BY JEANNIE CAMPBELL MBE
Competitors in the Open and Clasp competitions in 1975 were required to submit four tunes from this list of six: The Battle of Glensheil, The Sister’s Lament, Nameless, Hihio-tro tro, The Park Piobaireachd No. 1, The Old Woman’s Lullaby and Salute on the Birth of Rory Mor. For the Gold Medals competitors were to submit four tunes from this list of eight: The Battle of the Bridge of Perth, The Lament for The Castle of Dunyveg, Queen Anne’s Lament, Weighing from Land, Fair Honey, The Young Laird of Dungallon’s Salute, The End of the Little Bridge and Farewell to the Laird of Islay.
The Piping Times reported: “Oban was a rather dull and dismal place on the 27th and 28th August when once again, for a short time, it became the centre of the piping world.
“Chief interest was, as always, in the Gold Medal event held in the Corran Halls with, from early morning, a surprisingly large and enthusiastic audience. The overall standard of play was not considered to be particularly high, but of course this is always liable to be the state of affairs when tunes are set, and especially when the tunes are hardly likely to be the ones the pipers would have picked, given a free hand. The aim of reviving a number of rather obscure pieces was well achieved, and the test now is whether any of these will appear in free lists in the future.
“A total of forty-two pipers had entered for the event, but only thirty of these actually played, and this raises a problem once again as to what to do with pipers who enter and then neither play nor intimate that they have withdrawn. The continuing increase of interest in piobaireachd playing abroad, and the decline of piobaireachd playing at home, or both, was shown by the fact that one third of those who played were from outside Scotland. Two of them won prizes, and the average performance of the non-Scots was better than that of the homebrew.
“The Open event was held in the Phoenix Cinema, and in view of last year’s debachle (when it was hard to find competitors willing to play), the contest was billed to start at 11 o’clock. Again there were a number of withdrawals, seven out of sixteen in fact, and again this had a considerable nuisance value which must be eliminated in future. Anyone who enters for a competition without playing in it, and who does not withdraw at the latest on the day before the contest, should be debarred from playing in that competition the following year.
“These snags apart, the standard of playing in this event was very good – again of course, considering that the tunes would not have been the pipers’ first choice. The winner was Malcolm McRae, playing the nameless tune, Hi ho tro tro. He played it practically as a lullaby, which seemed to suit both him and the tune. There was some slight reluctance to hold the ends of phrases, but this was a mature performance on an excellent pipe.
“Second prize went to John D. Burgess, playing The Battle of Glenshiel, on a finely tuned bagpipe which however faded a little bit towards the end. His battle was well planned and organised throughout, but the fingering of throws and triplets did not have the crispness of yore.
“James MacIntosh played a very fine Old Woman’s Lullaby for third prize, but he could have held the ends of the phrases slightly more, and instead of slowing the last two lines of the tune (after the baby falls asleep) he accelerated slightly, which is not quite so effective. Again the bagpipe was excellent. The setting he played was apparently from Angus MacKay’s manuscript except that where Angus has a C in line one of variation two Jimmy played the B as written in Kilberry and the Piobaireachd Society.
“Fourth prize could well have gone to several of the other competitors, but the eventual recipient was John Shone from London playing an unusual setting of Salute on the Birth. Duncan MacFadyen was also a contender, but he is definitely a long distance man and the short Battle of Glenshiel was over before he had quite got into it. It was felt that he came off the low G too quickly in lines two and three of the ground, and had little variation of tempo between variations one, two and three.
“Chris Terry also played Salute on the Birth and played it very confidently. There was a feeling however that this was straight from the book, including the omitted grace note. Bookishness could also be the criticism of John Goodenow’s Sister’s Lament. Variation one and doubling were both too even, but there were no major errors, and indeed any of these performances could easily have won a prize in a normal year.
“The other two performers were Murray Henderson and Willie MacDonald of Benbecula. Both played The Park No. I, and both played well, but both missed out two bars in the last line of the ground – Willie both times, but Murray just on the repeat.”
Gold Medal Piobaireachd: 1. Arthur G. Gillies, Kilchrenan; 2. Murray Henderson, Dundee; 3. W. Livingstone, Whitby, Ontario; 4. Pipe Major J. M. Allan, Queen’s Own Highlanders; 5. Ronald McShannon, Campbeltown. The judges were Ronald MacCallum, M.B.E., James Campbell and R. B. Nicol.
Open Piobaireachd: 1. Malcolm McRae, Kirriemuir, Nameless; 2. John D. Burgess, Alness, Battle of Glenshiel; 3. J. MacIntosh, Dundee, Old Woman’s Lullaby; 4. J. A. Shone, London, Salute on the Birth of Rory Mor. The judges were Dr. J. C. Caird, Nicol MacCallum and Seumas MacNeill.
March, Strathspey and Reel (Former Winners): 1. Kenneth MacDonald; 2. John L. Graham; 3, Arthur G. Gillies. Judges were Capt. D. R. MacLennan and R. B. Nicol.
March: I. W. Livingstone, Whitby, Ontario; 2. E. Macrae, Fort William; 3. Kenneth MacDonald, Glasgow; 4. Hugh Macinnes, Glasgow; 5. E. D. Neigh, Wellesley, Ontario. Judges were Dr. J. C. Caird and N. MacCallum.
Strathspey and Reel: 1. Hugh Macinnes, Glasgow, Tulloch Castle, The Sheepwife; 2. T. Speirs, Edinburgh, lnveraray Castle, The Brown Haired Maid; 3. Murray Henderson, Dundee, Blair Drummond, Sandy Cameron; 4, Ronald McShannon, Campbeltown, Caber Feidh, Willie Murray; 5, J. MacIntosh, Dundee, Maggie Cameron, Lexie MacAskill. Judges were Ronald MacCallum and Seumas MacNeill.
Junior March, Strathspey and Reel: 1. Gordon Lang, Campbeltown; 2. Neil Johnstone, Oban; 3. Gillies K. Fyfe, Inveraray; 4. Catherine Macinnes, Strathlachlan. The judges were Dr. L. Craig and Capt. D. R. MacLennan.
March (Local): I. Iain Hurst; 2. James MacEachern; 3. Donald Files. Judges were Mr. J. Campbell and Ronald MacCallum.
Strathspey and Reel (Local): – 1. lain Hurst; 2. Hector Campbell; 3. Donald Files. Judges were Mr. J. Campbell and Ronald MacCallum.
•John MacKenzie Allan was born in Inverness in 1935. He began playing with the local Boys’ Brigade before enlisting with the Scots Guards in 1956. He had further tuition from John A MacLellan including the 1959 Pipe Majors’ course. He became Pipe Major 1st Bt Queens Own in 1962, then in 1974 was promoted WO1 and appointed school PM Army School 1974-79. He was commissioned in 1979 as Captain and later Major and was Director Army bagpipe music 1981 until he retired in 1990, afterwards becoming the piping instructor at George Heriot’s school.
•Evan MacRae was born in the Black Isle in 1922 and brought up in Sleat, Skye where he was taught originally by John MacDonald, the Ardvasar Blacksmith. He enlisted with the Cameron Highlanders in 1938 and had further tuition from PM John McLean, PM William Young and John MacDonald, Inverness. He was PM 1st Camerons 1944-5, PM 5th Camerons 1946, PM 3rd Camerons 1946-47, PM Depot Camerons 1947-8, PM 1st Camerons 1948-61 and PM Liverpool Scottish 1962-67. After retirement he was the schools piping instructor for the Fort William area. He was awarded the BEM in 1987 and died in 1991.
•Thomas Speirs was born in Kilmarnock in 1941, son of PM John (Jock) Speirs. He was taught by his father 1945-49, James A Jeffray 1949-65, John MacLellan 1965-66, Donald Macpherson 1972-75 and Jimmy MacIntosh 1976-80. By profession he was an accountant, working for a bank. He won the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1980 and the Clasp in 1983.
•John H Shone was born in London in 1935. He learned piping with the Boys’ Brigade, and then had many years tuition with PM J. B. Robertson. Later he had further tuition with Donald MacPherson.
•Chris Terry from Grahamstown, South Africa was born in 1947. He had tuition from John MacFadyen and competed many times in Scotland. In South Africa he was a school piping tutor and a bagpipe maker. Although women were not allowed to compete it appears that this did not apply to the new junior MSR as Catherine MacInnes from Strathlachlan featured in the prize list, making her the first female to win a piping prize at Oban. The following year, 1976, there was to be an historic change.”
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