The history of the Argyllshire Gathering, part 9



By Jeannie Campbell

In 1909 the weather is described as ‘charming’. The report goes on, “The presence in the bay of HMS Essex and HMS Victorious lent an added interest to the Gathering, detachments of the blue jackets and marines taking an active part in the athletic sports.”

The piping results were:

Open Piobaireachd – 1. John MacDonald (Inverness); 2. Pipe Major G. S. MacLennan (Edinburgh); 3. Pipe Major Willie Ross (London).
Gold Medal – 1. Willie Gray (Govan Police); 2. Pipe Sgt. Willie Lawrie (Ballachulish), 3. Pipe Major George Yardley (Cambuslang).
Confined Piobaireachd – 1. John Cumming (Glasgow); 2. Alex. Gray (Perth); 3.= John MacCulloch (Oban) and William MacNeill (Oban).
Marches – 1. Pipe Major James Ogston Duff (Edinburgh Castle); 2. Willie Gray; 3. Col. Sgt. D. Ferguson (Inveraray).
Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Pipe Major George Yardley; 2. Ewing (Aberdeen); 3. Col. Sgt. D. Ferguson.

John MacDougall Gillies on the boards at the 1906 Argyllshire Gathering. Angus Campbell (Kilberry) is behind and to his right. The group to the right of the photo are John Campbell (Kilberry), A. J. H. Campbell (Dunstaffnage) and an unseen individual.

James Ogston Duff was born in 1875 at Bennachie, Huntly. He enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders in 1891, transferring later that year to the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. He was a Reservist and warder at Peterhead prison then recalled for the South African War in 1899. He served as a piper with 1st Batt. Argylls 1899 to 1901. He transferred to the Royal Scots as Sgt Piper 1903 to 1909 and rejoined the 2nd Batt. as Pipe Major during the First World War. He retired in 1919 and was Instructor to the pipe band at Fettes College and a Bank of Scotland messenger in Edinburgh for 21 years (from 1919-1940). He died in 1951 in Edinburgh.

Before the 1910 Gathering it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Argyll would not be attending. They were in mourning, both for the Duchess’s brother, Edward VII who died in May 1910 and for the Duke’s sister, Lady Victoria Campbell who had died in July.

In 1910 the weather was fine and the Gathering was described as, “one of the most brilliant and successful of the County meetings ever held, although the absence of the Duke of Argyll the President was greatly felt.” A large fleet of war vessels was in the bay and contingents of the sailors and marines took part in events. The report includes photographs for the very first time, not yet outdoor shots but studio portraits, of Major MacDougall of Lunga, Patten MacDougall of Gallanach and Colonel Campbell of Inverneill.

The results of the piping events were:

Open Piobaireachd – 1. Roddy Campbell (Govan); 2. Pipe Major John MacDonald (4th Cameron Highlanders, Inverness); 3. Pipe Major Willie Ross (2nd Scots Guards, Windsor); 4. Pipe Sgt. Willie Lawrie (Ballachulish).
Gold Medal – 1. P. Sgt. W. Lawrie; 2. Pipe Major A. MacDonald, (2nd Scottish Horse, Gairlochy); 3.= James MacIvor (Govan) and Pipe Major Smith (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Stirling).
Confined Piobaireachd – 1. Willie Fergusson, (Glasgow); 2. Pipe Major J. M. Lawrie (2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Glasgow); 3. Stirling (Grangemouth).
Marches – 1. Pipe Sgt. Willie Lawrie; 2. Willie Gray; 3.= Pipe Major G. Taylor (Seaforth Highlanders, Fort George) and J. C. Henderson (Edinburgh).
Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Piper Macphee (Cameron Highlanders); 2. J. C. Henderson; 3. P. M. Taylor (H.L.I., Hamilton).

James Smith, born 1871, was Pipe Major of the 3rd Argylls from 1905-1913 and Pipe Major of the 5th Argylls from 1915-1916.

Michael MacPhee was born at Carnan near Howmore on South Uist in 1894. He was Piper to the Marquis of Bute prior to the Great War He was a reservist then served with the 1st Bn. Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in France from 1914, later transferring to The Black Watch. He left the army around 1918-19 and went to Cardiff for a short time. He died in 1953 after an accident on the road from Inveraray to Glen Shira Hydro electric camp where he was working.

This group shot of some of the pipers that competed at Oban in 1906 includes some major figures in piping. How many can you identify?

William Fergusson was born in 1885 at Arbroath but moved to Glasgow as a child. By profession he was a woodcarver and joiner. He joined the 7th H.L.I. under PM Farquhar MacRae in 1901, and became Pipe Major of the 7th H.L.I. in 1914 serving in Gallipoli, Palestine, France and Egypt during World War 1. Willie Fergusson was the Pipe Major of the 52nd Division pipe band formed by MacLean of Pennycross. After the war he became Pipe Major of the City of Glasgow Pipe Band from 1920 to 1929. The band name was changed to the Clan MacRae in 1924. The band won the World Championship at Cowal in 1921, 1922, 1923, and 1925. Willie published a book, Fergusson’s Bagpipe Melodies, which contained many of his own compositions. He died in Glasgow in 1949.

On July 26, 1911 the Oban Times published a notice of the Argyllshire Gathering. On the first day there are three piobaireachd events and a march, strathspey and reel. On the second day the events were the march, the strathspey and reel, local march, local strathspey and reel and piobaireachd by first prize winners. The set tunes are to be from the Piobaireachd Society books and no other versions are eligible. The tunes for the Open are Craigellachie, Bells of Perth, and John Garve MacLeod of Raasay’s Lament. For event two competitors are to submit six tunes. For event three the set tunes are The Gathering of Clan Ronald, The Lament for the Only Son and The MacRaes’ Lament. For the march, strathspey and reel on the first day Pipe Majors and those who had won a first prize at the Argyllshire Gathering were excluded.

Willie Fergusson.

Oban was reported as being “full” for the week of the Gathering that year. The weather was good for the first day and the bay was full of of large steam yachts. HMS battleships, Commonwealth and New Zealand were also present and a large contingent of men from the warships – numbering over 400 – landed early and marched to the games field. Various competitors, who had mustered at the secretary’s office, followed them and they all marched behind by the pipers.

The attendance in the early part of the day was not great but in the afternoon all parts of the spaces allocated to the public were thronged. The stewards on the field were Major MacDougall of Lunga, Captain A. P. H. MacLean of Ardgour, J. Patten MacDougall of Gallanach; Captain Campbell of Kilberry and Major Campbell Preston of Ardchattan. The results of the piping events were:

Piobaireachd (open to all comers under the rules of and prizes presented by the Piobaireachd Society) – 1. Pipe Major John MacDonald (4th Camerons, Inverness); 2. Pipe Major Willie Ross (Scots Guards, Beauly); 3. Pipe Major Robert Meldrum (93rd Highlanders, Crieff).
Gold Medal – 1. George Yardley (Cambuslang); 2.Pipe Corporal Willie Fergusson (7th HLI, Glasgow); 3. Piper M. Macphee (Cameron Highlanders).
Piobaireachd (for prize presented by the Piobaireachd  Society) – 1. Pipe Major Taylor (3rd H.L.I., Hamilton); 2. Piper J McCulloch (8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Oban); 3.= Pipe Major Lawrie (2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Glasgow) and Piper Robert Reid (Polmont).
March, Strathspey and Reel – 1. Piper J. Stewart (Scottish Horse, Pitlochry); 2. Piper Duff (2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Glasgow); 3. Pipe Cpl. Dunbar (Royal Scots, Edinburgh).

The judges for the open piobaireachd were Captain MacLean of Pennycross, Mr Graham-Campbell, Yr of Shirvan and Captain Hepburn, Seaforth Highlanders; for the Gold Medal, Captain Campbell of Kilberry, Archie Campbell of Kilberry and Ian Grant Yr of Rothiemurchus; and for the third piobaireachd event John Bartholomew, Glenorchard, Stirlingshire and Angus Macnaghton, Balquhidder.

Sheriff John Bartholomew of Glenorchard was a member of the Piobaireachd Society. In 1909 he purchased two volumes of the Campbell Canntaireachd from Miss Anne Campbell, a descendant of the family.


John Peter Grant, younger of Rothiemurchus was born in 1885 and was an advocate by profession. When studying the law in Edinburgh he had his first piping lessons from Pipe Major James Sutherland ex-Seaforth Highlanders. Following this elementary instruction he became a pupil of John MacDonald, Inverness. In 1910 Rothiemurchus was a young man, aged only 24 and so was free of involvement in the Piobaireachd Society’s controversies of the past. He had been gathering a private collection of material on piobaireachd together with Archibald Campbell, and in future years this would form the basis of the Society’s published collections. After two years of discussions and negotiations Rothiemurchus was able to bring together the members and former members of the Society. He was enthusiastic, energetic, influential and knowledgeable and as an officer in the Lovat Scouts he had the ear of Lord Lovat, President of the Society. He had another ally among the members of the Society, John Graham-Campbell of Shirvan who had joined in 1908. In 1912, after a series of committee meetings and Extraordinary General Meetings the rift was eventually healed, several of the surviving original members including John and Archibald Campbell and James MacKillop, re-joined and Rothiemurchus was elected as a member of the Society. In 1913 a music committee was appointed with J. P. Grant as secretary and all the music issued by the Society was to be revised. The coming of War in 1914 interrupted the work of the Society. Many of the prominent members were military men and were therefore otherwise engaged for the duration. Rothiemurchus died in 1963.

John Graham Campbell, 10th of Shirvan, was born in 1888. He served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during World War One and was severely wounded in 1916, losing an eye and a leg. By profession he was an Advocate and a farmer. During the Second World War he was Chairman of the war agricultural executive committee. He was a JP, DL, CBE and President of the Piobaireachd Society. He died in 1969. His only son, Dugald and his nephew Archie Kenneth were prominent in piping as regular judges and officials of the Piobaireachd Society.

The Oban Times report covered the games, the balls on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, the regatta and the Gaelic Concert. The band and pipers of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were present as in the previous year, there were visitors from England and all over Scotland, but regrettably, the Duke of Argyll was not present. Cheap railway and steamboat facilities had brought a great influx of visitors on Wednesday.

Day two saw a continuation of the fine weather. It was a general holiday observed throughout the whole district of Lorn and over the north end of Mull. The harvesting operations being well forward, the country people flocked into Oban from all directions. The railway and steamer companies had provided extra facilities for the conveyance of visitors but both were strained to the utmost. The result was a record attendance of the general public. In the reserved enclosure and in the pavilion there was also a much larger attendance than on the previous day.

The stewards were: Stewart Macdougall of Lunga, Captain A. J. Maclean of Ardgour, J. Patten Macdougall of Gallanach, Captain John Campbell of Kilberry and Major Campbell Preston of Ardchattan. The programme of athletic events an pipe playing competitions was on the same lines as former gatherings but owing to the large entry in some of the competitions the proceedings were somewhat protracted and the bulk of the county spectators had to leave before the close. At intervals the band and pipers of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders gave selections. The Oban Times added that the officers of the two battleships gave a ball on board HMS New Zealand.

The results of the piping were:

Marches (open) – 1. J. C. Henderson (Loanhead); 2. Ronald Meldrum (Lunga, Ardfern); 3.= A. R. MacColl (Dunfermline) and Pipe Major Ewing (Aberdeen)
Strathspeys and Reels (open) – 1. Pipe Major Taylor (3rd H.L.I.); 2. Pipe Sgt. Lawrie (Ballachulish); 3. Ronald Meldrum; 4. Pipe Major Lawrie (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders).

Ronald Meldrum was a son of the famous Pipe Major Robert Meldrum (78th Highlanders, 93rd Highlanders and 3rd Cameron Highlanders).

Robert Reid.

Robert Reid was born at Slamannan in central Scotland in 1895. On leaving school in 1909 his first job was touring Europe as a boy dancer with a Highland ballet group. After this, in 1911 he spent a year working in the pits with his father then in 1912 he went to Canada where he worked as a miner at Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. Reid had been a boy piper in the 5th H.L.I. (TA) under John McDougall-Gillies and on the outbreak of war in 1914 he returned to Scotland and re-joined the regiment. After the war he took over the band of the 7th H.L.I. and was Pipe Major from 1920 to 1940. He won the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1921 and the Clasp in 1922, 1925, 1926, 1931, 1935 and 1946. In 1920 he was a founder member of the Scottish Pipers’ Association, serving as President twice. Soon after the First World War, Reid went to work for the bagpipe maker, R. G. Lawrie Ltd. Then, in 1932, he set up his own bagpipe making business at 60 George Street. In 1933, he published a small collection of pipe music, The Piper’s Delight. During the Second World War Reid served as a sergeant with the 83rd Anti-Aircraft (RA) as a small arms and drill instructor, returning to his business in 1945. Robert Reid retired in 1957 and died Glasgow in 1965.

James Macintosh Lawrie was born in 1884 and enlisted as a Boy in the Gordon Highlanders in 1899. By 1908 he was Pipe Corporal under Pipe Major G. S. McLennan, but then he transferred to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, being appointed Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion until the outbreak of the war when he went to France. He returned to the Scotland in 1916-17 as Pipe Major of the 13th Battalion and later became Pipe Major of the 3rd Reserve Battalion. After his discharge in 1922 he immigrated to Australia. Lawrie won the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1913.

On August 10, 1914 the 2nd Argylls left Fort George to join the British Expeditionary Force in France. Lawrie claimed to be the first Pipe Major to cross the channel.

James Dunbar was born in 1882 in the north east of Scotland was a nephew of the famous Charles Dunbar who had the distinction of being a Lieutenant and a Pipe Major. James was a regular competitor at the Highland Games pre-1914 but spent most of his 21 years of army service overseas with the Royal Scots. He served firstly under Pipe Major George S. Allan then became Pipe Major of the 2nd battalion of the Royal Scots during the war. He retired to England and was a regular at the meetings of the London Piping Society. He died in Kent in 1963.

• Continues.

• Part 1
• Part 2
• Part 3
• Part 4
• Part 5
• Part 6
• Part 7
• Part 8