Life, piping career and army service of Pipe Major James Robertson, Gordon Highlanders.
James Robertson was born near Portsoy, Banffshire, but moved to Coatbridge, Lanarkshire when he was seven years old because his father, a blacksmith, got a job in the Parkhead Forge. He learned the pipes as a boy, and was taught first by a distinguished piper known as 'The Duke'. He knew and was taught by several famous pipers when he was young.
James Robertson joined the army in 1906, and although he was supposed to go to the headquarters in Aberdeen he went straight to Cork because George MacLennan wanted him as a piper. He started composing about 1909 with a march dedicated to Captain J. M. MacLaren, a company officer at Aldershot. He had a good time in Ireland. The pipers stationed there sometimes played at the marina at Cork, and were able to hear G. S. MacLennan practising for competitions. They used to try to copy anything new they heard him playing. G. S. MacLennan had the theory that any kind of pipe music could be marched to, even pibroch, and he once had the pipers try this. There was always controversy of some sort about pibroch. In 1912 Mr Robertson studied under John MacDonald and got his pibroch certificate.
At the end of the First World War, Mr Robertson was appointed pipe major of the first battalion, and he led all the Gordons at the victory march in London. When they split into first and second battalions Mr Robertson went with first battalion to Turkey and Malta. He did the last three years of his twenty-one years' service at the depot in Aberdeen.
When he got back to the north east he was friendly with George Simpson, who had the Union Hotel in Turriff and was a great piping enthusiast. The Turriff Pipe Band had just been started, and Mr Robertson has always taken to do with it. When he started, the present pipe major, P/M Hepburn, was just a lad. Now Hepburn's son is also a fine piper and away doing his national service.