By Jeannie Campbell MBE
In 1877 the Club of True Highlanders held its shinty matches and other sports at the racecourse of the Alexandra Palace company, where it had been held for the previous two years. The Club’s annual gathering took place in July the following year there, too. However, on August 4, 1879, yet another successful gathering took place, this time organised by various Scottish societies in London. The incuded the St. Andrew’s Society, Scottish Social Society, the Highland Camanachd Club, the London Scottish Football Club and others. The venue was the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel in New Wimbledon. The idea of holding an annual gathering came in April the previous year when a preliminary committee had been formed to promote a brotherly feeling between the numerous national and benevolent Scottish Societies of London.
The following is a list of the winners:
“Piper (five entries). 1. Stewart; 2. Shearer; 3. Sutherland.
Dancing Strathspey and Reel (eight entries). 1. Stewart; 2. Robertson; 3. D. Cumming.
Best Dressed Highlander (nine entries). 1. Shearer; 2. Sanderson; 3. Milne.
Dancing Ghillie Callum (five entries). 1. North; 2. Louden.
Dancing Righle Thulaichean (eight entries). 1. Robertson; 2. Stewart; 3. North.”
The judges were Messrs. Macrae Moir, M. A., Donald McKay, Donald Cumming, J. McKenzie, J. Rennie, Dr. Matheson, Captain Houghton, Messrs. Calderwood, Aitkin, G. S. Grimmond, and F. W. Mortimer. Stewards Messrs. Stuart, Birrel, Irvine, Calderwood, Lindsay, Aichison, McLennan, Aitkin, Mitchehill, Moffat, Sanderson, Hedderwick, and Lister.
Plans for the second gathering were announced in April 1880: “It is proposed to hold a great competition in Highland games and sports in London this summer by way of reviving similar gatherings which were popular some years ago at the Crystal Palace. A meeting was held the other day at the offices of the Scottish Corporation, Fleet Street, when the proposal was heartily taken up. Among those who are taking an active part in this matter are The Macintosh, Mr A. M. Matheson, son of Mr Matheson of Ardross, Dr. Farquhar Matheson, Mr Macrae Moir, and other representative Scotchmen in London. Only amateurs will be allowed to compete for the prizes to be awarded in connection with the various competitions, and the meeting will take place at Lillie Bridge Grounds [near Fulham] on the 10th of July next.” The proceeds were to be devoted to the various Scottish charities in London.
This gathering was deemed a total success. As many as 60 entered for the competitions in pipe music, open to all comers and amateurs. Members of the nobility and gentry – the Duke of Atholl, Marquis of Huntly and Lord Lovat – assisted in the judging of the dancing competitions while Hugh M. Cumming and Captain Colin Mackenzie judged the piping.
At the end of the proceedings the Duchess of Atholl presented the prizes and the proceeds of the event went to the Scottish Corporation and the Caledonian Asylum.
In May 1881 an association was formed continue the games annually. The Duke of Atholl was president; the Marquis of Huntly, the Earl of Fife, the Mackintosh, and J. F. Campbell of Islay, vice-presidents. At the games that year, the band of the London Scottish Volunteers and the boy pipers of the Caledonian Asylum played during the day.
The results of the piping competitions were:
Piobaireachd – 1. William McLennan, Edinburgh, 2. John James Connan, Poolewe; 3. Hugh Fraser, Cadogan Place, London.
Marches, Strathspeys and Reels – 1. John James Connan; 2. R. Hay, 93rd Sutherland Highlanders; 3. William McLennan.
Piping (Amateurs). 1. Neil McGlashan, London Scottish Volunteers; 2. John Farquhar, London Scottish Volunteers; 3. Leonard E. Lawrence, London.
Dancing (all comers) 1. William McLennan; 2. James F. Crichton, Edinburgh; 3. John McNeil jnr., Edinburgh.
The Duke of Atholl presented the prizes.
William McLennan (1860-1892), pictured, was a member of the Dundee City Police then Piper to Arthur Bignold, then an Architect in Edinburgh. He travelled abroad as a dancer with Scott Skinner and died of meningitis in Montreal, Canada. He won the Prize Pipe at the Northern Meeting in 1878 and the Gold Medal for Former Winners in 1879.
At the Argyllshire Gathering, William won the Gold Medal in 1878. He was a cousin of George S. MacLennan.
John James Connan was from Ross-shire but learned his piping from John MacKenzie at the Royal Caledonian Asylum. In 1878 he was Piper to Tulloch and in 1879 and 1880 Piper to John H. Dickson of Inveran Lodge, Poolewe, Wester Ross, then Piper to Col. Ewan Macpherson of Cluny. At the Northern Meeting he won Prize Pipe and Former Winners Gold Medal in 1880. In 1882 he was Pipe Major of the Royal Scots.