Torquil bows out in style at Oban

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This year’s Argyllshire Gathering – the 150th anniversary – was notable for the fact that it took place at all.

Up until the middle of July, there was a widespread belief that, despite Scotland now being in Level 0 of its government’s COVID-19 restrictions, organisers would nevertheless not be able to put on an event. After all, at Inverness, the Northern Meeting faced too many obstacles, most of which were similar to those facing its counterparts down in Oban, to putting on even a reduced event.

The Argyllshire Gathering committee members were determined to mark the anniversary, though, and it fell largely to its Piping Steward, Torquil Telfer to bring the piping element to fruition albeit in a reduced format.

Torquil is also a Trustee of the Argyllshire Gathering, as is his Assistant Steward, Jamie Mellor. This year, however, saw Torquil bow out after six years at the helm. In doing so, we must salute his efficient and enthusiastic handling of the piping aspect of the Argyllshire Gathering – which is, after all, the most important aspect – over this last half dozen years.

Torquil was the first Piping Steward in the history of the Argyllshire Gathering to come from a non-gentry background. As readers who are regularly following Jeannie Campbell’s long series of articles on Bagpipe.News on the history of the Argyllshire Gathering will have noticed, all Piping Stewards, indeed all Stewards, have been scions of members of the country’s prominent famililes.

The events of Wednesday and Thursday will live long in the memories off all who were there, from the pipers and judges to the athletes, the gentry members and the crowds who flocked to Mossfield Park – including Princess Anne – amid glorious weather to hear some superb piping. The atmosphere all around the town was utterly charming.

Torquil’s successor, Jamie Mellor.

We caught up with Torquil to wish him a happy retirement and to wish his successor in the role, Jamie, all the best. Torquil said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as Piping Steward and I’ll now be supporting Jamie who is an excellent choice.

“I am proud that the 150th was such a success and brought enjoyment to so many pipers in these difficult times. It was difficult to organise but, boy, it was worth it.

“I particularly enjoyed the competing pipers playing Ian Lowther’s winning tune from our recent composing competiton, Dr Whittow’s Salute to the 150 Argyllshire Gathering.”

On behalf of the piping world Torquil, we salute you and say: “Well done … and tioraidh an drasda.”

Oban Games, Thursday, August 26, 2021: left to right – the Duke of Argyll, Torquil Telfer, Princess Anne, Unidentified.