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The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
(Princess Louise's)


91st (Argyllshire) Highlanders raised

93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Foot raised

amalgamated to form The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders


The Bands of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)

The regiment that was to become numbered the 91st had pipes from the outset, but it seems likely that the military band took a few years to establish. In a letter dated 13 January 1801, the first Colonel of the Regiment, Duncan Campbell, expresses his regret that other duties have prevented him from 'looking out for a man as master' of the incipient band:

I shall however write to our friend Wortley to speak to the man who made the First Regiment's Band, to be looking out for a proper person and also choosing Instruments and Materials for Clothing.

It is assumed that the post was filled shortly afterwards and that a Band was created.

The 93rd would certainly have had a Band from its earliest days, for General Wemyss of Wemyss, who raised the regiment in 1799, had a reputation for furnishing his units with brass instruments. His accounts from 1800 show that he paid Broderick and Williamson 6.0.2d for musical instruments, and Kolak 12.4.7d for French horns. His purchases appear to have been satisfactory, for while an 1809 inspection in Capetown reported that the band were merely 'tolerable', it adds 'instruments good'. A year later the musicians were said to be 'improving'.

General Wemyss' legacy survives in the form of a Jingling Johnny inherited by the 93rd from one of his previous regiments, the 3rd Sutherland Fencibles; still in the possession of the Regiment, this instrument is engraved with the initials W.W.

The first bandmasters of the two regiments are known by little more than their names. Sergeant James McKenzie was responsible for the Band of the 93rd between 1835 and 1839, whilst a brief entry in the Commanding Officer's Rough Book of the 91st in 1860 mentions a Mr Davies, who had offered to conduct a weekly band practice whilst the regiment was in Kamptee in India. With Mr Davies' successor, however, we enter better documented territory, for Sergeant Peter Kelly had attended a course at Kneller Hall prior to taking over in 1862.

In 1871 the Band, pipes and drums of the 91st played at the wedding of Princess Louise, the Duchess of Argyll and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, leading the procession with a rendition of 'Bonnie Mary of Argyll'. The following year the regiment incorporated the Duchess's name into its title.

During the winter of 1873 the 91st Band, pipes and drums played weekly at the Assembly Music Room in Edinburgh, collecting a total of 42 from the admission charges. The money was used to erect a drinking fountain on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.

The same year the 93rd was posted to Aldershot, the Band arriving in such small numbers that it was dubbed 'The Twelve Apostles', a nickname that was to survive for some time.

Soon after the 1881 amalgamation, the 1st Argylls departed for the outposts of the Empire, the pipes and drums finding themselves in great demand for local weddings in Ceylon. Whilst in Johannesburg in 1902-3, the Band and pipes played a regular afternoon concert in the public gardens each week, again proving highly popular.

The 2nd Battalion also spent time abroad, with a posting to India at the turn of the century. The staple musical diet of the Army abroad at the time consisted of regimental concert parties, and the new Bandmaster, Mr Walsh, soon established himself as a regular item on the programme, singing songs accompanied by his wife. The orchestra at these events was organized by Band Sergeant Hall.

A different role was adopted in 1908 when the Regiment sent a detachment of officers and men, including the Band, pipes and drums to London for guard duties, whilst the Foot Guards were on manoeuvres.

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The most famous bandmaster to serve with the regiment was undoubtedly F J Ricketts, who - under the name Kenneth J Alford - composed many of the finest British marches. Appointed Bandmaster of the 2nd Battalion in 1908, he joined the Band at Tempe in the Orange River Colony.

During the Great War, Bandmaster Ricketts and the bandboys joined the 3rd Battalion in Edinburgh, whilst the remainder of the musicians became stretcher bearers and medical orderlies.

The 1920s were perhaps the highpoint of the 2nd Battalion Band. Under Mr Ricketts' baton, it became a popular fixture in the London parks and elsewhere.

In 1925 the Band of the 2nd undertook a six-month tour to New Zealand, where it was the resident band for the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition. Whilst there, Mr Ricketts wrote 'Dunedin' and 'Old Panama'.

Such was his popularity with the public that when in 1927 Bandmaster Ricketts handed the baton over to Charles Beat - having been appointed Director of Music at the Royal Marines depot in Deal - 15,000 people turned up to wish him well.

Following a period in India, the 2nd Battalion moved to Singapore in 1936. It was still there when the island surrendered to the Japanese in 1942; apart from the human casualties, all the instruments and equipment were lost. The Bandsmen of the 1st Battalion meanwhile were training for service in the Western Desert.

The post-war years have been uncertain ones for the Band. The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1947, and the two Bands came together under Bandmaster O'Connor of the 1st. In 1970 a proposal that the entire regiment disappear saw the Band disbanded in anticipation, though it was to return in January 1972 when the regiment was reprieved. In 1994, however, the death knell was finally sounded, and the Band was subsumed into the new Highland Band.

Despite these troubles, the Band continued to function and continued act as ambassadors of British military music throughout the world. Amongst the most memorable performances was a 1960 visit to the British Trade Fair in Moscow, when the men were introduced to Nikita Kruschev, whilst the most spectacular must surely have been at the Hollywood Bowl in 1962: a wildly enthusiastic audience of 40,000 saw the Band play in a reproduction of Stirling Castle.

The Band kept up these international commitments to the very end, visiting the men of the Regiment in the Falklands in 1986, touring Australia the following year, and spending three months in the USA and Canada at the end of 1989.

1st Bn, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, 1934, Bandmaster A O'Connor

In February 1990 Bandmaster Kevin Lamb was appointed Deputy Chief Instructor at Kneller Hall, becoming the only Argyll ever to wear the uniform as a commissioned Director of Music.

His replacement was Bandmaster Peter Hunt, under whose leadership in 1993 the men joined the International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes, playing at various church services en route, whilst the dance band performed each evening.

adapted from
The History of British Military Bands,
Volume Two: Guards & Infantry

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Bandmasters of The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
Band Histories