The history of the Argyllshire Gathering, part 31

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1963-1964

By Jeannie Campbell MBE

For 1963 five tunes were set for the Open Piobaireachd and competitors were required to choose four. The tunes were Salute on the Birth of Rory Mòr MacLeod, The Old Woman’s Lullaby, The Sister’s Lament, The Park Piobaireachd (No. 1) and Nameless (from Colin Campbell’s Canntaireachd MS). Angus MacDonald won the Gold Medal. At the time, Angus was a sergeant in the Scots Guards and this was his third attempt in this competition. Donald MacPherson took the premier prize once again so his name was first to appear on the new cup that took the place occupied previously by the Shirvan Cup and the Kenneth Cup that Donald already won outright.

In the light music, John MacLellan won yet another Silver Star. In the confined events John Graham was the dominating player and gained a first and a second.

Results:

Pipe Major Angus MacDonald on the boards in later years.

Ceòl Mòr (The Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal) –1. Angus MacDonald, 1st Bn., Scots Guards; 2. John MacDougall, Bucksburn; 3. Finlay MacNeill, Port Glasgow; 4. Hector MacFadyen, Pennyghael; 5. George Lumsden, Edinburgh.
Judges were James Campbell, Col. David Murray and Capt. D. R. MacLennan.

Open Piobaireachd (A. & S.H. Cup) – 1. Donald MacPherson, Bradford-on-Avon; 2. Donald MacLeod,  Glasgow; 3. William. M. MacDonald, Inverness; 4. John A. MacLellan, Edinburgh.
Judges: Charles D. MacTaggart, Archie Kenneth and Major Archie MacNab.

March, Strathspey and Reel (Former Winners) – 1. John A. MacLellan; 2. A. Macdonald; 3. John MacDougall.
Judges were J. Graham-Campbell of Shirvan, James Campbell, and Capt. D. R. MacLennan.

Marches (The Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society’s Star) – 1.  John Graham, Avonbridge; 2. William M. MacDonald, Inverness; 3. Neil MacEachern, Islay; 4. John M. MacKenzie, Doune; 5. Jimmy Young, Perth.
Judges were Charles D. MacTaggart and Archie Kenneth.

Strathspeys and Reels (The Argyllshire Gathering Silver Medal) – 1. Hugh A. MacCallum, Campbeltown; 2. John Graham; 3. John MacDougall; 4. Andrew MacKillop, Queen’s Own Highlanders; 5 Jimmy Young.
Judges were Lt. Col. D. J. S. Murray, Major Archie MacNab and Capt. G. B. Murray.

Archie Kenneth, who was one of the judges in the Open Piobaireachd, wrote an in-depth report on it for the Piping Times: “Only ten played in this competition and, apart from the prize winners, the playing was disappointing, with some poor instruments and a lot of error. Donald MacPherson made a beautiful job of the Old Woman’s Lullaby – his pipe going well as ever, and the tune was very sweet.

“Donald MacLeod was placed second, and played The Salute on the Birth. I thought he made an excellent job of the ground, but that his timing of the variations hardly came up to the same standard. In particular, after a very brisk doubling, he cut the pace right back for the last two variations. No doubt points like this are a matter of individual taste. Still, if one is to write on competitions at all, I think it is better to say what one liked, and also the points that did not satisfy so much. Pipe and fingers I thought excellent.

“Willie MacDonald played the Nameless tune well. This is, I think, a hard tune, and the ground and first variation were good. The second variation, while correct and well enough played, seemed to me a little lacking in fluency.

“… These were the prizewinners, then. There was no doubt about the winner, but there was very little indeed to choose between the other three. As for the rest, nobody played up to standard, though Seumas MacNeill started with confidence before going off his tune and breaking down.”

James Campbell.

James Campbell, who was on the bench for the Gold Medal contest, wrote: “The Gold Medal Competition produced a number of good performances, and one outstanding one. The winner, L/Sgt. A. MacDonald, made an emphatic mark with his finely balanced instrument and impeccable execution, and his interpretation of The Unjust Incarceration was orthodox, intelligent and wholly satisfying. Second place went to John MacDougall, who played the Blue Ribbon. His pipes and execution left nothing to be desired, but criticism could be made of his tune as a whole as somewhat lacking in life. It is not a long tune, but the numerous variations, if not tackled with some small sense of urgency, are apt to make it appear so. Of course it is easy to exaggerate the quickening up process, but the balance can be struck, as those who heard Donald MacLean (Lewis) play the same tune at Oban in 1955 will remember.

“Finlay MacNeill was third with Donald Duaghal MacKay, just a bit dragged in the ground, but with nice expression throughout. Fourth was Hector MacFadyen, who played the Lament for MacSwan of Roaig. He had trouble in settling his pipes, and was not successful in bringing them into perfect tune. This had its effect on his playing, and there were several small technical blemishes, but he played well and strongly and with pleasing overall effect. George Lumsden, who was 5th, played the little-heard Rout of Glenfruin and made a good job of it, putting the later variations together particularly well. We query, however, his cutting short of the low A’s in the first bar of phrase B in the ground, and his dragging out of the C in the second bar of phrase A of the thumb and the later singlings … It was an enjoyable competition, with a rather better than average overall standard, and 21 played.”

The set tunes for the Open in 1964 were Mackenzie of Applecross’ Salute, MacLeod of Colbeck’s Lament, The MacLeans’ March, The MacRaes’ March and The Red Hand in the MacDonalds’ Arms. Three were to be submitted. As before, tunes were set for the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting but not for the Argyllshire Gathering.

In 1964 the Piping Times reported: “The first day of the Argyllshire Gathering at Oban on September 9th began as usual with the Gold Medal Piobaireachd competition in Drimvargie Hall. A large entry ensured that as usual the competition would go on until late in the afternoon, and, as usual, the characters, the experts, and the enthusiasts of the piping world were there to see it through until the bitter end. As so often happens in such an important competition, the playing falls below the standard that one has reason to expect. Too often nervousness affects those who feel they have a reasonable chance of a prize, and the inexperienced do not achieve the miracle which they always hope will happen.

Hector MacFadyen.

“Nevertheless some very good tunes were heard, with a few controversial renderings to set the tongues wagging. The luck of the draw kept two of the most seasoned competitors to the afternoon, and first class performances were heard from both James Young and Hector MacFadyen. The popular feeling seemed to swing towards the rousing rendering of MacNab’s Salute as favoured by the latter, although Jimmy Young’s most musical interpretation of Too Long in this Condition (including the seldom heard variation of Donald MacDonald), attracted a great deal of support. As things turned out, these were first and second in that order, and Hector MacFadyen was roundly applauded for achieving the accolade at last. The results were: 1. Hector MacFadyen, Pennyghael; 2. James Young, Perth; 3. L/Cpl. J. G. Slattery, 1st Bn Scots Guards; 4. Ronald Morrison, Glasgow; 5. Thomas Pearston, Glasgow. The judges were Captain D. R. MacLennan, Dr Kenneth MacKay, Captain G. B. Murray.

“… As it turned out, only two pipers, Donald MacPherson and John MacLellan, completed their tunes without mistakes. Three others, John MacDougall, James Young and Seumas MacNeill completed their tunes, but all with mistakes of notes. Nobody else got to the end. The results were: 1. Donald MacPherson, Westwood; 2. John A. MacLellan; 3. John MacDougall. The judges were Mr Charles D. MacTaggart, General Frank M. Richardson, Major Archie MacNab and Archie Kenneth.”

Campbell luck deserted the Games, which were wet, windy and bleak. The march to the games fieldwas bad enough, but for the next two hours the rain just came downin sheets.

Asa result, few people other than the judges heard much of the competitions. Both the March and Strathspey and Reel were run through without short leets. The MSR contest for former winners was reported to be the best one in years. The results were:

March, Strathspey and Reel (Former Winners) – 1. John A MacLellan; 2. Ronnie MacCallum, 8th Bn. A and S.H.; 3.= Hugh A MacCallum, Campbeltown, and Seumas MacNeill, Bearsden.
Judges: Capt. D. R. MacLennan, Charles D. Mactaggart and Major Archie MacNab.

Marches (The Argyllshire Gathering Silver Medal) – 1. Hugh A. MacCallum, Campbeltown; 2. Pipe Major John M. MacKenzie, Dunblane; 3. John Abbott, Edinburgh; 4. L/Cpl. L. Ingram, 1st Bn. Scots Guards; 5. Angus Lawrie, City of Glasgow Police.
Judges: James Campbell, Capt. G. B. Murray, and Dr. Kenneth Mackay.

Strathspeys and Reels (The Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society’s Star) – 1. L/Cpl. J. G. Slattery, 1st Bn. Scots Guards; 2. W. A Wilson, Glasgow; 3. Piper R. Stewart, 8th Bn. A and S.H.; 4. John Graham, Avonbridge; 5. Angus Lawrie, City of Glasgow Police.
Judges: Charles D. MacTaggart, Capt. D. R. MacLennan, and Gen. Frank M. Richardson.

A young John Wilson.

Marches (Local) – 1. A. J. Wilson, Campbeltown; 2. W. Hall, 8th Bn. A. and S.H.; 3. M. Wilson, Dunoon.
Judges – Capt. D. R. MacLennan, Charles D. Mactaggart, and Major Archie MacNab.

Strathspeys and Reels (Local) – 1. A. J. Wilson; 2. W. Hall; 3. M. Wilson.
Judges: Capt. D. R. MacLennan, Charles D. Mactaggart, and Major Archie MacNab.

John George Slattery was born in 1937, the son of Pipe Major John Slattery of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and King’s Own Scottish Borderers. John G. enlisted in the Scots Guards and was Pipe Major 1974-1980. He died in London in 1984.

A. J. Wilson, better known as John Wilson, was born in Campbeltown in 1948. His father, grandfather, uncle and cousin were pipers. John joined the Glasgow Police and played with the band for many years, then left the band to pursue his police career, rising to the rank of commander. He won the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1968. He succeeded Donald MacLeod as Piper to the Glasgow Highland Club. He has acted as Fear an Taighe at the Glenfiddich for many years.

Angus Lawrie, a cousin of Ronald Lawrie, was born in Oban in 1930 and died in Ayrshire in 2018. He served with the 8th Argylls TA and with the Black Watch for National Service 1949-50.  He joined the Glasgow Police in 1955 and was a member of the pipe band 1957- 1984. After retirement from the police he became a pipe bag maker. He was well known as a composer of many popular tunes.

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• Part 29
• Part 30