History of the Argyllshire Gathering: the 1983 competition

AG 1983 J Wilson,G Stoddart, Walter Cowan, C Drummond, T Speirs, M McRae

• PART 48 •


In 1983 the Gathering was held on August 24 and 25. The Gold Medal competition began at 9.15am in the Corran Halls. As had been stated in the report of the previous year the entry qualifications had been changed slightly. The rules stated ‘First prize-winners in this Event at any former Argyllshire Gathering are excluded, and entry is restricted to (1) those who have won a prize in competition for the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at a former Gathering at Oban or Northern Meeting at Inverness, and (2) previous first prize winners in the Silver Medal Competition at either the Argyllshire Gathering or the Northern Meeting.

Competitors were required to select and submit FOUR tunes from the following list of SIX:

  1. The Battle of Auldearn
  2. Lament for the Only Son
  3. The Glen is Mine
  4. The Desperate Battle of the Birds
  5. Catherine’s Lament
  6. The Battle of Strome
    The Judges were Captain A. Pitkeathly, Mr Robert Hardie, Dr Craig.

Prizes were as before: The Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal and Money Prizes presented by The Piobaireachd  Society of a  1st  Prize – £50;  2nd Prize – £30; 3rd Prize – £20; 4th Prize – £10 (to be awarded only at the discretion of the Judges).

The set tunes were listed in the programme and numbered one to six. In a new development the numbers of four tunes offered by each competitor were printed after their name in the programme. Those with an interest in statistics could therefore assess which tunes were the most popular. The competitors tunes were:

  • Ronald McShannon, Glasgow – 1, 2, 3, 4
  • PM Iain Morrison, Queen’s Own  Highlanders – 1, 3, 4, 5
  • Robert  Wallace, Glasgow – 1, 2, 5, 4
  • Robert Barnes, Methil, Fife – 1, 4, 2, 5
  • PM Robert Macphee, Penicuik – 2, 5, 3, 1
  • Anne Johnston, Glasgow – 1, 2, 3, 5
  • Sgt. John Wilson, Strathclyde Police – 1, 2, 6, 5
  • Patricia Henderson, Maryland, U.S.A. – 5, 3, 2, 1
  • E. D. Neigh, Ontario, Canada – 1, 3, 4, 5
  • Cpl. B. Hitchings, Queen’s Own Highlanders – 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Christopher Terry, Grahamstown, South Africa – 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Alfred  Morrison, Bishopton – 4, 3, 5, 6
  • Tom Speirs,  Edinburgh – 1, 3, 5, 4
  • D. B. MacNeill, Edinburgh – 2, 1, 4, 5
  • Jackie  Pincet, Brittany, France – 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Colin Drummond, Bathgate – 1, 2, 4, 6

Out of the 16 listed in the programme, three, Iain Morrison, Robert Macphee and Alfred Morrison did not play.

The Senior Piobaireachd Competition began at 9.30 a.m. at the Phoenix Cinema. The prizes were the  Grant’s Senior Piobaireachd Trophy, and a Cup presented by The Argyll and Sutherland  Highlanders (both to be held for one year), and 1st Prize – £75;  2nd Prize – £40;  3rd Prize – £30; 4th Prize – £20 (to be awarded only at the discretion of the Judges).

The event was open only to previous winners of the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at a former Gathering at Oban or Inverness. Competitors were required to submit four tunes from this list of eight.

  1. Lament for Loch Nell
  2. Lament for Airds
  3. Lament for Hugh
  4. Macintosh of Borlum’s Salute
  5. Tulloch Ard
  6. Keppoch’s March
  7. Good Health to You, Donald
  8. Salute to MacDonald of Staffa
    Judges: James Campbell of Kilberry, M.C., T.D., Mr Andrew MacNeill, Captain John MacLellan, M.B.E.

The numbers referring to the tunes submitted by each piper were in the programme after each name. The competitors were:

  • Murray Henderson, Maryland, U.S.A. – 5,7,1,8
  • Andrew Wright, Dunblane – 1,5,6,4
  • Malcolm McRae, Strathglass – 1,5,7,8
  • Tom  Speirs, Edinburgh – 2,3,6,6
  • Hugh MacCallum, Dunblane – 1,3,7,8
  • Donald MacPherson, Bearsden – 1,5,6,7
  • Wm. Livingstone, Ontario, Canada – 1,2,8,7
  • Duncan MacFadyen, Johnstone – 1,4,5,8
  • Iain MacFadyen, Kyle of Lochalsh – 6,5,4,3
  • Evan MacRae, Caol – 1,2,8,6
  • PM Iain Morrison, Queen’s Own Highlanders – 7,6,8,4
  • John McDougall, Kincraig – 7,2,5,6

Three did not play; they were Tom Speirs, Evan MacRae and Iain Morrison.

The Silver Medal began at 9am in the Dunollie Halls. The prizes were a Silver Medal presented by The Argyllshire Gathering and money prizes: 1st Prize – £25; 2nd Prize – £15; 3rd Prize – £10; 4th Prize – £7; 5th Prize – £5 (to be awarded only if 20 or more entrants compete).

This event was open to any competitor not eligible to enter for the Gold Medal or Senior Piobaireachd events. Competitors were required to submit six tunes of their own choice. The tunes submitted were listed in the programme, numbered from one to 77 and the numbers for the tunes submitted appeared after the name of each player. The judges were Major General Richardson, Pipe Major John Burgess, Pipe Major Ronald MacCallum, M.B.E. There were 49 competitors:

  • Andrew Berthoff, St Louis, USA
  • A. Young, Bishopbriggs
  • J. MacDonald, 52nd Lowland Volunteers, Drumchapel
  • Euan Anderson, Edinburgh
  • E. Clark, Strathtay
  • K. McCormick, Kintore      
  • I. Whitelaw, California, USA
  • D. McBride, Glasgow
  • I. MacKay, Wellington, New Zealand
  • Regan, Glasgow
  • J. Hood,  Bonnyrigg
  • A. J. Chamings, Dundee
  • A. MacColl,  Benderloch
  • I. Marshall, Fort William
  • A. MacDonald, Glenuig
  • W. MacLean, Beauly
  • C. MacFadyen, Skye
  • M. Grey, Ontario, Canada
  • P. Kapp, California, USA
  • W. Gass, Edinburgh
  • D. Martin, USA
  • W. McCallum, Campbeltown
  • S. Finlayson, Auckland, New Zealand
  • R. Stewart, Glasgow
  • J. W. Riach, Inverness
  • Alison  Palmer, Vancouver,  Canada
  • N. Gillies, Edinburgh
  • C. Burke, Auckland, New Zealand
  • C. Kron, Skye
  • Annie  Grant, Innellan
  • D. Daniel, Plomeur, France
  • L/Sgt. R. Huth, Scots Guards
  • John Bottomley, St Louis, USA
  • S. Richendrfor, Mount Vernon, USA
  • L/Cpl.  B. Donaldson, Scots Guards
  • A. MacKenzie, Alness
  • Catherine Maclnnes, Strachur
  • G. Gibson, Paisley
  • R.  Livingstone, Norwich
  • D. Frobese, Texas, USA
  • M. Cusack, Texas, USA
  • Leslie Watson, Annan
  • L. R.  Hutt, Fort William
  • K. Stewart, Co. Antrim
  • R. Gunn, Wellington, New Zealand
  • D. Stewart,  Paisley
  • J. A. MacDonald, Skye
  • Dr. Ian Cameron, Edinburgh
  • Keith Fisher, Maryland, USA

The Junior MSR followed the Senior Piobaireachd in the Phoenix Cinema and was judged by Mr Andrew MacNeill and Captain John MacLellan, M.B.E. The competitors were:

  • Charles MacLaren, Inveraray
  • David MacLachlan, Oban
  • Colin Cameron, Strachur
  • Ian MacCallum, Dunoon
  • Thomas MacArthur, Lochgilphead
  • Stewart MacLachlan, Oban
  • Heather Macinnes, Lochgoilhead
  • John MacLeod, Lochgilphead

On the second day the pipers assembled as usual outside the station and marched up to the games field. On the way up they played the 79th’s Farewell to Gibraltar and Highland Laddie then on nearing the field as usual played The Argyllshire Gathering.

The Piping Times reported: “Once again the third week of August saw all the pipers of Scotland, and some from the United States, Canada, South Africa, France, Brittany and New Zealand, heading for the top competitions at Oban. The weather this year was kind to all the Gatherings and not the least this one, where the sun beat down steadily for the two days of the meeting.”

Senior Piobaireachd results

“On Wednesday 24 the three piobaireachd contests were held. For the senior event, twelve competitors entered but of these one did not turn up and two appeared but decided not to compete. This left nine of the top players and they produced a high standard contest which kept the audience enthralled – partly through the playing and partly because of the interesting and unusual tunes which had been set for this occasion.

“The competition finished before lunch-time and the result was announced as follows:

  1. Hugh MacCallum, Lament for Hugh,
  2. Iain MacFadyen, MacIntosh of Borlum’s Salute,
  3. William Livingstone, Lament for Loch Nell,
  4. Malcolm MacRae, Salute to MacDonald of Staffa.
    Judges: Mr. James Campbell, Mr. Andrew MacNeill and John MacLellan.
•Senior winner, Hugh MacCallum, with David MacKay of Wm Grant

“The other competitors, with their tunes, were: Murray Henderson, Good Health to You, Donald, Andrew Wright, MacIntosh of Borlum’s Salute, Donald MacPherson, Keppoch’s  March, Duncan  MacFadyen, Tulloch Ard, John MacDougall, Lament for Airds.

Gold Medal results

“Meanwhile the contest for the much sought after Gold Medal had been going on in the Corran Hall, in which unfortunately the audience of about 25 to 35 seemed a bit lost. This event is restricted to previous winners (other than first prize) in the Gold Medal contest at either Oban or Inverness, and a total of 16 had applied for entry. Of these three did not turn up but the remaining thirteen provided an excellent competition with a standard much higher than average.

John Wilson leading the march to the Games in 1983.

“A fairly clear and popular winner was John Wilson of the Strathclyde Police, although Ed Neigh from Canada had a minority support rooting for him and it will be a considerable disappointment to him that he came so close without actually striking gold.”

The results were:

  1. John Wilson, The Battle of Auldearn, No. 2,
  2. Ed Neigh, The Glen is Mine,
  3. Tom Speirs, The Desperate Battle,
  4. Jackie Pincet, Lament for the Only Son.
    Judges: Dr Leslie Craig, Robert G. Hardie and Andrew Pitkeathly.

Silver Medal results

“The Silver Medal competition was free for all pipers not eligible to play in the other two events. As a result 49 entered and with only three withdrawals the contest lasted from 9.15am to 9.15pm.

“The standard varied from the very good to the frankly awful, made even worse by the fact that there does not seem to be an age limit for entry.

“The start was slightly delayed because nobody could find a key to the hall, but with the brilliant sunshine the suggestion of one of the judges that the contest should take place out of doors was warmly applauded.”

The results were:

  1. William Gass, Ronald MacDonald of Morar
  2. William MacCallum, The Battle of Auldearn
  3. Lance Corporal Brian Donaldson, MacLeods’ Salute
  4. David Martin, U.S.A. The King’s Taxes
  5. Catherine Maclnnes, The Little Spree
    Judges were John D. Burgess, Ronald MacCallum and General Frank M. Richardson.

Games Day

•The from row on the march to the Games in 1983: John Wilson, Gavin Stoddart, Walter Cowan, Colin Drummond, Tom Speirs and Malcolm McRae.

“In ideal conditions for piping, a very good standard of playing was heard in all the events. There were some complaints heard from spectators that the piping platforms were too far away from them, but this must not be taken too seriously because there were also complaints from some of the audience that they were so close to the former winners’ platform that the clouds of talc which appeared when Bill Livingstone started tuning drifted all over them. To pass the time during the long preliminaries the spectators tried to identify the brand. The general opinion was that it was Johnson and Johnson.

“Otherwise the competitions proceeded much as usual, with a short leet in the March event but not in the Strathspey and Reel. Surely a decision of this nature should not be left to the judges. The pipers have a right to expect some continuity as well as uniformity of approach, and traditionally there have usually been short leets in both of these events. Anyway it saves a great deal of time to have a short leet.”

The results were as follows:

March, Strathspey and Reel for Former Winners

  1. Gavin Stoddart, Highland Wedding, Arniston Castle and The Smith of Chilliechassie,
  2. Iain MacFadyen, South Hall, Inveraray Castle and Bessie MacIntyre,
  3. Tom Speirs, Blackmount Forest, Top of Craigvenow and Lochcarron.
    Judges: Mr. James Campbell, Mr. Andrew MacNeill and John MacLellan.


  1. Robert Wallace, Mrs. John MacColl and Hugh Kennedy
  2. Barry Donaldson, Clan MacColl and Ross-shire Volunteers
  3. Sir Patrick Grant, Highland Wedding and John MacDonald of Glencoe
  4. Gavin Stoddart, The Braes of Brecklet and Highland Wedding
  5. Murray Henderson, Lonach Gathering and Abercairney Highlanders.
    Judges: Dr. Leslie Craig, Ronald MacCallum and General Frank M. Richardson.

Also in the short leet was Colin Drummond. There were 61 entrants.

Strathspey and Reel

  1. Brian Donaldson, Caberfeidh and Rejected Suitor
  2. Gordon Walker, Tulloch Castle and John Garraway
  3. Iain MacDonald, Inveraray Castle and Ca the Ewes
  4. Murray Henderson, Athole Cummers and Mrs Macpherson of Inveran
  5. Robert Barnes, The Piper’s Bonnet and Ca the Ewes.
    Judges: Robert G. Hardie, Mr. Andrew MacNeill and Andrew Pitkeathly.

There were 57 entrants in this event.

•The third and fourth ranks on the march to the Games in 1983.

Junior March, Strathspey and Reel

  1. John  MacLeod, Lochgilphead
  2. Charles MacLaren, Inveraray
  3. Thomas MacArthur, Lochgilphead
  4. Heather Macinnes, Lochgoilhead.
    Judges: Mr. Andrew MacNeill and John MacLellan.

Local March and Strathspey and Reel

Only two pipers entered for these events both of which were won by Angus MacColl from Benderloch. The judges were John Burgess and John MacLellan.

•Captain John MacLellan MBE and John D Burgess in 1983.

The special prize presented by the Royal Celtic Society for the best all round piper was won by Iain MacFadyen from Kyle of Lochalsh.