Mystery Photograph of a Piper

Tonight’s photograph is something of a mystery and has generated much enjoyable debate on one of the Facebook collector’s sites. This photograph depicts a piper in Scottish dress:SKM_C284e18070313140The debate arises from which unit he derives from and the insignia and dress have a number of confusing features. His sporran has two tassels and what appears to be the stag’s head of the Seaforth Highlanders:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (2)The cap badge is at an angle that makes it hard to be sure, but the consensus is that it is possibly the distinctive badge of the 5th Seaforth Highlanders:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (3)This badge is circular with the wildcat of Sutherland rather than the more usual stag’s head badge of the other battalions of the Seaforth Highlanders. s-l300So far then this piper is looking as though he comes from the Seaforth Highlanders, however the 5th Seaforth highlanders had their own distinctive sporran, different from that worn by other battalions and different to the one shown in this photograph. It becomes even more confusing when we look at the cross strap:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (4)This is not a Seaforth’s pattern, but rather the same design as used by the Black Watch. The plaid brooch is again more characteristic of the Black Watch than the Seaforths:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (5)The belt buckle however is of a generic design that was worn by a number of Scottish regiments in the early twentieth century:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (6)All this is very confusing and it thus becomes very hard to pin down which regiment this piper belongs to, if indeed he belongs to any. Many civilian pipe bands of the early twentieth century dressed their members in surplused military equipment and it has been suggested that this might be one of those. Equally in many early territorial and volunteer units there were not official funds for such niceties as a regimental band so they were funded by the men and officers themselves and had to purchase their own uniforms and pipes. This therefore led to a wide variety of semi and non-official uniforms that bore only a passing resemblance to the official dress regulations.

In truth it is probably impossible to say either which unit this man belonged to, or even if he is from a military rather than a civilian pipe band. It does however encourage lively historic debate and is a great little mystery for those who enjoy the intricacies of period uniforms.

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