Biographical Notes on Peter Reid

Peter Reid was born in Campbeltown in 1801 and was at some point a pupil of Donald MacDonald during the period 1811 to 1816, when MacDonald was based there while P/M to the Argyll Militia. Reid’s manuscript is actually bound up with an early copy of Donald MacDonald’s collection and does not repeat any of the tunes in that work. Reid subsequently moved to Edinburgh when he became clerk to one of the Ballies of Leith and presumably would have renewed his acquaintance with Donald MacDonald, but, being based in Leith, it is clear from his manuscript that Reid also became friendly with Donald MacCrummen, a Leith-based merchant and, judging from Reid’s comments, also a piper.

This friendship may have provided Reid with another source of material, also ultimately linking back to Skye, as Donald MacCrummen’s father Malcolm was a ‘Messenger’ (a court official responsible for delivering writs and summonses on that island and neighbouring area). Malcolm MacCrummen first comes into view in 1770, when he signed a receipt for final repayment of 1000 merks his father, a Patrick MacCrummen, had loaned to MacLeod of MacLeod (a facsimile of the document from the Dunvegan archives was published in the Piping Times vol 46, No 11. August 1994).

Although just signed as Malcolm MacCrummen, his signature is so distinctive that there is little problem identifying him as the Messenger who appears in legal papers in the National Archives around the same time. By 1800 Malcolm had reached the rank of Sheriff Clerk Depute and was based in Durinish on Skye. However, probably due to the requirement to appear at times in Edinburgh, from circa 1810 he also appears living at various addresses in Edinburgh. It was quite common at that period to have more than one occupation and during Malcolm’s visits to Edinburgh. It is also clear he was acting on behalf of the Skye Lairds as their agent for landing kelp in Leith.

In fact, in 1817 his address was in Leith Walk, but the following year his son Donald first appears as a merchant in Leith itself where under a number of different descriptions he remained, at least until 1833 when he was described as running a Kelp Store at the foot of Leith Walk. Oddly, as there were no other suggestions of an Irish connection, Mr D M’Crummen, merchant in Leith, was married to Caroline, daughter to John O’Neill of County Dublin, in Dublin on the 24 September 1827. Malcolm MacCrummen seems to have retired shortly after his son became established, and by 1822, described as ‘late Sheriff Clerk of Skye, was residing at Dalintober. Whether this had any direct connection to his son’s friendship with Peter Reid is un-known, but Reid throughout his life retained some business interests in Kintyre, including a share in a distillery, also in Dalintober.

-Keith Sanger, 5 January 2015