Rare Photo and Video: G S McLennan

October 29, 2014 on 6:02 pm by Michael Grey | In Delightful Data of the Day, Music, News, Photographs, Solo Piping, Stories, Video | 1 Comment

Back in June I wrote a little about the recently posted Pathé film footage of the great Highland dancer, Mary Aitken. Among many other good things, she was the namesake for a fine bagpipe tune, the jig “Mary Aitken”.

I just today received a super-excellent email from George S McLennan’s grandson, Hamish McLennan. For those with a genealogical bent I pass along a few words of familial clarification:

“GS and his wife, Nona, had two children – George (1914) and John (1916). Both followed their father into the Gordon Highlanders with John dying near St Valery-en-Caux in 1940 as they fought the rearguard to allow Dunkirk to happen. George married in 1945 after 5 years as a POW [Prisoner of War]. He and Jessie had three children – Nona, John and myself.”

And what gem do we all now have in our midst thanks to the family of GS? Nothing less than a fantastic photo of GS McLennan playing pipes as Mary Aitken danced at the games. It just doesn’t get much better than that!

George S McLennan piping for famous dancer Mary Aitken at the games_late 1920s_2

And for those analytic types here’s a close-up of the great man’s hands; it appears the note B was being sounded as this was taken; maybe after having just played a darado from the now-classic strathspey for the Highland Fling, “Devil in the Kitchen”?

George S McLennan's hands at play_sm

Hamish also passed along some interesting intell that sheds light on another bloggie effort I made in 2012. Then I wrote of GS’s stature. No fine points made: he was evidently not of average height.

“His Army Book which contains personal details as at when he joined up aged 15 years and 9 months gives his height as 5ft 2 and an eighth(!) inches. Yet by the time he left the Army in 1922 his Discharge Certificate reveals that he had grown to a mighty 5ft 7in (after 22 years and 233 days service). So if that’s what the Army says, that’s the evidence we have. I hope this adds a little added colour to your blog – albeit that the photo is black and white.”

The good [grand] son, doesn’t stop there. He points us in the direction of the freshly public British Pathé film archive regarding G S McLennan’s great 6/8-timed march, “The Braemar Gathering”:

“I’d spent quite a bit of time trying to find moving images for the [2013 PipingLive! G S McLennan exhibition] with little success. After the event I discovered this bit of film on the British Pathe site … My father, George, can be seen meeting the King and Queen after he’d given the tune it’s first public airing in 1950.”

Here is GS’s son, George, receiving recognition from King George VI, pictured here, accepted this award on behalf of his late father – this following the first public performance of the tune, “The Braemar Gathering”. GS’s half-brother and piper of his own renown, D R McLennan, had submitted the previously unpublished tune to Braemar Games as an entry in their tune composition contest.

George McLennan son of GS McLennan following the inaugural playing of his father tune The Braemar Gathering_post-humous prize winning composition

And finally, you can view the actual presentation here, GS McLennan’s son, George, receiving the first prize from the King, on behalf of his late father, GS McLennan (see 21′ mark):

And all this fantastic history courtesy of Hamish McLennan.

A good reminder to do what you can, while you can, to know your personal history.


1 Comment

  1. […] the tune) dancing to his playing. I hope Mike won’t mind me using a thumbnail here. Go to his site for the full story. ** Summer already seems like a distant dream here in Scotland and reviewing my […]

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