The history of the Argyllshire Gathering, part 14



By Jeannie Campbell

The first report of the 1926 Gathering appeared in The Scotsman ofSeptember 15: “The Argyllshire Gathering is taking place at Oban this week, and the county gentry and their friends from all parts have since Monday been assembling in Oban. Last night the annual Gaelic concert, which has now become a feature of the Argyllshire Gathering week, was held in the Oban Parish Church Hall, and was largely attended. Among those present were Mr George I. Campbell, Yr. of Succoth, who presided.” George Campbell of Succoth, 6th Bt. was born in 1894. He served as Captain in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during both world wars. He was the Secretary of the Piobaireachd Society for 40 years. He died in 1967.

The Gathering that year was held in the Gathering Park in Soroba Road. The weather in the early part of the day was disappointing and the attendance of the general public was considerably less than in previous years.

John MacDonald of the Glasgow Police pictured in 1948.

The piping results were:

Piobaireachd (open to all-comers under the rules of the Piobaireachd Society) – 1. John MacDonald (City of Glasgow Police); 2. Pipe Major Ross (Edinburgh); 3. Pipe Major John Macdonald (Inverness).
Piobaireachd: the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal –John Macdonald (City of Glasgow Police); 2. Hugh Kennedy (Glasgow); 3. Pipe Major Knowles (Perth).
Piobaireachd: Junior competition for prizes presented by the Piobaireachd Society – 1. James Robertson; 2. Pipe Major George Ackroyd; 3.Pipe Major A. W. Craig.
Marches, Strathspeys, and Reels – 1. James Robertson (Edinburgh); 2. V. MacCallum (Campbeltown); 3. Ian C. Cameron (Edinburgh).

The weather on the second day was again poor. Despite these conditions the enthusiasm of the large crowd was not damped and keen interest was maintained in the various events. In the evening the Argyllshire Gathering ball again presented, as the Scotsman’s report had it, “a gay appearance, and the second ball proved as brilliant a function as the event of the previous evening. Clan tartans of every variety blended with the naval and military uniforms of the distinguished assemblage. The hall was artistically decorated with clan shields, tartans, and trophies of the chase.” John Macdonald of the City of Glasgow Police was again successful in winning a second prize for marches strathspeys, and reels, and a first for strathspeys.

The results on the second day were:

Marches  – 1. Pipe Major Ross; 2; Pipe Major John MacDonald (Glasgow Police); John Wilson (Edinburgh).
Silver Medal – 1. R. MacCallum (Campbeltown); 2 Piper Robertson (Dunfermline); 3. Pipe Major Knowles.
Strathspeys and Reels – John MacDonald (Glasgow Police); 2 John Wilson; 3. Charles MacEachan (Islay).
Marches for Scottish Pipers’ Society Medal – l. Ian C. Cameron; 2. John C. Johnston (Islay); 3. J. Scoular (Ardchattan). 

Here is some biographical information on some of the competitors from that year’s competitions:

Hugh Kennedy, he of the eponymous 2/4 march composed by Peter R. MacLeod, was born in Tiree in about 1908, but the family moved to Glasgow. He was an active member of the Scottish Pipers’ Association and served on the committee. Hugh was a teacher at a school in Ibrox.

James Robertson, Edinburgh is probably the James Robertson (born in 1893) who joined the 4th Edinburgh Rifles, Territorials in 1908 and became Pipe Major on January 1, 1915. In 1908 when bagpipe makers John and James Center went to Australia, James and his father James took over their premises at 64 Grove Street where they traded as bagpipe makers. James junior was on active service throughout the 1914-18 war with the 4th and 9th Battalions the Royal Scots. At the end of the war he rejoined the 4/5th Battalion of the Royal Scots as Pipe Major and served with them until 1925. He published a tutor and collection of music in 1925. He died in 1948.

George Ackroyd was born in 1902 in Edinburgh. He joined the 2nd Bt. Black Watch in 1916 and was Pipe Major from 1925. He left the army in 1938 and went to South Africa. He served with the Transvaal Scottish in the Second World War and afterwards as Pipe Major and Regimental instructor until 1951. He died in 1973 in South Africa.

Charles D. Scott was born in 1906 in Old Kilpatrick. He joined the Glasgow Police aged 20 and was a piper in the band. He retired in 1954 and then had a business in Lenzie selling papers and other goods. He died in 1964.

Iain Currie Cameron was born in 1909 in Glasgow but grew up on Islay. He served with the 11th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the Second World War and was commissioned Captain in 1940. By profession he was a lawyer and insurance editor. He died in Edinburgh in 1990.

Pipe Major Knowles is probably Robert Knowles born 1897 in Woodside in Perthshire. He was Pipe Major of the 7th Bt Black Watch 1918 to 1923 and died in Falkirk in 1978.

A rare photograph of John Macdonald of Inverness competing at Oban in the 1920s.

The 1927 Gathering was advertised in the papers during August and was scheduled for the September 14 and 15, with the closing date for entries on 3rd September.

On September 15 the Dundee Courier reported: “The Argyllshire Highland Gathering began at Oban yesterday. The gathering was held on the historic park at Soroba Road, along which motor cars were parked for a distance of a mile. Bright sunshine prevailed, and there was a large attendance, many travelling from Tobermory and Fort William, and big contingents coming by special trains from Glasgow, Callander, and Ballachulish lines.”

Contemporary photograph of a steam train preparing to leave Oban. The town was very well connected in those days with the result that there were very large attendances at the Gathering.

The first day was held in bright sunshine. The chiefs gathered together in the morning, and marched in procession to the Gathering, headed by 30 pipers.

There were three piobaireachd competitions. In the Senior competition, which was open to all-comers under the rules of, and prizes presented by the Piobaireachd Society, competitors had to submit three set tunes: Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay, Lament for the Duke of Hamilton and Lament for the Departure of King James. There were three prizes, £10, £6, £3.

In the second competition which was open to those who had not won the medal before, competitors were to submit six tunes. The names of the tunes were to be given in Gaelic with English translations. No entries would be accepted unless accompanied by a list of tunes. The winner was awarded the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal and £10. The other prizes were £6 and £3 and the Argyllshire Gathering gave the money prizes.

In the Junior competition, competitors were required to submit three tunes: The Gathering of the MacNabs, Lament for the Old Sword and The Blind Piper’s Obstinacy. The prizes of $5, £3, £2 were presented by the Piobaireachd Society.

John Wilson of Edinburgh pictured in 1927 after winning the Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering. Nine years previously he had lost major parts of the thumb and first two fingers of his left hand when he accidentally ignited the detonator of a hand grenade.

Those playing in the Junior event were not allowed to enter the other two events and those in the other two events were not allowed to enter the Junior event. Leaflets of the tunes were on sale at David Glen in Edinburgh and Peter Henderson in Glasgow, price 6d per tune. Conditions as to settings played were stated to be as in previous years.

For the march, strathspey and reel competition on the first day Pipe Majors and those who had won a first prize in any piping competition at the Argyllshire Gathering were excluded. The prizes were £4, £2, £1.

The events on the second day were the March, Strathspey and Reel open only to previous first prize winners for such at the Gathering, the March open to those who had not won first prize in this event and the Strathspey and Reel open to those who had not won it previously. There were also a local march and a local strathspey and reel. Previous winners of each local event were not allowed to play in it again and first prize winners at any other piping event at the Gathering were excluded also. Those playing in the local events were debarred from any other piping events at the Gathering.

The first-prize winners in the three piobaireachd competitions were required to play the competition tunes at the conclusion of the piping events on Thursday (time permitting), otherwise prizes would be withheld.

The athletic events of the first day were confined to the military but on the second day were open. In addition to the usual running, jumping, throwing and tug of war there was an obstacle race and an event named Tilting the Bucket. All the dancers on both days were adult males and the list included many pipers and Pipe Majors.

The Industrial Section had 26 events. The majority of these were for weaving, spinning, dyeing, knitting, crochet, or lace making. Most of the entrants were female but one event was for “Kilt or Knickerbocker hose knitted by a man or boy over 15 years of age”, another for “Kilt or Knickerbocker hose knitted by a child under 15 years of age” and another for “Socks knitted by a child under 12 years of age.” Other events were for basket making peeled willow and unpeeled willow, stick making, Cromags for use by a shepherd and walking sticks suitable for the hill, and wrought iron work such as door knockers, toasters, scrapers or latches. There were two knitting events for the wives, sisters or daughters of members of the gathering plus a former winners’ event for them. There were money prizes in all the events except those for the wives, sisters and daughters who received a medal or cup.

The results on the first day were: 

Piobaireachd (open to all comers, Piobaireachd Society prizes) – 1. Pipe Major John Macdonald (Inverness); 2. Pipe Major Robert Reid; 3.=  Pipe Major Willie Ross and Angus MacPherson.
Piobaireachd (the Gold Medal) – 1. John Wilson (The Prince’s Salute); 2. D. Lamont; 3. Piper Malcolm Johnston.
Piobaireachd (for Piobaireachd Society prizes) –M. MacLeod (2nd Camerons); 2 R. MacCallum; 3. Nicol MacCallum (Poltalloch).
Marches, Strathspeys, and Reels – 1. Nicol MacCallum; 2. Pipe Cpl. T. Reid; 3. Cameron Hutchison. 

The results on the second day were:

Former Winners, March, Strathspey and Reel – Pipe Major Willie Ross; 2 Pipe Major G. S. MacLennan; 3. John MacDonald (Glasgow Police).
Marches (for the Argyllshire Gathering Silver Medal) – l. A. Thomson (2nd Camerons); 2. John C. Johnston; 3. Pipe Major A. R. Craig (H.L.l.).
Strathspeys and Reels – l.  John Wilson; 2. Cpl. A. Thomson; 3 Malcolm R. MacPherson.
Marches (local) 1. P. C. MacCallum, 2. Nicol MacCallum, 3. L. Cpl. Neil Crawford.
Strathspeys and Reels (local) – 1. Duncan MacDougall; 2. Nicol MacCallum; 3. L. Cpl. Neil Crawford.

Some more competitor biographies:

A. R. Craig was probably Alexander Rose Craig (1897-1942) who was Pipe Major of the 2nd Bt. HLI 1924 to 1928.

Angus and Kenneth Lawrie were brothers. Angus, born 1893 was the father of Ronald Lawrie, Pipe Major of the Glasgow Police and the 1961 Argyllshire Gathering Gold Medallist. Kenneth, born 1901 was the father of Angus Lawrie, composer and piper with the Glasgow Police.

Cameron Hutchison was a committee member of the Scottish Pipers’ Association in the 1950s.

William Barrie was a pupil of John MacDougall Gillies and Robert Reid. He immigrated to Canada in the 1930s and died in 2004.

Malcolm Johnston was from Barra but lived in Edinburgh.

Iain MacPherson was born around 1890. During the First World War he served as a piper with the 2nd Scottish Rifles. Afterwards he was employed by Glasgow Corporation to look after all of Glasgow’s civic clocks. He was a pupil of John MacDougall Gillies and a founder member of the Scottish Pipers’ Association in 1920. In 1924 Iain played at the Argyllshire Gathering when the Oban Times report of the Gold Medal event stated that Iain MacPherson was playing The Big Spree excellently when he made a slight error and gave up. His competing career was cut short in the late 1920s when he injured a hand in the course of his work. Iain was the father of Donald MacPherson, the most successful ever competitor at the Argyllshire Gathering.

• Continues.

• Part 1
• Part 2
• Part 3
• Part 4
• Part 5
• Part 6
• Part 7
• Part 8
• Part 9
• Part 10
• Part 11
• Part 12
• Part 13