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Updated 04/24/2013

 


Auchmountain's Bonnie Glen
Pipe Major John Balloch

Auchmountain Glen is located in Greenock, Renfrewshire.  Greenock is a town and former burgh in the Inverclyde council area of western Scotland. It forms part of a contiguous urban area with Gourock to the west and Port Glasgow to the east. Greenock lies within the Central Lowlands geographic area of Scotland.  The origin of the town's name is uncertain. It is generally accepted, however, that the town is named after the Gaelic "Grianaig" meaning a sunny place.

In 1886 Sir Michael Robert Shaw Stewart allowed a group of workmen (the Auchmountain Boys) to create a path through the glen to Whin Hill and they transformed it into a 'fairy grove'.  In 1887 busts were placed by the glen's well of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and James Watt. The spring is known as the Boys Well.

The Glen was a popular recreation site during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Pipe Major John Balloch, above, was a major figure in the world of army pipe bands. The fact that at age 37 he was chosen to coordinate and lead the massed military pipes and drums during the celebrations of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 says much about his prominence at the time.

Born in 1860 near Stirling, he joined the army as a piper in 1878, and served in a number of Britannia's conflicts during that time, mostly with the King's Own Scottish Borderers the KOSB's (pronounced 'KOS-bees'). He fought in Burma, South Africa, Egypt and India. He taught piping to the Gurkha regiments, calling them "apt pupils" who "played like Highlanders" and wouldn't go to bed at night because "they were going full blast at the chanters." Though he retired just after the turn of the century to run a tobacco shop in Greenock, he re-enlisted in 1914 at age 54 and served in the trenches in France with his brother through much of the Great War.

Auchmountain's Bonnie Glen, written about the countryside around Greenock, and "The 25th KOSBs Farewell to Meerut" are Balloch's two most famous compositions.

John Balloch died in a retirement home in Rothesay in 1947 at the age of 86.