Angus Mackay was a distinguished composer and performer on the bagpipes. His father was also a piper and Angus learnt to play at an early age, winning the bagpipes in this painting at the Edinburgh competitions in 1835. With the backing of the Highland Society of London, Mackay published his ‘Collection of Ancient Piobaireachd or Highland Pipe Music’ in 1838. The tunes were set in modern ‘scientific’ staff notation and the volume rapidly became a standard work. In 1843 Mackay secured the position of household piper to Queen Victoria. However, by 1853 he had become ‘insane’, probably as a result of syphilis. He was committed to Bethlem Hospital and later transferred to the Crichton Institution in Dumfries. During his escape in 1859, he drowned in the River Nith.