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GORDON MOONEY continues his series on the auld toun pipers by looking at Kelso, one of whose pipers was immortalised in a famous folk song, not always sung today in its original form:

WRITING in 1825, James Haig in his ‘History of Kelso' tells us “that it was the custom for a drum and bagpipe to parade the town at five o'clock in the morning and at 10 o'clock at night, to signify the propriety of their retiring to rest; but this practice has long since ceased".

In a footnote he adds: "The custom of having regular pipers in each of the border towns, is of very long standing, and it is only within .a few years back that such an officer was considered an unnecessary appendage. Kelso continues to adhere to the old practice, and a piper is still kept by the town, who, however, only officiates on public occasions, and at St.James Fair".

This last piper of Kelso was Thomas Anderson and is noted by Archibald Campbell in 1812 (Additional notes on the 'Scots Musical Museum' p. 379) where he says "Thomas Anderson by trade a skinner in Kelso, whose father and grandfather were esteemed good performers on what is called the Border or Bellows Bagpipe. They lived about the close of the 17th century".

One of these Andersons is immortalised by Burns in 'John Anderson My Jo’. The connection isn't apparent until one reads the older bawdy inspiration to Burns famous song, the words of which are contained in the 'Merry Muses of Caledonia’.

Rutherford's ‘Guide to Kelso" of 1880 (pp. 34, 35) gives us the following anecdotes. "In front of the town hall in the ultra loyal days of George III and IV, the gentry of the district and principal inhabitants used 'al fresco', to drink the King's health, the wine provided for which they were in no way slack in passing to the outside crowd of onlookers. At this event, annually, the town piper, John Anderson, played his pipes at one of the open windows of the Town Hall. But a piper, any more than a prophet, has no honour in his own country. A petition dated 5th June 1786, was raised by the dilettante of the town and sent into the Bailie sarcastically requesting that a barrel organ be sent round the town in the morning and evening in place of the pipes, each subscriber to the petition obliging himself to pay from 2s6d to 5s towards purchase of the organ.

"John Anderson was a leather-breeches maker to trade and with the death of his brother (?) Tom Anderson, the town pipership of Kelso became defunct."

William Stenhouse in his notes on the 'Scots Musical Museum' (song 260) says, "John Anderson, if we may rely on an uniform and constant tradition was, of old, the town-piper of Kelso, and an amorous wag in his day.

JOHN ANDERSON MY JO from the Merry muses of Caledonia (lst and 4th verses):

John Anderson, my jo, John,
I wonder what ye mean,
To lie sae lang i' the mornin,
And sit sae late at e'en?
Ye'll bleer a‘ your een, John,
And why do ye so?
Come sooner to your bed at e'en,
John Anderson, my jo.
O it is a fine thing,
To keep out o'er the dyke, (To keep one's chastity)
But it's a meikle finer thing,
To see your hurdies fyke; (buttocks heave)
To see your hurdies fyke, John,
And hit the rising blow;
It's then I like your chanter-pipe,
John Anderson, my jo.
(The old tune of John Anderson crossed the Atlantic and became "When Johnny Comes
Marching Home'.)

Account of the Town of Kelso, James Haig, Edinburgh 1825, p.p.105.
Guide to Kelso, Kelso 1880, pp. 34-35.
Additional Notes to Scots Musical Museum.
A footnote on Gordon Mooney's piece comes from Alistair Moffat, arts correspondent with Scottish Television and a native of Kelso, whose book 'Kelsae -- A History of Kelso from Early Times' will be published by Mainstream in November;
THERE is a tradition that the piper went around the town with a Drummer each morning and evening to mark the time to wake and to stop work, (also to signal fires out in arson - and accidental - fire conscious Kelso). There was also a curfew bell and its use for the same purpose was well documented. Perhaps the pipes and drums were used on high days and holidays - such as at St James’ Fair, held each year, (up to the 1930’s), on August 5th.
The other bit of information concerns the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion when Brigadier Mackintosh occupied Kelso with his Lowland force. They waited to be joined by the Highland Army who marched into town on a rainy day accompanied by their pipers. At the ceremonial proclamation of the Old Pretender at Wester Kelso’s market cross, according to tradition, local (and therefore, I suppose, Border) pipers played and competed with the Highlanders.

As a footnote to the John Anderson story; there is a draper’s shop in Kelso of the same
name and my father tells me that they are related.