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Glenbuchat Heritage

7 Alexander Walker and the Newe Castle Band
The Glenbuchat Image Library
7 Alexander Walker and the Newe Castle Band


Click for Alexander Walker Introduction

Alexander became a member and leader of the Newe Castle band and soon became a member of the orchestra at Balmoral where they played for Queen Victoria as well as to regular visitors including politicians and foreign Royalty.

The first picture above is believed to be the Newe Castle Band. On the left is believed to be Alexander Walker (fiddle) and leader of the band. On the right is Mr. Alexander Wattie, who was a drummer in the Castle Newe band and in the middle Mr. John Walker, a contrabassist in the Band. (Contrabass (from Italian: contrabbasso) refers to a musical instrument of very low pitch—generally one octave below bass register instruments. The term most commonly refers to the double bass

These two colleagues are remembered in Alexander’s tunes: ’Mr. Alexander Wattie’ ‘Mr. John Walker’.

The Wattie family also had a rare violin:
Mr. Wattie, Bellabeg, Strathdon, possesses a violin in good preservation, bearing the following inscription, “Joseph Guamerius fecit y Cremonensis Sancia Teresia, 1684.”
From “The Violin: A concise exposition of the general principles of construction."

As well as dances, Alexander played and spoke at Burns suppers in Strathdon. Corgarff is a small settlement at the west end of the Forbes estates and was the home of Alexander’s wife Jane Shaw.

“Corgarff 1859 Burns Centenary
Not to be behind the spirit of the age so vividly illustrating the feelings of a nation's pride in claiming as a son of the Muses the immortal hero of Scottish song and poetry Robert Burns the ploughman poet of Ayrshire, the good folks in this Highland Strath met at the Bridge end of Allargue Inn on 25th January to pay their tribute of respect and homage to his departed worth.

Although the night blew such another blast as it did that night a hundred years ago when the auld clay biggin in which Burns was ushered into the world was made a ruin it did not prevent some three score of the Corgarff men from meeting at dinner where their worthy pastor the Rev Mr M Hardy ably filled the chair, Dr Profeit acting as croupier. It would be only a reiteration of hundreds of similar speeches on the occasion to particularise the admirable and graphic sketch of the poet's life and writings, his charitable allusion to his faults and failings, and his quotations from some of his finest compositions which the worthy Chairman dwelt on in giving the toast of the evening. Suffice it to say that all were more or less impressed with the powerful vigour of mind with which the poet was gifted and the independence with which he upheld the sway of right over might.

The toast was received with every feeling of deep respect the assemblage standing. Next in order followed Mr Farquharson of Allargue, the proprietor of the premises in which they were met by Dr Profeit, Mrs Farquharson by Mr Donald Cumming Cock bridge, Sir Charles Forbes Bart of Newe by Mr George Mackie Badenshellach, Lady Forbes of Newe by Mr Charles M Hardy Ordachoy. The Clergy coupled with the Chairman the Rev Mr M Hardy Corgarff by Mr Symon schoolmaster. The Schoolmasters coupled with Mr Symon, schoolmaster Corgarff by the Croupier. Major John Forbes CB of Inverernan by Mr Joseph Downie, Colnabechan. The Army and Navy coupled with Col Burns by Mr J Dunbar of the Scottish North eastern Railway. The Memory of Burns wife Jane Armour by Mr A Walker Castle Newe, The Scotch Poets by Mr M Hardy, Luib, The Medical Profession coupled with
Dr Profeit by the Chairman, The English Poets by Mr James Farquharson, Dulrick, The Tenantry of Allargue by Mr M Hard,y Luib, The Tenantry of Skellater by Mr G Farquharson, Dummindhu, Agriculture by Mr A Durward, Dykehead, The Host and Hostess by Mr Robert Philip, Garchory, with various other patriotic and local toasts.

By nine o clock pm the lads and lasses began to drop in and the Chairman proposed Good Night to allow mine host to clear the premises for those about to join in the merry dance Many excellent songs of the poet were sung by gentlemen present and Mr Walker Castle Newe who kindly gratified the request of the company by playing appropriate airs on the violin to the various toasts The dinner and other refreshments did the greatest credit to Mr and Mrs Coutts”

(See tune ‘Doctor Profeit’)

“A second report states: At nine the ball room was crowded .The music was ably conducted by Mr A. Walker Castle New e assisted by Messrs Symon, Cumming, Coutts, and McHardy
There were nearly 200 in the ball room and as many of these had no opportunity of joining in the toast of the evening at dinner it was again proposed and enthusiastically responded to Several Scotch songs were sung and dancing kept up till a late hour”


Music making was very strong at Newe and in the surrounding area. The castle had its own piper,

Pipe Major McHardy (b.1863 d.1938) (picture above) was a well-known figure at the Lonach Games. He had been a boy piper to Queen Victoria at Balmoral, at other royal residences, and abroad. He became piper to Lord Forbes at Castle Newe. Later, he worked as farm manager on the Whitehouse Estate and also for a time on a farm at Tornaveen. He was one of the first pipers to be broadcast on BBC radio. Added to this, he was an accomplished fiddle maker and repairer, and a composer of a number of traditional pipe and fiddle tunes.

Before Pipe Major McHardy the Newe piper had been Duncan Campbell, (picture above) (1816-1860). He had earlier been piper to the Duke of Atholl at Blair Castle in Perthshire, and had moved on because of castle gossip. He then became piper to Sir Charles Forbes. He had copied out the manuscript for his new employer to whom it was supposedly inscribed: “Sir Charles Forbes of Newe, 21 February 1853, Highland Bagpipe Music.”

“The scores of Colin Cameron, Duncan Campbell, and Uilleam Ross follow those of Angus
MacKay, ending with a conventional crunluath fosgailte movement in the style of the
"Kintarbert" MS above, which may have been their common source. This latter was the volume containing 88 tunes compiled by Angus MacKay (and probably intended as the second volume of his published collection) which came into the possession of Sir Charles Forbes (1803-1877) of Castle Newe, Strathdon, whose piper was Duncan Campbell of Foss.
Sir Charles may well have paid him to copy out Angus’s manuscript and was evidence of the family’s dedication in helping to save Highland culture, which was then all the rage among the landed classes, for Duncan Campbell left the manuscript behind when he departed from Newe. It was certainly through other hands afterwards, and other copies were apparently made.”



8. Alexander Walker and the Balmoral Orchestra



Picture added on 11 July 2016 at 12:48
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