314 – 1869 Ross’s Collection Pipe Music by William Ross

An update by Geoff Hore 2008-2015.  The writing in black font is from A Bibliography of Bagpipe Music. The update comments are in blue font.


1     1869 (Edition I in the original Bibliography).

Ross’s collection / Pipe music

Dedication: Dedicated by special permission to Her most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.

title; p [i], dedication; p [iii], essay, ‘The bagpipe and its music’, by the Rev. Dr. Norman MacLeod; p [v], preface; p [vii], index to pibrochs; pp [viii-ix], index to marches; pp [x-xi], numerical list of remaining tunes; pp [xii-xv], instructions, pp [xvi-xviii], exercises; p [xix], instructions for keeping the pipes in order, and glossary; p [xx] blank; pp 1-61, pibrochs 1-20; pp 62-131, tunes 1-223; pp [133-134], list of subscribers.

  • Public Library, New York.  Library binding. 13.5 x 9.9″.
  • National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.  (two copies);
  • Central Public Library, Edinburgh.
  • Mitchell Library, Glasgow.  (missing);
  • University Library, Glasgow.  (with owner’s signature and date, 1870).

The preface is dated January 1869. The title-page is a lithograph signed ‘Maclure, Macdonald & MacGregor, Lithrs to the Queen London, Liverpool Manchester & Glasgow’. There is no letterpress title-page.

The tunes are grouped as: marches (with slow marches and ‘airs’), 1-110; strathspeys, reels and jigs, 111-202; reels, 203-223; with the exceptions of marches numbered 186, 187 and 222, and a jig, 209. In the central section, each strathspey forms a ‘set’ with a reel immediately following, the jigs and a few other reels being scattered throughout, and in the index the sets are numbered 1-38. There is no mention of sets in the music text itself.

Ross was born in Knockbain parish, Ross-shire, in 1823. He was Pipe-Major in the Black Watch from 1849 to 1854, then piper to Queen Victoria until his death in 1891. While in the Queen’s service he established a pipe-making business in London, which after his death was taken over by his principal assistant, Henry Starck. He has been described as ‘a good all-round performer on the pipes, well versed in pipe music, and a fine-looking Highlander of respectable family and pleasing manners’. On the other hand it has also been said that ‘he had not the complete knowledge necessary to set down … piobaireachd correctly’. (Piping Times, December 1974). The authority for these statements is not known.

The two copies at the National Library of Scotland differ in that one has the author’s address at the end of the preface; the other does not. (See further comment in edition 2 below.)

The following review was published in the Southland Times, New Zealand 22 February 1870. Thanks are extended to the National Library of New Zealand for permission to publish it and the original version can be seen on the website http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

“Mr William Ross, her Majesty’s piper, has rendered an essential service to all lovers of the Highland pipe, and therefore to every Scotsman, by the publication of his collection of pipe music. It is a handsome volume, dedicated by special permission to her Majesty, and it forms the most complete work of the kind ever
issued. Mr Ross has been often solicited to publish his manuscript collection of pipe music, which has been amassed and augmented during a period of thirty years, the materials being derived from old Highland pipers and other local sources. From the store thus gathered, comprising about 1000 airs, a selection of 243 has
been compiled – 20 pibrochs never before published, and 223 marches, Strathspeys, and reels. We are not aware of the existence of any similar collection, and, therefore, strongly recommend it, more particularly to military pipers, as being the beat adapted for their use in method and style. There is included in the work
a complete code of instructions for the use of learners, so particularly stated and plainly illustrated that the pupil may teach himself. It should be stated that, simply by omitting the grace notes, all the airs may be played upon the piano-forte or violin. The Rev. Dr Norman MacLeod, in the introductory essay, writes:-

“The music of the Highlands is the pibroch of the great war-pipe, with its fluttering pennons, fingered by a genuine Celt in full Highland dress, as he slowly paces a boronial hall, or amidst the wild scenery of his native mountains. The bagpipe is the instrument best adapted for summoning the clans from the far-off
glens to rally round the standard of their chiefs; or for leading a Highland regiment to the attack amidst the roar of battle.  The pibroch is also constructed to express a welcome to the chief on his return to
his clan; and to wail out a lament for him as he is borne by his people to the old burial-place in the glen, or in the sainted Isle of Graves. To those who understand its carefully composed music there is a pathos and depth of feeling suggested by it which a Highlander alone can fully sympathise with; associated by him, as it always is, with the most touching memories of his home and country, recalling the faces and forms of the departed; spreading forth before his inward eye panoramas of mountain, loch, and glen, and reviving impressions of his early and happiest year. And thus, if it excites the stranger to laughter, it excites the Highlander to tears, as no other music can do, in spite of the most
refined culture of his after life. It is thus, too, that what appears to be only a tedious and unmeaning monotony in the music of the genuine pibroch, is not so to one under the magic influence of Highland Associations.”

“The characteristic poetry of the Highlands is that of Ossian, its music is the pibroch, and these two voices embody the spirit and sing the praises of “Tir ‘nam Beann, ‘nan Gleann, ‘s ‘nan Gaisgeach.” A distinguished piper in a letter to Mr Ross bears this testimony:-

“I have carefully gone through your book of pipe music, and I consider it one of the most complete and useful publications of pipe music I have ever seen. No one pretending to have a love for pipe music ought to be without a copy of it; and to any one who intends learning the pipes, it is a most invaluable assistant, the directions given being so clear and easily understood. Being a piper myself, you know the interest I take in everything connected with the pipes”

1869-75 (Not in the original Bibliography).

Part 1The image for Part 1 will be inserted here when it is located. Part 2


Contents Part 1 not known. Contents Part 2: No title-page; p [i], Preface; p[ii], blank; p [iii], blank; pp [iv-v], Index to marches; p [vi-vii], Index to strathspeys and reels; pp [vii-ix], Index to extra tunes; pp [x-xiii]; Instructions; pp[xiv-xvi], Exercises; pp [xvii], Instructions; pp [xviii-ix], blank; pp 62-165, Tunes (1-333).


  • College of Piping Museum.  Part 2 only. Covers off but otherwise appears to be complete. An inscription inside the front cover reads ‘Piper John Thomas MacDonald, 2nd Batt Scots Guards, 1881’ and also ‘Pipe Major MacDonald 2 Batt Cameron Coaliag Barracks Wilton’. Wilton may or may not have been the name – it is difficult to read. On the flyleaf is, ‘Piper John MacDonald Junior, 1894’.
  • Geoff Hore’s Collection.  Photocopy of Part 2 only.

Part 1.  Little is known about Part 1 at the moment but no doubt it will be found in a private collection and as the details become available they will be included here. Part 2 contains pages 61-165 and it appears that when this edition was split into two parts pages 1-60 (Piobaireachd tunes) formed Part 1. It will have its own index along with the Preface, Instructions and Exercises. Whether it has the Addenda that are included in edition 3, only time will tell.

Part 2.  Above the Preface is the comment: ‘Second edition revised with additional tunes’ and it is dated 1869. However, it appears that the Preface is from the same plates as edition 1 with new words added. The earliest it can have appeared is 1869 and the latest 1875 when the third edition appeared. There is no title-page, however, the Preface (see scanning above) contains some details that would normally be on the title-page. In the description to edition 1 above Cannon makes the following comment:

“The two copies at the National Library of Scotland differ in that one has the author’s address at the end of the preface; the other does not.”

It may well be that the one he describes with the author’s address is the elusive edition 2 in single book format.

Above the Index to Marches is the following comment: ‘As this work is bound in One part and sometimes in Two the Author has not considered it requisite to alter the Index or the Pages; therefore Page 62 will be as Page 1 in the Second Part when bound separately.’ This is proof that there is a single volume, as well as two-volume version of this edition.

The arrangement of the indexes is a little unusual. The Index to Marches has the tunes in alphabetical order with the tune number to the left and the page number to the right. The Index to Strathspeys and Reels are listed in tune number order. They are listed in sets ie tunes 111 and 112 are a strathspey and reel and likewise tunes 113 and 114 etc. Occasionally an individual tune is listed.

The present writer has never seen the first edition and it is not possible to determine if any tunes have been added, deleted or moved when edition 2 was published. However, a comparison of this edition with edition 3 shows there are many changes.

3   1875 (Edition II in the original Bibliography).

title; p [i], dedication; p [iii], preface; p [iv], essay, p [v], index to pibrochs; pp [vi-x], index to marches, strathspeys, etc; pp I-VIII, as pp [xii-xix] of 11 above; pp IX-XI, notes on timing, followed by exercises; p [Xll] blank; pp 1-61, pibrochs 1-20; p [62] blank; pp 1-30, pibrochs 1-11 (‘Addenda’); p [31] blank; pp 62-188, tunes 1-404; p [1], ‘List of subscribers to first edition’; pp [2-3], ‘List of subscribers to the new edition’.

  • Library of Congress, Washington DC.  Cloth Gilt. (Original binding). 13.8 x 10.0″. One fly-leaf at each end, the first inscribed in pencil: Robt. B. MacDonald. Granton Mains.
  • National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.
  • Private Collection.
  • Private Collection, New Zealand.  Pasted on the reverse side of the title-page is the following: ‘This Book was given to the Braemar Highland Society by Her Majesty the Queen as a first prize for Bagpipe playing in 1877 and won by Robert Meldrum Pipe Major XCIII Sutherland Highlanders.’
  • The Author’s Collection.  Donated by Roy Gunn of Gold Coast, Australia. On the back of the Dedication page is ‘David Campbell, Parish of Tongue, Sutherlandshire, Scotland’. Below that is further writing but has been scratched out but it starts with the word ‘Born’. There are also the remains of two numbers at the end, 4 and probably 7.

The title-page is a new lithograph similar to that of 1, signed: Maclure and Macdonald, Auto-lith, London.

There is no publisher’s imprint, but the last pibroch (Addenda No. 11) is dated July 1875, and ‘dedicated to the Highland Society of London, to whose encouragement and assistance the Author is greatly indebted for being able to publish this edition’. The preface, also dated July 1875, and headed ‘New Edition’, gives the contents correctly as 435 tunes. Some authorities date this edition 1876, perhaps correctly. For example, Baptie (1894) mentions two editions, 1876 and 1885, having overlooked the first; Brown and Stratton (1897) mention three editions, 1869, [1876] and 1885.

Besides the additional pages in both sections of the book, some of the tunes appearing in the first edition have been deleted and replaced by others. They can easily be distinguished by the entirely different style of lithography. The index no longer groups strathspeys and reels into sets, and in fact some of the sets have been broken by the substitution of new tunes.

4      1885 (Edition III in the original Bibliography).

Dedication as 1.

Cover title: Ross’ / pipe music / revised edition.

title; p [i], dedication; p [iii], preface; p [iv], essay; p [v], index to pibrochs; pp [vi], vii-x, index to marches etc; pp I-VIII, as pp [xii-xix] of 11 above; pp IX-XI, exercises; p [XII] blank; pp 1-61, pibrochs 1-20; pp 62-113, pibrochs 1-21 (‘Addenda’); p [114] blank; p [115], half-title ‘Marches, Strathspeys and Reels’; pp 116-253, tunes 1-430; p 254, tune 437; pp unnumbered, lists of subscribers to the 1st and 2nd editions, and to the ‘New and Revised Edition’.

  • Bodleian Library, Oxford.  Cloth gilt (original binding). One fly-leaf at each end.
  • Central Public Library, Edinburgh.
  • British Library, London.  (received 17 September 1885).
  • The Author’s Collection.  Stamped on the Title, Dedication and Preface pages is ‘H. B. Galloway, 2nd Batt’n Seaforth Highlanders.’. This book is in mint condition. Donated by Walter Gibson, Otago.

The title-page is a lithograph resembling that of 3 but with differences of detail, and signed ‘Robert Home & Son, Lith. Edinr

The preface is dated July 1885; the latest dated tune is a pibroch, Addenda No. 21, 1884.

This edition contains 431 marches, strathspeys, etc. The number of the last tune is a misprint which has led later bibliographers to quote the total incorrectly as 437. Once again tunes have been added to both the pibroch and march etc sections; also in the pibroch section, page 56 has been completely reprinted, while in the marches etc some of the tunes of the first and second editions have been deleted and replaced. These again are clearly identifiable by the style of lithography.

5      c1890-1900 (Edition IV in the original Bibliography).

Title and dedication as 1.

Imprint as in edition 4, but no full stops after Inverness or Aberdeen.

Contents as 6, but omitting lists of subscribers.

  • Roderick Cannon’s Collection.  Cloth gilt. 13.9 x 10.4″. Purchased 1916.
  • Library of Congress, Washington DC.  Cloth gilt. 13.9 x 10.4″.
  • National Library of Ireland, Dublin.  Contains former owner’s signature, W. H. Grattan Flood, and date 1890.
  • Private Owner.
  • Varna Day (née Boyce) of Christchurch.
  • The Author’s Collection.  Contains former owner’s signature, William David Bathgate, Gowrie, 10 July 1901, and the price in pencil £2-2-0. It is in mint condition.

The title-page is a lithograph resembling that of 4, signed ‘Aird & Coghill, Glasgow.’

Pages 56 and 59 have been completely reprinted; and a few misprints have crept in. The number of the last tune is still given incorrectly as in 4; and the preface gives the total number of tunes incorrectly as 435, having remained unchanged from edition 3.

The compiler died in 1891, and Manson says that his widow, Mrs. Ross, republished the collection in 1900. Presumably this is the edition to which he refers. The meaning of the date 1890 inscribed by Grattan Flood in his copy is not clear. If it purports to be the date when he acquired the book it is presumably in error.

6     c1925 (Edition V in the original Bibliography).

Dedication as 1.

title; p [i], dedication; p [iii], preface; p [iv], essay; p [v], index to pibrochs; pp [vi], vii-viii, index to marches, strathspeys and reels; pp 1-61, pibrochs 1-20; pp 62-95, ‘Addenda’ pibrochs 1-14; p 96, half-title; pp 97-195, tunes 1-301.

  • Central Public Library, Edinburgh.  Library binding. 13.8 x 10.1”.
  • Mitchell Library, Glasgow.  (missing). Received 8 January 1934.
  • The Author’s Collection.  It is in mint condition. Donated by Varna Day (née Boyce), Christchurch.

The lithographed title-page is a very close copy of either 4 or 5, though differing slightly from both, and is signed ‘Aird & Coghill Ltd.’

The date of this abridged edition is not known, but it must be later than 1916 (cf. 5 above). It was advertised in 1925, and Askew found it still available in 1932. After reproducing Manson’s description of the earlier editions he continues, ‘still available, price £1. ls, cloth gilt, having recently been republished by Paterson, Sons, and Co., Ltd., Glasgow.’

Pages 56 and 59 are in the altered form, as in edition 5. The preface, though still dated July 1885, now gives the total number of tunes correctly as 334.

Research carried out by Cannon and Jeannie Campbell in her book Highland Bagpipe Makers suggests that Logan & J Marr Wood Ltd folded in c1923. It is probably no coincidence that in the same year Paterson, Sons & Co Ltd first appear on the scene with a version of Logan’s Tutor and Pipe-Major W. Ross’s Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music Book 1 (No 348).

The present writer has a near perfect edition 1 of Pipe Major William Ross’s Collection (No 348) and it has an advertisement for this edition of Uilleam Ross’s Collection of Pipe Music. It is now well established that Ross’s Book 1 (No 348) was published before September 1923 and as there are no known books published earlier by Paterson, Sons & Co Ltd we can be reasonably sure that was their first year of publishing bagpipe music.

It is most likely that 1923 was when this edition of Ross’s Collection of Pipe Music was published although it was not advertised until 1925 as Cannon points out.

Paterson, Sons and Co Ltd became Paterson’s Publications Ltd in 1925.

7    1976 (Edition VI in the original Bibliography).

Half-title: Ross’s / collection / of / pipe music

p [i], half-title; p [iii], title; p [iv], copyright statements etc; pp v-vi, Foreword; p [viii] reproduction of lithographed title page, but without imprints; p [viii] blank; pp [i-vi], vii-x, I-XI, [XII], 1-55, 56, 57-113, [114-115], 116-254, as 4 above.

  • 11.0 x 8.9″.
  • The Author’s Collection.

This is a reprint of edition 4. ISBN 0 7158 1201 7.

Unicorn Limited Inc in USA offers a reproduction of the 3rd edition on CD. See www.scotpress.com.


  • Rev 00 (13 September 2008).
  • Rev 01 (27 December 2008).  This revision adds scannings of title-pages of editions 3 and 5.
  • Rev 02 (16 August 2009).  This revision introduces data on a new edition 2 and also revises the edition numbering.
  • Rev 03 (15 November 2009)  Updates edition 6.
  • Rev 04 (24 May 2011)  Adds book review to edition 1. ISBN added.
  • Rev 05. (29 April 2015).   Format changed for bibliography.altpibroch.com.  

© Geoff Hore 2015