By Jeannie Campbell MBE
The 1928 Gathering took place over September 12 and 13 amid good weather. There was a clash of dates with Aboyne and Braemar but this did not affect the attendance, which was a record attendance with over 12,000 spectators. Among them was the Duke of Argyll, after an absence of several years. Two balls were held, one on each evening. A large crowd gathered on the esplanade on the morning of the 12th to watch the march to the games. The stewards were led by Maclean of Ardgour, Maclachlan of Maclachlan, H. L. Macdonald of Dunach, the Captain of Dunstaffnage, and Colonel T. O. Lloyd of Minard.
The following were the prize winners in the piping competitions held on Day 1:
Ceòl Mòr (First prize awarded by The Piobaireachd Society) – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross (Edinburgh); 2. Malcolm R. MacPherson (Invershin); 3. David Ross (Rosehall).
Ceòl Mòr (Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal and £10) – Hugh Kennedy (Tiree); 2. Malcolm Johnstone (Castlebay); 3. Pipe Cpl. J. Robertson.
Ceòl Mòr (Prizes presented by The Piobaireachd Society) – 1. Pipe Cpl. T. Reid (1st R. S. F); 2. John Murray (7th H.L.I.); 3. Cameron Hutchison (Dalmuir).
Jigs – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross; 2. Pipe Major J. D. MacDonald (Scots Guards); 3. John Wilson (Edinburgh).
The second day of the Gathering began with an “impressive march” through the town. The weather was described as “glorious”. The stewards, headed by the Duke of Argyll, marched off to the strains from 40 pipers. In the rear were over 100 athletes. It was in Argyll Square that the parade took place, and the procession of 8,000-10,000 spectators made “an inspiring picture.”
The Scotsman on September 14 described the second day: “In all Scotland there is no better place for a gathering of pipers and athletes than Oban. As for Oban itself, it consists largely of hotels, but there is not a finer town to look out from. Yesterday, except during a cloudy hour at mid day, Kerrera and the distant islands basked in a sunlit sea. From Dunollie Castle in the morning one saw, as in a faded print. the hazy outlines of Mull, and farther north the heights of Morven. An excellent place this, for the playing of the pipes and the tossing of the caber, and the throwing of weights and all the rest. Small wonder that as a social event the gathering, with its two balls draws annually a great assemblage of people of the county and their guests.” About a dozen steam yachts were at anchor in the bay.
The report noted the Gathering’s in Rule 8 of the general rules: “the judges of Pipe Playing shall be entitled to stop any competitor while playing if in their opinion, his playing is so inferior as to bar him from any chance of winning a prize.” It is not known – before 1984 when it was used – if this rule has ever been illustrated in practice.
The piping results of the second day were:
Marches, Strathspeys, and Reels – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross; 2. Pipe Major J. D. Macdonald; 3. Pipe Cpl. A. Thomson (2nd Camerons).
Marches (Argyllshire Gathering Silver Medal) – 1. Malcolm R. MacPherson; 2. Pipe Cpl. J. Robertson;.3. Piper MacDonald (Glasgow); 4. David Ross; 5. Piper John Murray.
Strathspeys and Reels – 1. Pipe Cpl. J. Robertson; 2. Pipe Cpl. A. Thomson; 3. Malcolm R. MacPherson; 4. Piper MacDonald (City of Glasgow Police); 5. Angus Campbell (Inverlair). Marches (local) – 1. Nicol MacCallum (Poltalloch); 2. P. J. MacBean (Minard); 3. Pipe Sergt. P. Crawford (8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders).
Strathspeys and Reels (Local) – 1. Nicol MacCallum; 2. John Scoular (Ardchattan); 3. Pipe Sergt. P. Crawford.
James Blair Robertson was born in Dundee in 1905 and enlisted in the Scots Guards in 1922. In 1932 he was appointed Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion. At the Northern Meeting he won the Gold Medal in 1933, the Clasp in 1938 and the Former Winners’ MSR in 1929, 1933, 1936 and 1937. In 1945 he was awarded the MBE for war service. He died in 1988.
In 1929 the Gathering was held on September 11-12. At the annual concert, Colonel Maclean of Ardgour presided over a large attendance. During the evening, Pipe Major John Macdonald of Inverness gave a demonstration of piobaireachd with Seton Gordon giving an explanation of the method of construction.
That year’s Gathering – the 57th – experienced good weather and good crowds. Oban was thronged. On Day 1, the town was early astir, long before large crowds gathered to witness the time-honoured march from Station Square to the games park, which makes the distinctive preface to the Gathering. 50 pipers led the way, with around 100 other competitors following. Close to 10,000 witnessed the games.
The piping results on Day 1 indicate a newer generation coming through, including William Barrie, Hector MacLean and Donald MacLean in the prizes. The results were:
Open Ceòl Mòr (Piobaireachd Society Prizes) – 1. Pipe Major John MacDonald (Inverness); 2. Hugh Kennedy; 3. Malcolm R. Macpherson.
Ceòl Mòr (Highland Society of London Gold Medal and Argyllshire Gathering Prizes) – 1. Pipe Major J. D. MacDonald (1st Scots Guards); 2. Malcolm R. Macpherson; 3. William Barrie (Glasgow); 4.= Pipe Sergeant J. Robertson (Dundee) and Piper M. Johnston (Edinburgh).
Ceòl Mòr (Piobaireachd Society Prizes) – 1. Pipe Major George Ackroyd (2nd Black Watch); 2. Hector MacLean (Oban): 3. Donald MacLean (Glasgow).
Jigs – Pipe Major Willie Ross; 2. John Wilson; 3. Pipe Major J. D. MacDonald.
The second day saw a continuation of the good weather although there was a short spell of the “wettest of wet west Highland weather”, which marred the greater part of the day. Within 48 hours, visitors saw Oban at its best and at its worst. In the course of the afternoon, men from the Depot of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Stirling repeated a gymnastic display that they had given on the previous day. Although the games themselves were not as successful as had been hoped – owing entirely to the fickleness of the weather – there was later a measure of compensation on the social side in the second of the two balls held each year in connection with the Gathering. As ever, dancing continued until the early hours of the morning.
The results of the piping competitions were:
Marches, Strathspeys and Reels (confined previous first winners) – 1. Pipe Sgt. Robertson (Dundee); 2. Pipe Major Willie Ross; 3. Pipe Major J. D. MacDonald (Scots Guards).
Marches – 1. Pipe Sgt. J. Robertson (Argyllshire Gathering medal); 2. Piper John C. Johnston (Glasgow); 3. Hugh Kennedy; 4. William Barrie; 5. Angus Campbell (Tulloch).
Strathspeys and Reels – 1. R. MacDonald (Glasgow Police); 2. Pipe Cpl. T. Reid (Glasgow); 3. Hugh Kennedy. 4. Philip Melville (Glasgow); 5. Malcolm R. Macpherson.
Marches (Local) – 1. Peter MacCallum (Kilmartin); 2. Piper Fleming (Kilmartin); 3.= John Scoular (Taynuilt) and A. J. Macpherson (Oban).
Strathspeys and Reels (Local ) – 1. John MacCallum (Kilmartin); 2. Piper Scoular; 3. E. J. Cameron (Kinlochleven).
Hector MacLean was born in 1894 in Oban. His great-great-grandfather, Neil MacLean had won the First Prize at the Falkirk competition in 1783. On leaving school, Hector became piper to Colonel Preston Campbell, Captain of Dunstaffnage, one of stewards of the Gathering. During the First World War, Hector served from 1914 to 1918 with the Scottish Horse and the Black Watch.
In 1930 the Gathering was held on September 10-11 with the Gaelic concert taking place on the evening on the 9th under the chairmanship of Sir Ian Malcolm of Poltalloch. Many newspaper reports were headed with the presence of the exiled King and Queen of Greece. The King and Queen were guests of Mrs Murray Guthrie at Torosay Castle on Mull. Several other papers had pictures of them at the Gathering.
It is interesting to see George Moss in the prizes on Day 2 and brothers, John and Roderick MacDonald of the Glasgow Police awarded third equal in the Jig competition. Hugh Kennedy and Bob Nicol are in the prizes, too. The results of were:
Ceòl Mòr – 1. Pipe Major Robert Reid (7th H.L.1.); 2. John Wilson, Edinburgh; 3. Malcolm R. MacPherson.
Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal – l. Malcolm R. MacPherson; 2. Robert B. Nicol (Balmoral); 3. Piper Cockburn (Edinburgh).
Prizes Presented by the Piobaireachd Society and Argyllshire Gathering – 1. Pipe Corpl. Macmillan (Scots Guards); 2. Pipe Sgt. J. MacLean (Scots Guards); 3. George Moss (Achnacarry).
Jigs – 1. Pipe Major Willie Ross; 2. John Wilson; 3.= John MacDonald (Glasgow Police) and Roderick MacDonald.
The second day of the Oban Games was always the more popular day among general visitors, and the hill which overlooks the Gathering ground was clustered so thickly on the afternoon of Day 2 that late comers had a little difficulty in finding room. The piping results were:
Marches, Strathspeys and Reels – 1. John Wilson; 2 Pipe Major Willie Ross; 3 Pipe Major J. D. MacDonald (Scots Guards).
Marches – 1. Piper John Murray (H.L.1.); 2. Piper J. C. Johnston, Glasgow; 3. Hugh Kennedy. 4. R. B. Nicol; 5. Corpl. J. Macmillan.
Strathspeys and Reel (Argyllshire Gathering medal) – Pipe Sgt. J. MacLean: 2. R. B. Nicol; 3 Hugh Kennedy;4. Nicol MacCallum: 5. John C. Johnston.
Marches (Local) – 1. P. J. MacBean (Crarae); 2 Pipe Sgt. Neil Crawford (8th A. and S. H); 3. E. J. Cameron (Kinlochleven).
Strathspeys and Reels (Local) – 1. John Scoular: 2. P. J. MacBean: 3. Hector MacLean.
George Moss was born at Strathglass in 1903. His piping ancestry was impressive as his grandmother was a descendant of the David Fraser piper to Lord Lovat and his mother was a cousin of Pipe Major William Ross, Scots Guards. To many of the establishment figures of the time, George Moss was a maverick or a crank but to others he was the last exponent of an older style of piobaireachd that today is known as the MacDonald/
MacArthur style. George Moss died in 1990.
John MacLean was born in 1900 in North Uist. He joined the Gordon Highlanders in 1918 as a piper but left in 1921. In 1926 he joined Scots Guards and in 1928 he was Pipe Corporal under Pipe Major John D. MacDonald, then in 1929 Pipe Sgt of the 1st Scots Guards. In 1933 he was promoted to Pipe Major of the 2nd Batt. HLI and served abroad for five years then served through the war. He left the army in 1948 after 25 years service and worked for the Bank of Scotland. He won many prizes at the Argyllshire Gathering and the Northern Meeting. He died in Glasgow in 1971.
George Cockburn was born in Edinburgh in 1897. He was employed by Murray’s Brewery then in 1914, aged 17, he enlisted in the 9th Batt. Royal Scots, serving through the war and afterwards returning to employment at Murray’s. During the Second World War he was Pipe Major of the Edinburgh Home Guard Pipe Band. His best-known composition was the 6/8 march, John D. Burgess. He died in 1974.
• To be continued.