for their Majesties service.”

Act anent James Waugh - “the persones of William Murdoch and James Waugh to be carried alongst with them as souldlers in the foresaid service in respect that by the report of a comittie of their owne number they found that the saids personnes are not forced but hes voluntarily taken on in the said service as souldlers.”