By Jeannie Campbell MBE
For 1972 the set tunes for the Open and Clasp were Mrs MacLeod of Talisker’s Salute, My Dearest on Earth Give me your Kiss, The Lament for the Union, MacNeil of Barra’s March, MacKenzie of Gairloch’s Lament and The Red Speckled Bull. Competitors were required to submit four. As usual, tunes were set for the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting but not for the Argyllshire Gathering.
Superb weather was enjoyed for the two days of the event (August 30 and 31). In the Gold Medal competition, 43 pipers entered but ultimately nine did not take part.
As always, the lure and glamour of the Gold Medal event at Oban attracts a very large entry but of the 43 names that appeared on the programme, nine did not take part. The judges, Robert Frater, Ronald MacCallum and John MacFadyen had a long and weary day.
The Piping Times report stated that the standard of playing “was not all that wonderful” and bemoaned the “ridiculous amount of time which some competitors took to tune the bagpipe. Anybody who takes ten minutes to tune is obviously not properly prepared for the competition.”
This year there was one entry from the United States, four from each of Canada and England, and two from France.
First prize went to Hugh MacCallum with a “masterly performance” of In Praise of Morag. Second went to, Angus J. MacLellan of the Glasgow Police with Cille Chriosd. Third prize went to James MacGregor with MacSwan of Roaig.
Ed Neigh from Wellesley, Ontario, placed fourth for a “most spirited and vigorous rendering” of Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbet. Fifth place went to William Livingstone of Whitby, Ontario, playing The Old Men of the Shells. “He had one choke and his chanter had a muffled tone,” wrote Seumas.
In the Open Piobaireachd the set tunes were mainly repeats of pieces that had been prescribed in recent years. As a result, the standard of playing was high. There were 15 entries and 12 played. The judges were Nicol MacCallum, Dr. Kenneth A. MacKay and Seumas MacNeill.
First prize went to John Burgess playing MacNeil of Barra’s March. Corporal Ian Morrison playing MacKenzie of Gairloch placed second. “His bagpipe was in splendid order and he played a quite thrilling ground and first variation,” wrote Seumas. “Variation two, however, was straight from the book and was awful. (Speaking for the whole body of piping, we have not learned yet how to write piobaireachd properly, nor have we learned to ignore the bad writing and use our own good musical sense). There was little change of mood or tempo going into the taorluath variation, but the crunluath was splendid and left the impression of a brilliant recovery from a sad sag in the middle.”
Third prize went to Hugh MacCallum with Lament for the Union. Fourth prize went to John MacDougall with Mrs MacLeod of Talisker. “This was a competent performance,” wrote Seumas “with the execution and the bagpipe both of a high standard, but with a long and laborious piece John had obviously decided to get through it at all costs, and that is more or less what it sounded like.”
The March competition, confined to pipers who had not previously won this event, attracted an entry of 35. A lot of good performances were heard.
Seumas recorded: “An outstanding Leaving Lunga gave the premier award to Arthur Gillies. Arthur has the fingers and the expression, and that is a combination not too often heard in march playing nowadays. Second prize went to Angus MacLellan, who was not far behind him, and third prize to Hugh Macinnes. Hugh has the bagpipe and the fingers, but he is a poor marcher and his marches suffer in consequence.
“In fourth place came Dugald B. MacNeill, who is a splendid march player, and with a bit more polish will certainly reach the top. Fifth prize went to one of the Canadians, Hal Senyk.
“Again the prizes in the strathspey and reel went to the horses for courses, with Angus MacLellan showing his tremendous consistency in taking the premier award. Second was James MacGregor, who also knows how to put sparkle and life into the dance music, and third the Canadian who impressed so much in the two piobaireachd events, Ed Neigh. William MacDonald (Benbecula) had to be content with fourth prize (rather low down on the list for him), and a seasoned campaigner who does not appear in the competitions often enough- John Graham of Avonbridge, was fifth.
“March, Strathspey and Reel, Former Winners – Eleven of the top pipers competed in this, one of the two premier events for the light music. Unfortunately, the standard throughout was not of the highest, at least considering the calibre of the players involved. There were three breakdowns, two rushed performances with minor slips and one dead slow performance with minor slips.
“John Burgess played a very good march and a fair strathspey and reel, but his bagpipe was so high pitched and of poor quality tone that the whole effect was wasted. The eventual winner was John MacDougall, playing Pipe Major John Stewart, The Caledonian Society of London, and John Morrison of Assynt House. With the tunes twice over, this was a big test, but the bagpipe stood up well and so did John. However, this is probably the first time in history that a man has won the March, Strathspey and Reel at Oban with several audible crossing noises.
“Second prize went to Hugh MacCallum, who also played well, but he had trouble with his birl in the strathspey and his pipes began to go slightly off near the end. His tunes were Leaving Glen Urquhart, Tulloch Gorum and Mrs. Macpherson of Inveran. Thomas Pearston gave a very steady, sound performance of tunes which, on the easy side for him, gave little chance to demonstrate the finger fireworks. He was placed third with Lochaber Gathering, Monymusk and Thomson’s Dirk.
“The other player was Iain Morrison, and his tunes were Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban, Lady Loudon and Lexie MacAskill. This was a good performance too, but not quite up to his usual clean crisp style. The judges were Ronald MacCallum and Seumas MacNeill.”
Local March – 1. Iain Campbell, Islay; 2. Robert MacLellan, Islay; 3, Neil Gillies, Connel.
Local Strathspey and Reel – I.Iain Campbell; 2. Robert MacLellan; 3. Neil Gillies.
Judges: Dr. Robert Frater and Nicol MacCallum.
William J. Livingstone was born in 1942 at Coppercliff, Ontario, Canada. His teachers were his father, John Wilson, John MacFadyen, Donald MacLeod and John MacLellan. At the Northern Meeting he won the Gold Medal in 1977 and the Clasp in 1981 and 1984. He played with several bands and won the World Championship as Pipe Major of the 78th Fraser Highlanders in 1987. By profession he is a lawyer.
Edward D. Neigh was born in 1945 at Brantford, Ontario, Canada. By profession he was a teacher. His main piping tutor was John MacFadyen at summer schools and in Glasgow when in 1976 he spent some time in Scotland and taught at the same school as John MacFadyen. He was Pipe Major of the Guelph Pipe Band. He died in 2015.
Hal Senyk was born in Montreal but moved to Victoria. He played with various bands then attended the Coeur d’Alene summer school where Robert G. Hardie taught. In 1971 he went to Scotland for further tuition with Hardie and also had a two-week course with Bob Brown. In 1971 and 1972 he played with Muirhead and Sons pipe band under Hardie. He returned to Canada late in 1972 and became Pipe Major of Triumph Street.
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