By Jeannie Campbell


In 1923 the Games and Balls were held on September 12 and 13. The opening day was showery and the ground was not in particularly good condition, but there was a large crowd of people present, including the Duke of Argyll, the President of the Gathering. On the second day the weather was very unpleasant: cold, with heavy rain throughout the whole day.

The Oban Times report included a photograph of the Duke and the stewards leading the march to the games field.

The piping tesults on the first day were:

John Wilson in later years.

Gold Medal – 1.  Allan MacLeod Calder, Edinburgh (The Prince’s Salute); 2. Pipe Sergeant MacDonald, Tongue (Lament for Mary MacLeod) 3. John Wilson, Edinburgh (The Prince’s Salute). The report added succinctly: “John Wilson is congratulated on his performance. He is a young piper with a crippled left hand”.
Junior Competition – 1. Robert Brown (Banchory); 2. Philip Melville (Glasgow); 3. A. S. Miller, Stirling.
Open Piobaireachd – 1. Pipe Major Robert Reid; 2. Pipe Major G. S. MacLennan; 3. Pipe Major Willie Ross.

The judges were Archie Campbell, Kilberry; J. Graham-Campbell Yr. of Shirvan; John Bartholomew; Lt. Gen. Campbell of Kilberry; Brigadier Cheape; Major Leckie Ewing and Col. A.C.B. MacKinnon.

What had previously been the third piobaireachd competition was now called the Junior competition but this was not according to age but competition success. Those competing were all adults but were not yet successful competitors.

The results on the second day were:

M.S.R. – 1. Pipe Major G. S. MacLennan (Bonnie Anne, Lady Louden, Duntroon); 2. Pipe Major Robert Reid (Lochaber Gathering, Tullochgorum, Rejected Suitor); 3. Pipe Major Willie Ross (Edinburgh Volunteers, Tullochgorum, Rejected Suitor). There were seven competitors.
Marches – 1. Allan MacLeod Calder (Lochaber Gathering, first round and Bonnie Anne, short leet); 2. John MacDonald, Glasgow Police (John MacFadyen of Melfort, Abercairney Highlanders); 3. Pipe Sergeant MacDonald, Lovat Scouts (Angus Campbell’s Farewell to Stirling, Bonnie Anne); 4. John Wilson, Edinburgh (Bonnie Anne, Stirlingshire Militia); 5. Philip Melville (Leaving Glenurquhart, Bonnie Anne).
Strathspey and Reel1. Allan MacLeod Calder (Lady Louden, Grey Bob); 2. Piper M’Eachern, Islay (Shepherd’s Crook, Sandy Cameron); 3. Corporal MacLennan, Edinburgh (Shepherd’s Crook, Miss Proud); 4. John MacDonald, Glasgow Police (Arniston Castle, John MacKechnie); 5. Piper Ewing, Aberdeen (Piper’s Bonnet, Miss Proud).

John Wilson was born in Edinburgh in 1906 and was a nephew of the John Wilson who was known as the Baldooser. In 1918, in an explosion while playing with part of a detonator, John lost major parts of the thumb, forefinger and middle finger of his left hand. At the Northern Meeting he won the Gold Medal in 1925 and the Clasp in 1936. He served with the Cameron Highlanders during the Second World War but was captured in 1940 and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp. In 1949 John immigrated to Canada. He was Pipe Major of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada. John published three collections of music and an autobiography. He died in 1979 in Canada.

John had attended the Argyllshire Gathering for the first time in 1922 and wrote about it in his biography: “As I was just 16 years of age, my parents put me in care of Lieutenant Calder of the Edinburgh City Police who was going to the Games with his son, Allan MacLeod Calder who was a fine player and a pupil of Roddie Campbell. The journey by train was quiet and uneventful until we reached Callander, when the Glasgow and Aberdeen sections were attached to our train. Then we were joined by Pipe Major George Allan and the two Bobs from Balmoral, R. U. Brown and R. B. Nicol. As we all required to play a little in readiness for the morrow, the rest of the journey was livened by selections from every piper, and by good natured badinage from G. S. Allan. The two Bobs were about the same age as myself and we didn’t say very much, but later on we wandered down the corridors and visited some of the Glasgow boys.

“When we got to Oban about 11p.m., we found the place packed. In the Commercial Hotel, Mr. Calder managed to get a bedroom for himself and his son, but the best I could get was a made up bed on a couch in the smoking room after it was cleared. I got to ‘bed’ about 1a.m. I was usually a pretty cool competitor but I was so nervous that day that I only played a few bars of my Piobaireachd and then had to stop, because everything turned black and I was scared I would step off the platform. George Allan won the Dunstaffnage Cup for the Open Piobaireachd and he got really high that night. The Dunstaffnage Cup was never seen at Oban again, I believe. I was told that George Allan packed it in his suitcase and it got squeezed as flat as a pancake and was beyond repair. As for myself, if I didn’t win a prize I certainly gained a lot of valuable experience which stood me in good stead on future occasions. I also thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of the whole thing, and meeting, and hearing, and seeing the biggest gathering of solo pipers in Scotland.”

The Games field.

Allan MacLeod Calder was born in Edinburgh in 1903. His father, Hugh had joined the Edinburgh Police in 1900 and was Pipe Major of its pipe band from 1910-1920. Allan won the Northern Meeting Gold Medal in 1924. He died in Edinburgh in 1985.

Robert Urquhart Brown was born in 1906 at Strachan in Kincardineshire. From 1926 onwards he worked on the Balmoral Estate as piper and fishing gillie. During the Second World War he served with the Gordon Highlanders. He won the Northern Meeting Gold Medal in 1928 and the Clasp in 1947 and 1951.

John MacDonald, known as Seonaidh Roidein, was born in 1898 on South Uist. He joined the Cameron Highlanders age 15 and during the First World War served with the 6th and 7th Battalions. He joined the Glasgow Police in 1920 and played with the pipe band, becoming Pipe Major in 1932. He retired 1958 and returned to South Uist. His brother, Roderick was also a Glasgow Police piper. John won the Northern Meeting Gold Medal in 1926, the same year in which he won the Argyllshire Gathering Gold Medal and Open. He died in 1988 on South Uist.

John C. Johnston was born on Islay in 1904. He joined the Glasgow Police in 1922 age 18 and played in the band. After retirement he had a bicycle shop in Glasgow and taught part time at the College of Piping. He died in Glasgow in 1990.

Philip Melville was born in Fife. He was a piper with the Glasgow Police and won the Northern Meeting Gold Medal in 1936.

Willie Ross and J. Maxwell MacDonald at the Argyllshire Gathering. Date uncertain.

In 1924 the Games took place on September 10 and 11. The Scotsman on September 11 reported: “The weather on the first day was beautifully fine, with bright sunshine and a cool breeze. The attendance was unusually large, many seats in the pavilion being reserved, and the members’ enclosure was also crowded.” The stewards that year were Brigadier General Cheape of Tiroran; Graham Campbell younger of Shirvan, Colonel Campbell Preston of Ardchattan, Colonel Macrae Gilstrap of Eilean Donan, Maclachlan of Maclachlan and H. L. Macdonald of Dunach.

The second day’s proceedings attracted a large attendance of spectators, among whom were Harry and Lady Lauder.

The piping results were:

Senior Competition. Piobaireachd (for prizes presented by the Piobaireachd Society) – 1. Pipe Major John MacDonald (Inverness); 2. Pipe Major Willie Ross (Edinburgh); 3. Pipe Major George Yardley (Cambuslang). 
Piobaireachd (Junior Competition) – 1. Malcolm R. MacPherson (Invershin); 2. Pipe Sergeant George Cruickshanks (Aberdeen); 3. Piper John C. Johnston (City of Glasgow Police).
Marches, Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Lance Corporal. G. Greenfield (Colchester); 2. John C. Johnston; 3. Pipe Sergeant George Cruickshanks.

Pipe Major Donald Chisholm was awarded the Gold Medal.

The weather on the second day wasn’t as good as it had been on the first day. It was fair in the morning but threatening, and during the forenoon very heavy showers caused a rush for shelter. Some of the piping and athletic competitions were continued in a downpour of rain. The poor weather cleared up in the afternoon. After lunch the pavilion and members’ enclosure were well filled. The attendance of the general public was even better than on the preceding day. The stewards on the second day were Col. Campbell Preston of Ardchattan, Lt. Col. Macrae Gilstrap of Eilean Donan, Mr H. L. Macdonald of Dunach , Maclachlan of Maclachlan, the Earl of Breadalbane, Col. Ian Campbell, Bruce Campbell, and Major Ritchie.

The judges for the piping were Brigadier General Cheape, Col. Campbell of Kilberry, Graham Campbell of Shirvan, Major Leckie Ewing and Seton Gordon. The prize winners were:

M.S.R. (open only to previous first prizewinners at the Gathering – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross;  2, Pipe Major D. R. MacLennan (Fort George); 3. Pipe Major John Macdonald.
Marches – 1. John Wilson; 2. Pipe Major J. Ross (Aberdeen); 3. Ronald MacCallum (Campbeltown); 4. Pipe Major Chisholm; 5.  Malcolm R. Macpherson.
Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Pipe Major D. R. MacLennan; 2. John MacDonald (Glasgow); 3. Robert Brown: 4. David Ross (Manchester); 5. Pipe Sergeant George Cruickshanks.
Marches (Local) – 1. Neil Macnicol (Islay); 2. Donald Macgillivray (Kilfinichan); 3. Donald Millar (Carradale).
Strathspeys and Reels (Local) – 1. John C. Johnston; 2. P. Macmillan (8th  A. and S. H.); 3. J . Scoular (Ardchattan).

The dancing results included Pipe Major Taylor, Pipe Major J. A. Gordon, Pipe Major D. R. MacLennan and Ronald MacCallum in the prize lists.

John Ross was born in Dunblane. He served with the Gordon Highlanders during the 1914-18 war and afterwards served in India. He was stationed at Redford Barracks from 1933 until his retirement in 1936. He was the Instructor to the OTC Band Edinburgh Academy, Instructor 55th Coy BB, PM Edinburgh and Leith Postal Pipe Band and PM Royal Company of Archers. For ten years he was Hon Pipe Major to the Highland Pipers’ Society. He died in 1964 in Edinburgh.

Malcolm R. MacPherson, pictured in the 1930s.

Malcolm Ross MacPherson was born at Newtonmore in 1907. He was the son of Angus MacPherson and grandson of Calum ‘Piobair’ MacPherson. He worked as an Estate Factor various places. He joined the Cameron Highlanders in 1939-40 but was soon invalided out. At the Northern Meeting he won the Gold Medal in 1927 and Clasps in 1930 and 1937. He died in Edinburgh in 1966.

Ronald MacCallum was born in Campbeltown in 1905. In 1924 he was a member of the 8th Batt Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and was Pipe Major 1939 to 1945 of the 11th Argylls. He served through the Second World War. WW2. He won the Northern Meeting Gold Medal in 1951, by which time he was Piper to the Duke of Argyll. He died in 1986. 

Donald Chisholm joined the H.L.I. in 1909 and served throughout the First World War. In 1919 he was promoted to Pipe Major. He won the Northern Meeting Gold Medal in 1922. He died in 1945 in Inverness.

George Greenfield served with the Royal Scots from 1918 until 1945. He was also known as George MacRae.

Lt. Col. John MacRae, Black Watch (1861-1937) married Isabella Mary Gilstrap. She was the niece and co-heiress of Sir William Giltrap. Under the conditions of his will John took the additional surname of Gilstrap but this was dropped by the next generation. John MacRae-Gilstrap was responsible for the renovation of Eilean Donan castle.

The 1925 Gathering opened on September 8 with the annual concert that was held in Oban Parish Church Hall with a large attendance (upwards of 500). Maclean of Ardgour presided.

Among the “notabilities” that year were Sir John and Lady Eaglesome. “Sir John’s name may not familiar to the general public,” reported The Scotsman “but among engineers of the Empire he is famous as the director of public works and of railways in Nigeria for some twenty years. He was knighted in 1916.” 

The weather on the first day was very cold, and in the early part of the day it was showery but with frequent bright intervals. The attendance was larger than for years and every seat in the pavilion had been reserved several days in advance. The reserved enclosure was also thronged. Much interest was taken by the presence of the Maharajah of Jodphur … “who had leased the shootings at Inverlochy”.

The piping results were:

Nicol MacCallum.

Piobaireachd: open to all comers, under the rules of the Piobaireachd Society – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross; 2. Pipe Major Willie Gray; 3. Philip Melville (City of Glasgow Police).
Piobaireachd: Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal – 1. David Ross (Sutherland); 2. Philip Melville; 3. Pipe Major D. Innes (Royal Scots).
Restricted competition – l. John Macnicol; 2. Roderick Macdonald (City of Glasgow Police); 3. Allan Maclean (Glasgow).

There was a large entry for the piping competitions on the second day:

M.S.R. (open only to previous first prize winners at Argyllshire Gathering) – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross; 2. Pipe Major D. R. MacLennan; 3.= Pipe Major Macdonald (Scots Guards) and A. M. Calder.

Marches (previous first prizewinners excluded) – 1. John Macdonald (City of Glasgow Police); 2. David Ross; 3. J. Macintyre (Glasgow); 4. Charles MacEachern (lslay). 
Strathspeys and Reels (not open to previous first prizewinners ­– 1. David Ross; 2. John Wilson; 3. Angus Campbell (Glasgow).
Local Marches – 1. Ian Maclean (Mull); 2. Jas. Macnicoll (lslay); 3. Peter C. MacCallum (Campbeltown).
Local Strathspeys and Reels – 1. James Macnicoll; 2. Ian Maclean; 3. Nicol MacCallum (Poltalloch). 

Roderick MacDonald was born in 1901 on South Uist and was a brother of John MacDonald. Both were pipers with the Glasgow Police. Roderick won the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1946. After retirement he was a part-time tutor at the College of Piping. He died in Glasgow in 1981.

“D. Innes” may be Donald Innes who was Pipe Major of the Royal Scots Fusiliers from 1925 until c.1930.

Nicol MacCallum was born in 1902 at Kilmartin in Argyll. He served with the 8th Bt. Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and was appointed Pipe Major in1930. He served until 1942. Nicol was employed with the Parks Department in Glasgow as the Head Gardener of Kelvingrove Park. He died in 1977 in Glasgow.

• Continues.

• Part 1
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• Part 3
• Part 4
• Part 5
• Part 6
• Part 7
• Part 8
• Part 9
• Part 10
• Part 11
• Part 12