The now famous piper at the Alamo, John McGregor, was born in Scotland and travelled to Texas to fight in the Texas Revolution.
It would be of great interest to know who exactly John MacGregor was. Born in Scotland with that name he was almost certainly of the MacGregor pipers of the Clann an Sgeulaiche of Drumcharry, 10 miles from Aberfeldy in Perthshire.
John may well have been a grandson of the John I who was piper to Prince Charles Edward. John I had four sons (two of them called John) and eight grandsons, at least two of who were called John.
John McGregor was living in Nacogdoches when he enlisted to fight for Texas Freedom and Independence. John entered into service in late 1835 and participated in the Battle of Béxar.
Afterward served and fought as a Second Sergeant in the now famous, “Capt. William R. Carey's Artillery Company”, a unit nicknamed, “The Invincibles”, in the Alamo fortress.
During the Texas War of Independence, several young Scots fought and died in the Alamo fort. John MacGregor is the most well known of these heroic Celts. In her song, “The Piper at the Alamo”, Isla St Clair describes John as “Defiant and Tall”.
When there was lull in the fighting during the siege, MacGregor often played his bagpipes to cheer up his fellow troops. The Mexican troops had never heard a bagpipe but instinctively knew what was happening.
MacGregor, a friend of David Crockett, also participated and initiated musical duels with the renowned naturalist, who played the fiddle. These shows were termed "contests to determine who could create the loudest noise" by others.
It is sad Texas History Scholars have never acknowledged McGregor's importance at that battle. What these scholars see as charming humor on his side was actually a dead serious responsibility, which John saw through — " to the deid."
What a different narrative it would have been if they'd known that playing the pipes in a fight is intimately connected to Scottish heritage since the piper was to Ancient warfare what the drummer and bugler were to subsequent battles — and further.
The piper is the Clan's heart and soul, the guardian of their unified spirit and the recorder of their actions, triumphs, and misfortunes. His music, his sound, had unique importance, a special meaning for his people. During battle, a Scottish Piper could mobilize men and ignite their spirits like no other.
Furthermore, pipers went into battle ready to die, and the enemy is aware of his importance to the military strategies and enthusiasm of his Clansmen and was more than happy to accept. Even Mexican troops who had never heard a bagpipe intuitively understood that this man, McGregor, must not be permitted to live.
According to some accounts, the Mexican Army could hear a bagpipe coming from inside the fort during the final attack. John was last seen fighting valiantly at his post, hand-to-hand, when the Alamo fell; his pipes close by.
John McGregor was a true patriot of our Texas Revolution.
John McGregor continued the dignity of his forefathers and entered the ranks of legends on March 6, 1836 — in the celebrated legacy of Scottish pipers.
This post is dedicated to all of John’s descendants, living today in Texas and around the world that continue to carry the torch of Liberty handed down to them by John McGregor a.k.a., the Piper at the Alamo, to the benefit of Texas.
Thank you John McGregor for your service, your great deeds of bravery, and your heroic devotion to our great Republic — Texas!
The Piper at the Alamo
As sung by Isla St. Clair on "When the Pipers Play" (1998)
Chorus: He came down to Texas from the Scottish shore,
Came down to fight in the Mexican war.
McGregor was the piper at the Alamo,
The piper at the Alamo.
His name was John McGregor, defiant and tall.
He played through the siege, thirteen days in all.
He played through the madness of the bloody fight.
He played through the sadness on the final night.
He piped for the defenders as the sun did rise,
With hope and glory shining his eyes,
And though the line was broken, he played so well,
He played for Texas as the eagle fell.
Now the guns are silent; no bugle calls.
The ghost of McGregor haunts the mission walls.
If you listen carefully, on a winter's day,
You can feel his spirit; you can hear him play.
• bagpipe.news, The Piper at the Alamo
• McGregor, John, the alamo.org
• The pipes of War, blog, Remember the (piper at the) Alamo! By Ian S. Williams
• The Scotsman, scotsman.com, How Scottish piper stole the show at the Alamo
• Bill Groneman, “McGregor, John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/mcgregor-john.
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