John Kay’s engraving of Geordie Sime has been the Society’s logo since the beginning. Here Keith Sanger explores the piping family of another of Kay’s characters

John Kay is probably best known to pipers for his portrait of the piper     Geordy Sime, thought to have been one of his earliest sketches and certainly a figure that the young artist, also a resident of Dalkeith, would have known well. However, tucked away in the collection of Kay's work made by Hugh Paton and published in 1877 under the title of A Series of original portraits and caricature etchings by the late John Kay, with biographical sketches and illustrative anecdotes, and attached to the picture of 'Sergeant Major Patrick Gould’, is a reference to another family of pipers who came from Alva in Clackmannanshire.[1] According to these notes Patrick Gould had enlisted in the Foot Guards and then in 1793 was appointed Drill Sergeant to the Argyleshire Fencibles before later transferring to a similar position with the Edinburgh Volunteers.[2] It is the Drill Sergeant’s family back ground that is of primary interest where it states that 'both his grandfather and father appear to have successively held the situation of village piper'.
According to this account his father was a John Guild, who was twice married, and Patrick, who was the youngest of thirteen children, was born on the 31st January 1749. Upon the sudden death of his father, his widowed mother moved to Glasgow where the young Patrick was raised as one of the four surviving children. Now Alva is not a large place even now, although not that far from Stirling which we know seemed to have some regard for its Burgh Pipers, so the reference to two generations of pipers raised my interest in seeing how far this account could be substantiated from surviving records.  
The variation of the spelling of his name as Guild/Gould is par for the course at that time: the real problem with local Parish records is the idiosyncratic way in which they were kept ranging from just bare names and dates to including occupations and actual place of abode, all assuming that they made it into the records in the first place. In this case there was little difficulty in locating the baptism record for Patrick on the 5th February 1749, which confirmed that he had been born on the 31 January and his parents were John Guild, Piper in Struidhead and a Margaret Crawford.[3] It was also possible to confirm from the burial records that a John Guild Piper in Struidhead died of a fever on the 10th February 1750 and was buried the following day.[4]
The next stage was to try and push further back and again it was possible to tie the evidence together. Guild/Gould was not a very common name in Alva so the marriage of a John Guild to Janet Burn in 1712 looked promising,[5] especially as they had recorded the baptisms of six children between 1713 and 1725.[6] In several of the entries the  father John Guild also has the description of  'Pyper' added thereby confirming the identity as well as the general accuracy of the biographical sketches and that this would have been the first marriage. It also seems reasonable to accept the claim that this piper was the second generation of pipers there and so that leaves two final questions. Firstly, where was 'Struidhead' and second, how did a small place like Alva support two generations of pipers?
The first is easily answered as the 'Struid' part of the name is clearly the modern 'Strude' which can be found in the name of Strude Mill and also several of the nearby streets on the north side of Alva, more or less in the mouth of the Alva or as it is sometimes called Strude Glen. The question of how a piper made any sort of living in a fairly small place like Alva does present more of a problem, but one for which an answer can be suggested. Over the first half of the 18th Century the hills immediately above Alva were the source of some of the purest silver ore around at that period and the local landowner had  sunk a number of working mineshafts. The place would have had aspects of any mining boom town and the piper may have been the then musical equivalent of the later American mining town's honky tonk piano in the Silver Dollar Saloon. The undesirability of living so close to the mines may also have been the reason why the piper's widow and surviving children moved away soon after his death, at that time Glasgow probably really was ' miles better'.


1. The work can be found online at, where Sergeant Major Patrick Gould is number CLXXXV. page 43.
2.  The National Archives at Kew, London, appear to show two records for his military career, WO 121/144/54, where he is described as Patrick Gould alias Patrick Child born (Not Known), served in 3rd Foot Guards; Argylshire Fencibles; Edinburgh Volunteers, Discharged aged (Not Known) - and at WO 121/9/206, Patrick Gould, Born Aloa, Stirlingshire, Served in 3rd Foot Guards.  Discharged aged 40 after 22 years of service, 1790. Unfortunately the actual records are currently unavailable while they are being digitised for future online access but ‘Child’ is probably a misreading by one of the Kew cataloguers of the alternative Scots spelling of Patrick’s name, ‘Guild’ though it may imply that he enlisted as a drummer boy.
3.   General Registers of Scotland, Old Parish Records, (OPR), Births, 470/00100241 Alva
4.   OPR Deaths, 470/000177 Alva.
5.   OPR Marriages 470/00200027 Alva.
6.   Anne born July 1713, OPR 470/00100105 and OPR 470/00100170; Jannet born Nov 1715, OPR 470/00100108; Margaret born April 1717, OPR 470/00100110; John born May 1719, OPR 470/00100183; James born May 1721, OPR 470/00100189 and Thomas born April 1725, OPR 470/00100194.[Title image from Kay; see note 1]