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William Robb (1863-1909)
excellent player, and winner of both the Gold Medal and the
Marches at Oban in 1893, William Robb is best known as the
composer of one of the most popular retreat marches ever
penned: "When the Battle is Over," commonly known to pipers
as "The Battle's O'er."
born on July 2, 1863, the eldest of 9 children of Argyll &
Sutherland Highlander Sergeant William and Annie Robb. He
joined the army as a red-haired lad at age 13 years, 6
months, when he was listed as a drummer. He would later be
listed as a piper, and would study under the great Pipe
Major Robert Meldrum.
He was Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders from 1887-1891, and of the 1st Argylls from
1891-1894. He was also famous in his day for a 'test march'
he made with P/M James MacKay, another A & S Highlander, in
1895 when the two marched 35 miles from Aldershot to Hyde
Park Corner playing alternately all the way. He left the
regular army in 1897 and later went to the Highland Light
Infantry, where he served four years as a Sergeant piper
with the 4th Militia Battalion prior to his death. He lived
much of his life in Stirling. His son served in the HLI
during the Great War, and Robb had a younger brother killed
with the Argylls in France in 1915.
'Notices of Pipers' reports that "at the Glasgow Exhibition Games in
1901, he was 3rd in the competition for piobaireachd (MacDougall
Gillies and J. MacColl being 1st and 2nd respectively), and 2nd for
marches and for strathspeys and reels (J. MacColl being placed
1st)." He won the Strahspeys & Reels at Oban in 1888. He was known
as a very "stylish" player of strathspeys and reels.
In addition to the evergreen "Battle's O'er”, he also
composed the excellent 2/4 competition march, "The 93rd Argylls
at Modder River."
William Robb died of heart problems in his mid-40s on November 9,
1909. He was listed on the death certificate as a "shipyard laborer"
and "army pensioner."