The set tunes for the Gold Medal in 1981 were: The Prince’s Salute, The End of the Great Bridge, A  Flame of Wrath for Squinting  Patrick, Clan Campbell’s Gathering, The Gathering  of the MacNabs, The King’s Taxes, The Finger Lock and Black Donald ‘s March. Competitors were to select four tunes from the list of eight.

For the Senior competitions the set tunes were: Donald Gruamach’s March, The Park Piobaireachd No. 2, Craigellachie, The Daughter’s Lament, The Lament for the Union, The Lament for the Laird of Anapool, The Rout of the Lowland Captain, The Lament for the Harp Tree. Again, competitors were to select four tunes from the list of eight.

For the Silver Medal competitors were to submit six tunes of their own choice.

The Gold Medal started at 9.15am in the Corran Halls and there were sixteen entries: Colin Drummond, Bathgate; Duncan Watson, Bridge of Don; Donald Bain, Wellington, New Zealand; Sgt. John Wilson, Strathclyde Police; E. D. Neigh, Wellesley, Ontario; Tom Speirs, Edinburgh; Jack L. Taylor, Edinburgh; PM Gavin Stoddart, Royal Highland Fusiliers; Piper Robert Barnes, Royal Guard, Oman; Ronald McShannon, Glasgow; Mrs Patricia Henderson, Eassie, Angus;  PM Iain Morrison, Queen’s Own Highlanders; Jackie Pincet, Brittany; Evan MacRae, Caol; Robert Wallace, Glasgow; and Dugald MacNeill, Edinburgh.

In the Senior competition which began at 9.30am in the Phoenix Cinema, there were thirteen names in the programme: Duncan MacFadyen, Johnstone; Jack L. Taylor, Edinburgh; PM Iain Morrison, Queens Own Highlanders; Murray Henderson, Eassie, Angus; Andrew Wright, Dunblane; Iain MacFadyen, Kyle of Lochalsh; Malcolm MacRae, Strathglass; Donald Bain, Wellington, New Zealand; Hugh MacCallum, Bridge of Allan; Angus MacLellan, Strathclyde Police; John MacDougall, Kincraig; Finlay MacNeill, Inverness; and Tom Speirs, Edinburgh.

The Silver Medal began at 9am in the Dunollie Halls and there were 38 entries: Neil Gillies, Edinburgh; Euan Anderson, Edinburgh; Peter Aumonier, Sidney, B.C.; Miss Anne Sinclair, Glasgow; Neil Smith, Glasgow; Miss Catherine MacInnes, Strachur; Robert Stewart, Glasgow; Derek Fraser, Edinburgh; George Lumsden, Edinburgh; Roy Gunn, Strathglass; Wilson M. Brown, Inverness; James MacGillivray, Georgetown, Ontario; Iain Fraser, Muir of Ord; James Hood, Bonnyrigg; John Hanning, New Zealand; Dr Angus MacDonald, Glasgow; Christopher Jenson, Park Ridge, U.S.A.; Alfred Morrison, Bishopton; Allan MacDonald, Lochailort;  R. P. F. Cusson, Lantzville, B.C.; Edward Clark, Strathtay; John Riach, Balloch, Inverness; Leslie Watson, Annan; John L. Bottomley, Copiague, N.Y.; Mrs Anne Spalding, Broughty Ferry; Calum MacDonald, Delaware, U.S.A.; Alexander MacKenzie, Alness; William Maclean, Inverness; Dr Iain Cameron, Edinburgh; Greg L. Abbott, Michigan, U.S.A.; Cpl Iain Macey, Army School of Piping; Sir Patrick Grant, Glasgow; Robert J. Worrall, Burlington, Ontario; Michael F. Cusack, Houston, Texas; Iain Hines, Kirriemuir; Con Burke, Auckland, New Zealand; John Campbell, Bowmore, Islay; and Cpl I. Massie.

The junior March, Strathspey and Reel was held after the Senior Piobaireachd in the Phoenix Cinema. The judges were Mr. John Burgess, Capt. I. C. Cameron and Dr R. Frater.  Only three names were in the programme, Tom Gorman, Dunoon; Angus MacColl, Benderloch; and Richard Robertson, Grangemouth.

The programme for the second day listed 14 competitors for the Former Winners MSR, 50 competitors for the March, and 47 for the Strathspey and Reel.

The Piping Times reported: “The story is told of two soldiers, both from South Uist, who met in Port Said in the middle of summer. After enthusiastic greetings there was a pause while they wiped the sweat from their brows, the temperature being in the region of a hundred and twenty degrees.

‘Do you know, John,’ said Angus, ‘this is the day of South Uist Games’. ‘So it is’, said John, ‘and what a grand day they are getting for it’.

“And so it was at Oban this year. For once in a long while the weather was everything that a games promoter could desire, a photographer’s paradise, and not too bad for playing the bagpipe either.

“Wednesday, August 26, was taken up as usual with the three piobaireachd competitions and the Junior March, Strathspey and Reel all played indoors. And as might be expected a good standard of playing was heard throughout the day.”

Senior Piobaireachd

“A total of 13 players had entered for the senior contest in the Phoenix Cinema, and this was judged by John D. Burgess, Capt. I. C. Cameron and Dr. R.Frater. Only eight however actually competed and two of them broke down, so once again it was a case of the half-truth that it’s easier to win a prize in the senior event than in the Gold Medal.

•John MacDougall at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1981

“In spite of the absences and the breakdowns however the prizewinners all played well. First place went to John MacDougall with a steady and correct interpretation of The Lament for the Laird of Anapool. Malcolm MacRae was a close-up second with another of the great tunes, The Park Piobaireachd No. 2. Third and fourth prizewinners both played Craigellachie, Murray Henderson being judged a shade ahead of Hugh MacCallum in his interpretation.

“The others who finished their tunes were Jack L. Taylor with The Lament for the Union and Duncan MacFadyen who played The Rout of the Lowland Captain.”

The Gold Medal

“The powers that be at the Argyllshire Gathering do not take on the task of making yearly decisions as to who should and who should not compete for this prestigious award. The system adopted is to allow all who have previously won a prize in the Gold Medal competition at either Oban or Inverness (other than the first prize-winners of course) plus previous first prizewinners in the Silver Medal Competition at the Argyllshire Gathering only. The Silver Medal Contest at Inverness is apparently not recognised in Oban.

•Pipe Major Gavin Stoddart at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1981

“The system has much to commend it, since it does away with personal judgments and obliterates entirely the lobbying which goes on for places in the corresponding competition at Inverness. On the other hand the only people added to the list of those eligible each year are the Silver Medallist at Oban and new prizewinners in the Gold Medal at Inverness. On the debit side, the winner of the Gold Medal each year is removed from the list and old age brings its own quiet erosion. Since, in Angus Macpherson’s memorable phrase: ‘The cream always comes to the top (we never had the courage to remind him that so also does the scum), the number added via Inverness will always be quite small.’ As a result the numbers competing in this event have been tending to shrink over the years and this time only 16 were entered.

“There are of course varying opinions as to whether this is good or bad, but  our view is that for four prizes 16 is quite a big enough entry. The judges this time were Ronald MacCallum, Capt. J. A. MacLellan and Capt. Andrew Pitkeathly.

“Five of the competitors had already won the medal in ‘the other place’ so it was not surprising that         they were well represented on the prize-list. The premier award however went to Pipe Major Gavin Stoddart who gave a fine rendering of The Prince’s Salute played on an excellent bagpipe. This must have been a close decision for in second place came Pipe Major Iain Morrison (who must have been disappointed that he had come so near once again to the one prize which seems to elude him). His tune was also The Prince’s Salute which he played well, with confidence and assurance.

•Pipe Major Iain Morrison at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1981

“Third prize went to Tom Speirs The Gathering of the MacNabs and fourth was Dr. Jack L. Taylor A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick.

The Silver Medal

“Entry to this event is open to all pipers not qualified for the other two piobaireachd competitions, and so there was an entry of over 30 players, all anxious to show their talent and if possible graduate to the more important event. The standard of course was somewhat mixed, with some playing which would not have been out of place for the Gold Medal­ but some playing which was painful to listen to. It is all very well encouraging piping but there should be a limit.

“Once again the overseas pipers showed their strength, taking first, third and fifth prizes. A notable feature of this event was the high standard of tunes which were submitted and indeed chosen for the prize winners. The results were as follows: 1. John Hanning, New Zealand, Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay; 2. Allan MacDonald, Lochailort, In Praise of Morag; 3. Robert J. Worrall, Burlington, Ontario, The Big Spree; 4. William MacLean, Inverness, Lament for the Viscount of Dundee; 5. Iain Hines, New Zealand, Lament for Colin Roy MacKenzie. The judges were Dr J. C. Caird and Dr L.M. Craig.”

The Games

“Thursday was another glorious day and the march from Station Square was but a pleasant work-out for the boys. The field itself soon resounded to the tuning of many bagpipes and the pleasant heat of early morning created new memories and almost obliterated some older and less pleasant ones.”

•Pipe Major Gavin Stoddart on the march to the games in 1981, and behind him Iain Morrison (left) and Walter Cowan (right).

March, Strathspey and Reel

“Fourteen pipers had entered for the endurance test this year but only eleven competed. Four eliminated themselves for one reason or another and so it was a case of picking three prize-winners from seven performances. The standard was not all that marvellous, although credit must always be given to a piper who completes his tunes successfully in this event.

“The result was announced as follows: 1. Pipe Major Gavin Stoddart, Abercairney Highlanders, The Shepherd’s Crook and The Smith of Chilliechassie. 2. Pipe Major lain Morrison, Jeannie Carruthers, MacBeth’s Strathspey and John Morrison of Assynt House. 3. John MacDougall, The Braes of Castle Grant, Maggie Cameron and Mrs. Macpherson of Inveran.

“Of the others, Robert Barnes played well but lost the place in the reel. Hugh Maclnnes, a formidable competitor, played the wrong strathspey and stopped. But the real hard-luck story of the day occurred when Ed Neigh came on to play. Due to some slight mismanagement, a children’s race began in the middle of his march and the route for it apparently lay somewhere between him and the judges. The story told in downtown Oban later was that Ed had come in eleventh equal with a girl, but this may have been an exaggeration. The distraction however was enough for him to stop playing and it seems very unfortunate that he was not allowed a second chance. It was somewhat reminiscent of John MacDonald of the Glasgow Police playing his piobaireachd at Cowal one year when the Finton Lalor band marched past the platform. John, gentleman that he is, simply stopped playing and stood and watched as they went round the track. Then, as if all this was perfectly, normal, he blew up, tuned and started all over again. The judges were John D. Burgess, Dr. Colin Caird and Ronald MacCallum.”

•The judges from left: Ronald MacCallum, Dr. Colin Caird and John D. Burgess.


“This event, confined to those who have not previously won it, produced a very good overall standard – as well it might in the excellent circumstances. Our sympathy went out to the adjudicators however, because fifty pipers actually played in the event. The result was announced as follows: 1.  Dr. Angus MacDonald, The Braes of Castle Grant; 2. Murray Henderson, Lonach Gathering; 3. Pipe Major Gavin Stoddart, The Marchioness of Tullibardine; 4. Robert J.Worrall, Knightswood Ceilidh; 5. James D. MacGillivray, Jeannie Carruthers. The judges were Dr. Leslie Craig and Captain J. A. Maclellan.”

Strathspey and Reel

“Again a good standard was enjoyed, and again Dr. Angus took the premier award. Incidentally it has been the custom in recent years to say that the strathspey and reel standard is always worse than the march, but not so on this occasion. Perhaps the extra warmth is all the fingers need. The result was: 1. Dr. Angus MacDonald, The Islay Ball and Lochiel’s Away to France; 2. Alfred Morrison, John Roy Stewart and Pretty Marion; 3. Murray Henderson, Arniston Castle and Lochcarron; 4. James D. MacGillivray, Inveraray Castle and Bessie MacIntyre; 5. Colin Drummond, Lady MacKenzie of Gairloch and Dolina MacKay.

“The judges were Captain lain C. Cameron, Dr. Robert Frater and Captain Andrew Pitkeathly.

The Royal Celtic Society’s prize for the best all-round piper in the Senior Piobaireachd and the March, Strathspey and Reel was awarded to John MacDougall from Kincraig.”

Junior March, Strathspey and Reel

1. Angus MacColl, Benderloch, The Highland Wedding, John Roy Stewart and Mrs. Macpherson of Inveran; 2. Richard Robertson, Grangemouth, John MacFadyen of Melfort, MacBeth’s Strathspey and The Sheepwife; 3. Tom Gorman, Dunoon, The Atholl Highlanders’ March to Loch Katrine, The Shepherd’s Crook and Lochcarron; 4. David Peter, Strachur, Major Norman Orr-Ewing, The Caledonian Canal and The High Road to Linton.

March (Local)

1. Piper B. Hutcheson, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.

Strathspey & Reel (Local)

1. Piper Gordon Lang, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.