The history of the Argyllshire Gathering, part 12



By Jeannie Campbell

In July 1921 the regatta was revived. Though the gathering was resumed in 1919, the Royal Highland Yacht Club did not resume because Royal Highland Yacht Club maintained that September was so far on in the year that yacht owners found it “inconvenient to sail their yachts round to Oban.” Reviving the regatta in July, therefore, suited the Clyde yacht owners. However, on the day the weather was wet, blustery and generally “disappointing.” Nevertheless, a regatta did indeed take place during the Gathering in mid-September.

The Scotsman of September 15 reported: “The games in connection with the Argyllshire Gathering were opened at Oban yesterday, and will be continued today. The weather was not favourable. Heavy rain fell all morning, but, though it cleared up at noon, there were occasional heavy showers throughout the afternoon. There was a large assemblage of prominent county people and their friends in the pavilion and reserved enclosure.

Pipe Major Willie Gray.
Pipe Major Willie Gray.

The stewards that year were: Colonel Campbell Preston of Ardchattan, Colonel Campbell of Kilberry, MacLachlan of MacLachlan, Major MacLean of Ardfour, J. MacDonald of Barguillian and Colonel Campbell of Dudhope.

The following were the prize-winners in the principal piping events:

Piobaireachd 1. – 1. Pipe Major Willie Gray (City of Glasgow Police); 2. D. J. MacKenzie (Sutherland).
Piobaireachd 2. (the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal) – Pipe Major David Burnett Mathieson, (Seaforth Highlanders); 2. D. J. MacKenzie; 3. Pipe Sergeant J. D. MacDonald (Edinburgh).
Piobaireachd 3. (Prizes presented by the Piobaireachd Society) – 1. Piper John MacCulloch (Oban); 2. Pipe Major William Taylor (Dunblane); 3. Piper John M. Maclntyre (Glasgow).

Day 2, “the principal day of the gathering”, enjoyed favourable weather with bright sunshine all day, with the occasional shower. As usual, the day was more or less observed as a holiday throughout the district of Lorn. The attendance of the general public was therefore much larger than on the previous day. In the reserved enclosure the Duke of Argyll was present, and many prominent county people occupied seats in the pavilion. Among those present were Brigadier General Cheape of Tiroran on Mull, Colonel Greenhill Gardyne of Glenforsa, Colonel Campbell of Inverneill and Colonel Campbell of Kilberry.

The principal piping prize winners were:

Marches, Strathspeys and Reels (open only to first prize winners at previous gatherings) – 1. Pipe Sergeant J. D. MacDonald; 2. Pipe Major Willie Ross (Edinburgh); 3. Pipe Major Willie Gray.
Marches (Argyllshire Gathering silver medal and £10) – 1. Pipe Major Robert Reid (Glasgow); 2. Pipe Corporal D. R. MacLennan (Scots Guards, Edinburgh); 3. Pipe Major Thomson (Cameron Highlanders, Inverness).
Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Pipe Sergeant J. D. MacDonald; 2. Pipe Major Robert Reid; 3. Piper Angus Campbell (Glasgow).

David Burnett Mathieson was born in 1883 at Kirn in Argyll but was of Sutherland stock.

He served with the 9th H.L.I. then the Seaforths from 1900-08. He transferred to the reserves in 1908 but rejoined in 1909 as Pipe Major. He served in India then in 1914, in France. He was wounded and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. After the war he was stationed at Fort George until he retired in 1924. Mathieson was employed in the orderly room from 1926 and was Pipe Major of the 6th Seaforths TA from 1926-1939. He was Piper to Mr Gregson of Tilliefourie Aberdeenshire in 1908 while in the reserves until he rejoined the regiment. From 1939 he was on the clerical staff RASC Elgin. He died in 1952 in Elgin.

George Ronald Hamilton Cheape DSO and Bar, 2nd of Tiroran was born in 1881, the son of Colonel George Clarke Cheape. He served with The Black Watch and the Dragoon Guards during the Boer War and the Great War. His brother, Hugh Cheape led the last cavalry charge of the British Army at Huj in the Sinai Desert in November 1917. Pipe Major Willie Ross of the Scots Guards composed the march Brigadier Cheape of Tiroran for Ronald Cheape who was also an amateur piper. Brigadier Cheape died in 1957.

Heading for the train after a grand day at the Games perhaps?

The first news of the 1922 Gathering came on June 13 in The Scotsman: “The stewards of the Argyllshire Gathering have had a meeting at Oban, and have decided that the games and balls will be held this year on 13th and 14th September. The regatta of the Royal Highland Yacht Club will not be held this year as it has not been found possible lo fix a suitable data to attract the larger class of yachts to come round to Oban.”

The “Games of the Gathering” were held within the Gathering Grounds at Dalintart. The proceedings opened with the annual Gaelic concert, which was attended by the Duke of Argyll and many well-known county people. Oban had been crowded since the beginning of the week with visitors from all parts of the county to attend the Gathering. The ample hotel accommodation, and other resources of the town are fully taxed. In the district around, the two days of the Gathering are practically observed as a general holiday, and there was a large attendance of sightseers from the country.

Niall Diarmid Campbell, 10th Duke of Argyll.

The proceedings commenced with the usual march of the competing athletes to the games field, headed by the pipers and stewards. The Duke of Argyll, president of the Gathering, joined the stewards in the in the procession of pipers.

“The Duke,” the Dundee Courier reported, “is an ideal combination of athlete and scholar. His smooth, boyish face, clear cut profile and ready smile, is eloquent of Oxford, but his his tall figure – six feet and more – speaks of the heather. The other day at Inveraray Castle, when a walk was in prospect, the writer appeared with an umbrella, and the Duke exclaimed, ‘Why you can’t go to the hill with a gamp!’ produced immediately a hazel crook, both long and hefty, and one soon found that its aid was urgently needed if a poor Sassenach intended to keep in sight the tall figure striding across Creag Dubh.”

The set tunes for the 1922 Senior Competitions were Praise of Marion, The Big Spree and The End of the Great Bridge.

The piping results were:

Piobaireachd 1. (Open to all comers under the Rules of The Piobaireachd Society, by whom the prizes were presented) –1. Pipe Major George S. Allan (2nd Royal Scots, Aldershot); 2. Pipe Major Willie Ross; 3. Pipe Major Robert Reid.
Piobaireachd 2. (The  Gold Medal) – 1. Pipe Major Robert Reid; 2. Pipe Sergeant J . D . MacDonald (Scots Guards;) 3. A. Campbell (Glasgow).
Piobaireachd 3. (Prizes presented by the Piobaireachd Society) – 1. J. M. MacIntyre (Glasgow); 2. Pipe Major W. Taylor (Dunblane): 3. R. B. Macnicol (Drummoak).
Marches, Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Corporal Thomson (Inverness); 2. Pipe Sergeant MacDdonald (Scots Guards); 3. Piper Lawrie.

An early photo of Robert Nicol on the boards. It is not certain whether this was taken at the Argyllshire Gathering.

“R. B. Macnicol” was probably Robert Bell Nicol who was born in 1905 at Durris, Kincardineshire. He was Piper to Lord Cowdray at Dunecht until 1924 then Piper to the King at Balmoral until 1970. At the Northern Meeting he won the Gold Medal in 1930 and the Clasp in 1932. During the Second World War he served with the Gordon Highlanders. Nicol died in 1978 Birkhall, Aberdeenshire.

On Day 2 the piping results were:

Marches, Strathspeys and Reels (Open only to previous first prize winners at the Argyllshire Gathering) – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross.
Marches (Open to Allcomers who have never won a first prize in this competition) – 1. Piper D. R. MacLennan.
Strathspeys and Reels (Open to Allcomers who have never won a first prize in this competition) – 1. Pipe Major Robert Reid, Glasgow.

As always the society papers covered the Gathering. The Tatler on September 27 had this flowery piece of writing:

“The Oban and Argyllshire gathering has hardly ever taken place in fine weather, and this year things were almost worse than their previous worst. When one hears of fields of oats still as green as they were in mid-summer and of fields of potatoes blackened by the frost, of Loch Tay a swirl of Scotch mist and heavy rain-squalls, it is not difficult to understand why the poet talked of Caledonia stern and wild. Argyll is the great centre of the Clan Campbell, of which the Duke of Argyll is the head and which is distinguished as the wearer of the light blue bonnet, which is of far greater antiquity than the dark blue one, and was at one time practically universal in the highlands.

“Colonel Campbell of Inverneil was one of the first on the ground on the opening day, when the piping competition was the principal item on the programme, and was followed by Campbell of Dudhope, Campbell of Shirvan, Campbell of Lochnell, Archie Campbell of Kilberry, Maclean of Ardgour (whose wife, the Hon. Mrs. Maclean, is a daughter of Lady Inverclyde), Stewart of Achnacone, General Sir Edward Ward …” etc.

• Continues.

• Part 1
• Part 2
• Part 3
• Part 4
• Part 5
• Part 6
• Part 7
• Part 8
• Part 9
• Part 10
• Part 11