The Uist and Barra competition in Glasgow’s Year of Culture

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On the eve of the Glasgow Uist and Barra Invitational 2023, we look back through the Piping Times archive to the report on the 1990 competition by Jeannie Campbell, and find this was the year that it became an ‘invitational’.

It was a year that Glasgow presented it’s cleaned-up, modern, trendy, best-face to the world, with the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall just about to be opened and lots of developments going on all over the city.

For many, 33 years ago will not feel like the dim and distant past, and 1990 will still exist somewhere holding promise of an exciting, bright future. But Jeannie’s window into the past paints a rather quaint picture of 1990, with ‘the essential’ drams available in the nearby bowling club, Mrs Mac’s Glendarroch scones and kisses from the well-known piping prize winners.

BY JEANNIE CAMPBELL MBE.

For 1990, Glasgow’s Year of Culture, the Uist and Barra Association changed the format of their competition. Instead of the usual A and B grades for piobaireachd, march and strathspey and reel we had an invitational competition in the style of the Scotway contest. In fact, convener Ronald Morrison made a special point of thanking the Scotway organiser Willie Baxter for his help.

The rules printed in the programme were almost the same as those in the Scotway programme, although the rule that dress should be formal, military uniform or black jacket was not complied with by many of the competitors who appeared in normal day-dress tweed jackets.

The venue also was a new one, St. Gerard’s school in Govan. The hall was very pleasant although a larger audience would have added to the atmosphere. Tea and snacks were available in the school canteen but there was no bar. However it was announced that anyone wanting a dram would be served in the bowling club 200yds along the road if they said they were from the piping competition.

The piobaireachd began at 9 a.m. with 15 invited players and was followed immediately by the march, strathspey and reel, also with 15 players, although 16 had been invited according to the programme. There were only two judges for each event, Ronald Lawrie and Robert Hardie for piobaireachd and Iain McLeod and John MacAskill for the light music. The prize money was excellent, a total of £1150 divided into 4 prizes in each event.

As chief steward and past president John MacPhee said in his closing remarks: “For the first time in history the Uist and Barra was over at ten minutes past five in the afternoon.”

This was an early finish for those of us who remember the great days of the seventies in the Highlanders Institute when the hall was packed to capacity in the evening for the short leets and the jigs, when the atmosphere was electric and every performance finished to loud cheering.

I he prizes were presented by Mrs Mac from the TV series, Take the High Road, (actress Gwyneth Guthrie) who read a poem she had composed while coming in on the bus. She said the scones were not quite as good as those in her Glendarroch tea room but she certainly enjoyed the kisses from the prize winners. The results were:

Piobaireachd

  1. Roderick MacLeod (Donald Duaghal MacKay)
  2. William McCallum (Rory MacLeod)
  3. Robert Wallace (MacDougalls’ Gathering)
  4. Alastair Gillies (Earl of Seaforth)

The other invited players were: Iain MacFadyen, Colin Drummond, James Hood, Logan Tannock, Kenneth MacDonald, Allan MacDonald, Robert Stewart, Angus MacColl, Wilson Brown, Andrew Wright and Ronald MacShannon.

March, Strathspey and Reel

  1. Angus MacColl
  2. Wilson Brown
  3. Roderick MacLeod
  4. Willie McCallum

The others who played were Kenneth MacDonald, Hugh Machines, Alastair Gillies, Robert Wallace, Ronald MacShannon, Iain MacFadyen, Willie Morrison, Colin Drummond, Logan Tannock, Andrew Wright and Allan MacDonald. Barry Donaldson was listed in the programme but did not play. The overall winner was Roderick MacLeod.