On 10th September 1963, the Black Watch pipes and drums regimental band departed upon a tour of the USA and Canada, which would last into December. The band played in 63 cities, including Washington DC, where the band performed on the South Lawn of the White House for the Kennedy family. The performance took place on the 13th November, only 9 days before the President was assassinated. Nine of these pipers would later play at Kennedy's funeral, as the President had an interest in the music stemming from his Irish ancestry.
Following the concert at the White House on the 13th, the band had the opportunity to explore the house, but did not meet the President. In fact, it was not until the tour bus had started to pull away from the grounds that the group were suddenly halted. As the bus stopped, the President and the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, climbed aboard and thanked the band for their performance. Several of the band members, including the youngest, Fred Holmes, then asked the President for signatures, presenting whatever paper they had on their persons. In Fred's case, this was a book of matches, which Kennedy happily signed using Rusk's pencil, as his pen had stopped working!
The performance was the last time the Kennedy family were seen together in public before he was shot dead in Dallas on 22nd November 1963. Recalling meeting the president, he said: “When we found out Kennedy had been assassinated nine days later we were devastated. We were in Columbia by then and our show was cancelled that night.”
The signed matchbook, along with a tour book signed by members of the pipe band, a commemorative glass ashtray and three rare photographs, will be offered at auction in Edinburgh on 13 January 2016 as lot 168, with an estimate of £1,500 to £2,000. Read more here.
Mr Holmes, 70, has kept the prized items in his home in Nairn, in the Highlands, for 52 years and now hopes that they will find a good home.