The history of the Argyllshire Gathering, part 10



By Jeannie Campbell MBE

In 1912 the events were the same as in the previous year and the Gathering began on September 10, a holiday throughout Argyll as usual, with sports on the Gathering field at Soroba Road. The day was reported to be beautifully fine, though somewhat cool. A large number of steam yachts assembled in Oban Bay as did the battleship, Zealandia, a large contingent of men landing from it to take part in the sports that were restricted to men in the Army or Territorial Force (the following day the sports events were opened up to all). There was a record attendance over the two days. The band and pipers of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlander from Fort George played at intervals.

The piping prizewinners on Day 1 were:

Open Piobaireachd (the Dunstaffnage Cup) – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross (Scots Guards).
Gold Medal – 1. Piper W. MacLean (Glasgow).
March, Strathspey and Reel – Piper J. Stewart.

Elspeth Campbell.

Tatler magazine reported that the following day’s proceedings opened with “a muster of clansmen in the principal squares of the town, who then make their way to the games field headed by a band of 50 pipers. The sports include foot races, jumping, throwing the hammer, tossing the caber, pipe-playing, and dancing. And there are also a ball, a Gaelic concert at which Miss Elspeth Campbell often plays her pipes, and a one-day’s regatta in the beautiful bay of Oban. And in the corner of the games ground is a show of Highland industries such as home made tweeds, plaids, and blankets, metal-work, baskets, shawls, and stockings. 

“Nearly every man one meets wears tartan and a clan badge in his bonnet, but the dark green and blue tartan and bog myrtle of the Clan Campbell are, of course, much in the ascendant. The Clan Campbell chief the Duke of Argyll is a Knight of the Garter and the Thistle, Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, and Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle. He has the fair hair and small, straight features of his race, is a man of parts, an author, a musician, and an operatic composer.

“Lord Archibald Campbell, his next brother and heir-presumptive, has a definite personality He went into business at an early age and is now second in command at Coutts’s bank. Lord Archibald has Scotland on the brain. He speaks and writes Gaelic, supports old Scotch customs, and has done much to protect the kilt and bonnet of the Highland regiments. Also, he is a charming writer in prose and verse, a clever caricaturist, and quite one of the best rink-skaters in London. Lady Archie has still much beauty, is clever and artistic, and in old days gave outdoor theatricals in Coombe Woods in the presence of royalty and smart society. Miss Elspeth is a typical Highland lassie, and Mr. Niall Campbell, an only son and a future duke, has good looks and high spirits, is a wonderful reel-dancer, and besides his rooms in Piccadilly owns a cottage in Argyllshire.”

The prizewinners on Day 2 were:

Open Marches – G. S. McLennan.
Open Strathspeys and Reels – Pipe Major William Ross.
Confined Marches – Pipe Major Taylor.
Confined Strathspeys and Reels – William Lawrie.
Argyllshire Gathering Silver Medal – Pipe Sergeant William Lawrie (Ballachulish)

There were also local events for a March and a Strathspey and Reel.

At the 1913 event, a large number of fine yachts anchored in the bay all week. The cruisers Thebes, Circe, Gossamer, Assolto, and Iphegenia, with the Admiralty survey ship, Endeavour, were also present. The gentry, with their friends, once again assembled in large numbers for the balls with the hotels and other accommodation providers in the town full. The Duke of Argyll had been in France but had travelled back for the Gathering.


Open Piobaireachd – 1. Pipe Sergeant Willie Gray (Govan); 2. Pipe Major John MacDonald (4th Cameron Highlanders, Inverness); 3.= Pipe Major John MacDougall Gillies (5th H.L.I, Glasgow) and Pipe Major Willie Ross (Scots Guards, London).
Gold Medal – Pipe Major Jas. Taylor (H. L. I., Hamilton); 2. Pipe Major A. Macdonald (Scottish Horse, Craigellachie); 3. Pipe Major W. Young (H.L.I.).
Piobaireachd (For prizes presented by the Piobaireachd Society – 1, Pipe Major J. M. Lawrie (Fort George); 2. Piper William Thomson (2nd Scottish Horse, Connel); 3. Sergeant Piper J. Wright (A and S.H, Stirling).
Marches, Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Piper Cruickshanks (1st Cameron Highlanders, Edinburgh); 2 Piper J. A .Gordon (Scottish Horse); 3. Piper W. Thomson (2nd Scottish Horse, Connel).

James Taylor was born in 1878, the brother of Pipe Major William Taylor. In 1895 James joined the Seaforth Highlanders and served in Crete 1897 and Sudan 1898. In 1903 he became Pipe Major of the Highland Light Infantry (H.L.I.) and went to India. He was invalided home in 1909. He was Pipe Major of the 3rd H.L.I. at Hamilton until he retired in 1919. He died in 1941 in Edinburgh.

William Young was born in Wilsontown, Lanarkshire in 1882. He served from 1905 in the H.L.I. and was appointed Pipe Major in 1911, serving throughout the war. He was Pipe Major of the Depot Cameron Highlanders 1921-27 and of the 4th Batt. TA 1927-32. He was Piper to the Gaelic Society of Inverness and died there in 1961.

William Cruickshanks was Pipe Major of the 1st Batt. Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders from 1914-1922.

John Wright was Pipe Major of the 3rd Batt. Argylls 1913-1915 and the 10th Batt. 1916-1918.

James A Gordon, born 1882, was a native of Turriff but lived in Edinburgh. John MacColl, John Macdonald (Inverness) and William Ross taught him. James served firstly with the Scottish Horse during the war then, in the latter stages of the war, was Pipe Major of the 5th/6th Royal Scots. After his army service he was a piping instructor for various school bands in Edinburgh and also a reed-maker. He died in 1944 in Edinburgh.

As The Scotsman pointed out in its report of the second day’s proceedings, the Argyllshire Gathering throughout these early years was, “primarily a social function, and though there were numerous entries for the various items on yesterday s programmes, the leisurely manner in which the programme was carried out was somewhat tedious to the ordinary spectator.” There were still two March competitions and two Strathspey and Reel competitions, one open and one confined. The results from Day 2 were:

Open Marches – 1. Pipe Major John MacDonald (4th Cameron Highlanders, Inverness); 2.= Pipe Major Willie Ross (Scots Guards, London), and Pipe Major G. S. MacLennan (Gordon Highlanders, Aberdeen).
Marches (Silver Medal) – 1. Piper M. MacPhee (Piper to the Marquis of Bute); 2. Pipe Sergeant Willie Gray (Govan); 3. Piper Angus MacLean (Lunga).
Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross (Scots Guards); 2. Pipe Major John Macdonald (4th Cameron Highlanders, Inverness); 3. Pipe Major James Taylor (H.L.I., Hamilton).
Strathspeys and Reels – I. Piper Angus MacLean; 2 Pipe Sergeant Willie Gray; 3. Pipe Major D. Ross (London Pipers’ Society).
Local Marches – 1, Piper G. D. MacDonald, Stirling; 2. Piper Dan MacFarlane, 8th A. and S. Highlanders, Oban; 3. Piper George Grant, Fasnacloich.
Local Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Piper George D. MacDonald (Stirling); 2. Piper James Wilson (Dunoon); 3. Private E. J. Cameron (Lovat Scouts, Fort William).

David Ross of Rosehall. Photo taken in the old London Scottish Regimental HQ at 59 Buckingham Gate sometime around 1966/67. We are grateful to Roddy Livingstone for the photo.

David Ross was born in 1891 and educated at the Royal Caledonian School in London. He served in France during the First World War. He was piper to a Colonel MacKenzie for a time and afterwards was in business in London where he took an active part in piping affairs, being Pipe Major of the Scottish Piping Society of London. He won the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1929. He was known as David Ross of Rosehall and was commemorated in the well known march by Archie MacNeill. He died in London in 1982.

George Donaldson MacDonald was born in 1885 in Dunoon. He lived in Stirling as a boy and served with the 7th Argylls during the South African war. He served as Pipe Major of The Royal Scots during the 1914-18 War and afterwards became Pipe Major of the Millhall band with which he had won the World Championship three times, in 1924, 1926 and 1930. In 1930 he became Pipe Major of the 8th Argylls and began work on publishing a collection of tunes composed by members of the 8th. George D MacDonald was the compiler of the Fifth Cowal Collection, (1958). He was Pipe Major of the Dunoon Ballochyle Pipe Band. George died at Dunoon in 1961.

Angus MacLean was born in 1882 at Kilmartin. He was Piper to MacDougall of Lunga then joined the Govan Police then worked for the Caledonian Steam Packet Company. He was a farmer at Craignish (about 25 miles south of Oban) and lived for 50 years on the Lunga estate. He died at Craignish in 1960.

Niall Diarmid, 10th Duke of Argyll (1872-1949).

James Wilson was born in Dunoon in 1892 and served with the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the First World War. When William Lawrie died in 1916 James Wilson succeeded him as Pipe Major.

Lord Archibald Campbell had died in March 1913 and his brother the Duke died in May 1914 so Niall Diarmid Campbell became the 10th Duke.

On August 10, 1914, plans for that year’s Argyllshire Gathering were brought to halt as war loomed.

• Continues.

• Part 1
• Part 2
• Part 3
• Part 4
• Part 5
• Part 6
• Part 7
• Part 8
• Part 9