The Montreat-Washington Connection

Soaring above the modern skyline of Washington, DC, a stone-carved band of angels playing Scottish bagpipes adorn the tops of the two west towers at the Washington National Cathedral. 

A plaster sculpture showing the model used in the carving of the angel piper is in the Presbyterian Heritage Center (PHC) lobby in Montreat.

This is the backstory of how members of the Montreat Scottish Society played a pivotal role in completing the national cathedral 30 years ago.

Finishing the West towers with the Angel
Bank sculptures in 1990

Dr. John W. McTigue, MD, was one of the six original founders of the Montreat Scottish Society in 1980/1981. A Montreat cottager, he maintained a D.C. medical practice and also served as the President of the Washington National Cathedral Association (1987-1990). He led the Montreat Scottish Society to sponsor one of the eight stone-carved Scottish angel bag-pipers which were included in the Heavenly Choirs that finished the two West Towers.  Each tower has four large Gothic pinnacles, with each tower having stone carvings of an angelic choir playing various musical instruments.

The Washington National Cathedral, begun in 1907, as a “House of Prayer for All People” to fulfill George Washington’s hopes and plans for a great national church building, was completed in 1990.  It was consecrated in a series of national, international and interdenominational services.

Angel Bagpiper Model

The Montreat Scottish Society, through a fund raising project of a cook book (“Inside the Gate”) and with contributions of many members, pledged and donated $5,000 to cover the cost of one angel bagpiper.  A plaque names the Montreat Scottish Society as a Angel Piper donor, plus there is a list of the individual donors and others memorialized in the Cathedral’s permanent records.

For the consecration and dedication of the Cathedral in 1990, a delegation from the Montreat Scottish Society, including Dr. McTigue, attended the service in Washington.  U. S. President George H. W. Bush gave the principle address to the attendees. Ten members of the Scottish society attended the dedication service – Ann & John Craven, Annie Righton Hodgkin, Lucy & John Mawhinney, Susanne & Bill McCaskill, Georgene & Jack McTigue, and Betty Tilley.

The plaster model of the bag-piper was presented to the Society in 1989 by Dr. McTigue in his role with the National Cathedral Association. The MSS donated the angel piper model to the PHC in 2019.


Today’s post was written by Bill McCaskill of the Montreat Scottish Society.

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