History of the Argyllshire Gathering: the 1984 competition


• PART 49 •


In 1984 the Gathering was on August 29 and 30. Entry requirements for the Gold Medal were changed in order to increase the number of entries. The new rule was 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 prize-winners in the Silver Medal Competition at either the Argyllshire Gathering or the  Northern Meeting.

Gold Medal competitors were required to select and submit four tunes from the following list of seven:

  • The Bicker
  • The Black Wedder’s White Tail
  • Grain in Hides and Corn in Sacks
  • The Lament for the Little Supper
  • Queen Anne’s Lament
  • The MacDonalds Are Simple
  • All the Men Paid Rent but Rory

The competitors listed in the programme were:

  • Edward Neigh, Ontario, Canada
  • W. Gass, Edinburgh
  • A. MacDonald, Glenuig
  • James McGillivray, Toronto, Canada
  • Ronald McShannon, Thornwood
  • PM  I. M. Morrison. Queen’s Own Highlanders
  • Mrs P. Henderson, Elkton, U.S.A.
  • D. B. MacNeill, Edinburgh
  • Anne Johnston, Glasgow
  • R. Wallace, Stepps
  • James Hardie, Bishopbriggs
  • Amy C. Garson, Ottawa, Canada
  • Dr A. MacDonald, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Jackie Pincet, France
  • Ann A. MacKay, Strathcarron
  • L. Tannock, Sauchie
  • James E. Stack, Pequannock, U.S.A.
  • Colin Drummond, Bathgate
  • C. T. Terry, South Africa
  • Alfred Morrison, Bishopton
  • Roderick J. MacLeod, Cambuslang
  • One more, Roy Gunn, New Zealand was added to the list.

For the Senior Piobaireachd Competitors were required to select and submit four tunes from the following list of six:

  • Abercairney’s Salute
  • Lady MacDonald’s Lament
  • Nameless-Cherede Darievea
  • The Prince’s Salute
  • The Vaunting
  • The Red Speckled Bull

The competitors were:

  • Murray A. Henderson, Elkton, U.S.A.
  • John McDougall, Kincraig
  • Malcolm McRae, Strathglass
  • Sgt. John Wilson, Strathclyde  Police
  • Iain MacFadyen, Kyle of Lochalsh
  • D. J. MacFadyen, Johnstone
  • Donald MacPherson, Llandinan
  • Andrew Wright, Dunblane
  • Angus J. MacIellan, Bearsden
  • H. MacCallum, Dunblane

For the Silver Medal there were 50 competitors in the programme. Each submitted six tunes and 93 tunes were listed. The judges were Mr Hardie, Dr Craig and Mr MacDonald.

The competitors were:

  • Sandy MacKenzie, Alness 
  • Brian Donaldson, The Scots Guards
  • P. Candy, Lindfield Brian Williamson, Ottawa, Canada
  • Michael Grey, Canada
  • Roy Gunn, New Zealand
  • C. Gemmell, U.S.A.
  • J. W. Riach, Balloch Village
  • Anne Spalding, Broughty Ferry
  • A. J. Minty, Bearsden
  • Patrick W. Regan, Texas, U.S.A.
  • Edward E. Clark. Strathtay
  • W. MacLean, Cannich
  • Douglas Reid, Dingwall
  • M. K. Scott-MacAulay, Hamilton, Canada
  • Patrick Molard, France
  • C. MacFadyen, Portree
  • Thomas A. Johnstone, Bridge of Weir
  • Brian G. Coutts, Royal H’land Fusiliers
  • David B. Martin, Livonia, U.S.A.
  • R. Stewart, Glasgow
  • Annie Grant, Dunoon
  • Bill Hawes, Canada
  • lain Bruce, Australia
  • Sgt. R. Burns, Aberdeen
  • Catherine MacInnes, Strachur
  • A. D. Smith, Edinburgh
  • Charles E. Kron, U.S.A.
  • Brian L. Switalla, New Zealand
  • James MacDonald, Drumchapel
  • Cpl. Gordon Lang, A. & S.H.
  • N. B. Gillies, Cramond
  • R. J. Livingstone, Norwich
  • Angus D. MacColl, Benderloch
  • Kenneth P. B. McCormick, Kintore 
  • Stuart Shedden, Glasgow
  • A. MacRae, Castle Douglas
  • Michael J. Rogers, U.S.A
  • J. B. Hood, Bonnyrigg
  • Douglas E. Frobese, Texas, U.S.A.
  • Leslie R. Hutt, Fort William
  • Barry W. Shears, Halifax, Canada
  • D. H. Pearston. Aberdeen
  • Andrew W. Berthoff, Stirling University
  • Euan Anderson, Edinburgh
  • Kit Jensen, U.S.A.
  • Pipe Major Iain F. Macey, Sultan of Oman’s Air Force
  • C. Apps, Grays
  • Andrew Young, Bishopbriggs
  • L/Sgt. R. Huth, Scots Guards

For the Junior MSR, which was judged by Major General Richardson, Captain Pitkeathly and PM McCallum, there were 15 competitors.

There was a new event, The Highland Society of London’s MacGregor Memorial Trophy, beginning at 2.45 p.m. in the Corran Halls. This was open to all who have not reached their 23rd Birthday on September 5, 1984. Competitors were to submit four tunes from the list of seven for the Gold Medal. The Competition was to be in two stages. The first held at Oban and the second at the Northern Meeting, Inverness on September 5. The judges would require one of the four tunes at Oban and another (but not the same) at Inverness. The judges were Colonel Murray, Mr MacNeill and Pipe Major Burgess. Four competitors were listed, Kenneth McCormick, Kintore, Andrew Berthoff, Stirling University, Douglas Pearston, Aberdeen, Roderick MacLeod, Cambuslang, but the last named did not play.

The Gold Medal

The Piping Times report was written by Jeannie Campbell: “The Gold Medal competition was due to start in the Corran Halls at 9.15am, but eventually got underway at 9.40am with an audience of 43. The judges were David Murray, Andrew MacNeill and John Burgess. Entry to the Gold Medal this year was open to all prize winners in previous Silver Medal competitions at Oban and Inverness, as well as holders of the Silver Medal and other prize winners in the Gold Medal.

“There were 22 names in the programme, but Roy Gunn also played although his name was listed for the Silver Medal. Of those entered, Allan MacDonald and Anne MacKay didn’t play and the only breakdown was Robert Wallace. By 10.30am the audience had increased to 73. The lunch break was at 1 o’clock and the judges were on their way out as Logan Tannock finished the crunluath of The Little Supper, not  waiting to hear the first line of the ground again. The competition re-started at 2.15pm but those wishing to hear the Senior Competition went to the Phoenix Cinema for 2.45pm and so missed the best tunes of the medal competition as the first three prize winners were among the last six to play.

“The most popular of the set tunes were The Bicker, Grain in Hides and The Little Supper, each submitted by 16 of the 22 competitors in the programme. All the Men Paid Rent but Rory, was submitted 15 times, and the least popular tune was Black Wedder’s White Tail submitted four times.”

The results were:

  1. Michael Cusack, Houston, USA, Queen Anne’s Lament;
  2. Alfred Morrison, Bishopton, Queen Anne’s Lament;
  3. Roderick MacLeod, Cambuslang, Grain in Hides and Corn in Sacks;
  4. Amy Garson, Ottawa, Canada, All the Men Paid Rent but Rory.
•Mike Cusack leading the March to the Games in 1984.

Senior Piobaireachd

“This began at 2.55pm in a very chilly Phoenix Cinema. The audience at the start numbered 85, but several were tourists who had come in out of the rain. One steward at the door was only just prevented by his colleague from demanding the £1.00 admission fee from the Chief Steward. Another steward was heard telling people: ‘You can go in now, he hasn’t really started’ when the player was half way through his tune.

“The judges were General Richardson, Andrew Pitkeathly and Ronnie MacCallum. There were 10 names in the programme but John Wilson and Angus MacLellan didn’t appear.

“In first place, for the 12th time at Oban, was Donald MacPherson, playing the nameless tune Cherede Darievea.  This was the longest tune of the competition, lasting 18 minutes.

In second place was Hugh MacCallum, playing the same tune, third was Malcolm MacRae with The Red Speckled Bull, fourth John MacDougall, again with the Nameless Tune. The competition finished at 6.15pm. Others who played were Murray Henderson, Lady MacDonald ‘s Lament, Iain MacFadyen, Lady MacDonald ‘s Lament, Duncan MacFadyen, Abercairney’s Salute, Andrew Wright, Abercairney’s Salute.

The Prince’s Salute was submitted nine times and The Vaunting eight times but neither was played.  Lady MacDonald’s Lament was offered nine times, Abercairney’s Salute and Nameless five times, and The Red Speckled Bull four times.

Silver Medal

This marathon event began at 9am in the Dunollie Halls with William MacDonald, Robert Hardie and Dr. Leslie Craig judging. There were 50 names in the programme but not all played. According to the programme 93 tunes were submitted but some were listed twice under different names and some twice under the same name.

Those with no chance of a prize were waved off; two chokes, a wave of Dr. Craig’s pencil and off they had to go.

After the finish of the senior competition those arriving at the Dunollie Hall were in time to hear the last 15 in the Silver Medal, which included the first and second prize winners, five who didn’t turn up and two who were waved off.

There was an audience of 45 to 50 at 6.45pm, by 7.30 it was down to 23, and when the competition ended at 8.50pm 35 people were in the hall. The result was announced at 9.15pm. First was the last to play, L/Sgt Roger Huth, Scots Guards, with Beloved Scotland. The full Silver Medal results were:

  1. L/Sgt Roger Huth, Scots Guards, Beloved Scotland.
  2. James Hood, Bonnyrigg, The MacDonalds are Simple
  3. Sgt. Brian Donaldson, Scots Guards, Old Men of the Shells
  4. Cpl Gordon Lang, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
  5. Iain Bruce, Australia.

The Games

Thursday morning at 10am seen torrential rain. On the station bookstall the headline of the Oban Times promised a dry day but crowded. Many pipers had gone home and only 26 played up the road, about half the usual number. The dancing events were transferred to the Dunollie Halls as it was considered too dangerous for them outside.

March, Strathspey and Reel for Former Winners

In the March Strathspey & Reel for Former Winners, 10 out of the 14 entered played and the tunes were played once over instead of the usual twice. The result was:

  1. Sgt Brian Donaldson, Scots Guards
  2. PM Iain Morrison, Queen’s Own Highlanders
  3. Hugh MacInnes, Glasgow
    The judges were R. Hardie, A. Pitkeathly, W. MacDonald.


  1. Sgt.  Brian Donaldson
  2. Michael Cusack
  3. Scott MacAuley
  4. Angus MacColl
  5. Gordon Walker
    The judges were Col. Murray, John Burgess and Andrew MacNeill.

Strathspey & Reel

The Strathspey & Reel was judged by Gen. Richardson, Ronnie MacCallum and at the beginning Dr. Leslie Craig, who was later called away to a sick relative in Switzerland.

  1. Murray Henderson
  2. Robert Wallace
  3. Alfred Morrison
  4. Angus MacColl
  5. Barry Donaldson.

Local Events March

  1. Thomas A. MacArthur
  2. Neil R. MacNaughton.
  3. Neil A. MacKinnon.

Local Strathspey and Reel

  1. Thomas MacArthur
  2. Neil MacNaughton

“The programme showed that there were three competitors for the local marches and only two for the Strathspey and Reel. For the Open events there were 67 listed for Marches and 63 for Strathspeys and Reels.

“The guest pipes band was The Ontario Massed Legion Pipes and Drums and the programme contained this further information: The Band was a dream brought to reality in 1974 by Senior Pipe Major Ross Baxter of the Collingwood Legion Pipe Band. He dreamed of a happy band of ambassadors travelling to faraway places representing  Ontario, Canada and The Royal Canadian Legion. During the first year it was organised with Pipe Bands from Collingwood, Midland, Listowel, Hanover, Kincardine, Stayner and Brampton. Through the years some of the bands have dropped out or taken a leave of absence and other bands from Barrie, Forest, Haileybury, Sudbury, lnnisfil and Cobourg have added to the lustre and fame of this now world renowned marching band.

“Since its beginning, the tall and imposing figure of Senior Drum Major Bill McCutcheon has marched at the head of the Massed Band. He is a retired Toronto Police Sergeant and for many years was one of Canada’s foremost Drum Majors leading the Toronto Police Pipe Band. He is now gaining the international recognition he so richly deserves.

“Following the Drum Majors, numerous pipers and many drummers, are the Royal Canadian Legion Veterans proudly carrying the flags of Canada, Ontario, Legion Branches and various flags presented to the Massed Band in Mexico, Florida, California and Scotland. This fine body of old soldiers are very capably led by Sergeant-at-Arms Len Coupland who has been keeping them in line since 1974 when the band was formed. The members of the Colour Party come from Legion Branches all over Ontario with most of them having served as Branch, Zone and District Officers. A fine group that really helps to add a uniqueness and colour to this Massed Band that isn’t generally found in other massed bands.

“The Massed Band has performed in every major parade and Highland Games throughout Ontario and since it was formed has played in such faraway places as Miami, California, San Francisco, Mexico and Hawaii.

“It was the summer of 1979 that the Massed Band last visited Scotland. They started off their 18 day Grand Tour as the Feature Band at the Edinburgh Highland Games and after a hectic two weeks of  touring Scotland ended their tour as the Feature Band at the Braemar Royal Highland Games.

“This year we are honoured to welcome the Ontario Massed Legion Pipes and Drums to Oban. Their 1984 Grand Tour of Scotland which started on August 16, has so far included performances in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth. It is a privilege indeed that this world famous band and its dedicated party of followers have found time in their busy itinerary to visit us here today at our Highland Games.

“Tunes to be played at The Argyllshire Gathering in Mossfield Park, Oban on Thursday, August 30, 1984 by The Ontario Massed Legion Pipes and Drums.

  • 1.00pm Grand Entrance to Field. March on with Scotland The Brave, Rowan Tree, Wings.
  • On the Field. Road to the Isles, The Battle of the Somme, Heights of Dargai.
  • March off with Faithful Fair One, Dream Valley of Glendaruel.
  • 3.15 p.m. Second Grand Entrance to Field. March on with Wi’ A’ Hundred Pipers, Bonnie Dundee.
  • On the Field. The Barren Rocks of Aden, Mary’s Wedding, Amazing Grace.
  • Presentation Ceremony: with exchange of mementos from The Ontario Massed Legion  Pipes and Drums with His Grace the Duke of Argyll at edge of field by the stand.
  • March off with We’re No Awa’ Tae Bide Awa’, Will Ye No Come Back Again, Auld Lang Syne, Black Bear, Caller Herrin’.

“The waving off of competitors in the Silver Medal was controversial but the rules stated clearly: ‘The Judges of the Piping Competitions shall be entitled to stop any Competitor whilst playing if, in their opinion, he has no longer any chance of winning a prize.’

“A letter on the subject, from Hamish MacNab, Edinburgh, appeared in one newspaper: Judges’ intervention in Silver Medal. Sir, Such was the large number of entrants in the Oban silver medal competition that the judges modified their approach to competitors as the day wore on. One competitor early in the day took 18 minutes to play one tune, this including a number of note mistakes in an average performance. Some nine hours later, the sin of playing an E for a D in the tune Patrick Og MacCrimmon’s Lament had a judge, Dr Leslie Craig, leap to his feet to stop what had been to that stage an immaculate performance. Can this be justified? In contrast, some of our master pipers playing in the senior competition made one or more note mistakes without being flagged down. I wonder if Dr Craig’s fellow judges – both former gold medallists – played their winning tunes unblemished? To make a single note error of fingering does not constitute a piper going off his tune – rather the judges running short of time. Former judges, on a spectrum from the late Seton Gordon to Donald MacLeod, would never condone only clinical accuracy of fingering to be ahead of great expression in a tune, albeit with a single note error.’

“Roddy Livingstone some years later said: ‘I was the piper making the minor note error in the otherwise immaculate Patrick Og who was flagged off by Leslie Craig – as were a number of others that year, but only those of us who played after about 5pm. This was challenged by the CPA at the time and the justification from the judges was they had already set the benchmark for the prizes and had heard four performances which met this. Therefore after it became clear that the competition was in danger of extending to 10 or eleven hours, we [the judges with no consultation with the AG stewards] took the decision to stop the performance of anyone not meeting the benchmark standard to save time’.”