Piping in London: the 1899 and 1900 Highland and Scottish Gatherings

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• PART 15 •

BY JEANNIE CAMPBELL MBE.

The Scottish Gathering 1899

In a reversal of the usual order, the 1899 Scottish Gathering was held on a wet Whit Monday, 22nd May at Stamford Bridge, and the report read: “Ten pipers entered the all-comers competition for bagpipe music piobaireachd. John Macpherson, from Drummond Castle carried off the first prize of £8; while John MacColl of Oban was second and Angus MacRae, Callander third. Macpherson was also successful in strathspeys and reels, while this time MacRae was second and MacColl shared the third prize with G.S. MacLennan of Edinburgh.

“There was a special competition for army pipers. Corporal Ross, of the 1st Scots Guards, was awarded the first prize of £4; Piper Allan, of the same corps was second; and Lance Corporal Fraser, of the 2nd Cameron Highlanders, was third. Piper Tait, of the 2nd Black Watch, was awarded a special prize for playing marches.

“In the amateurs’ competitions the prize winners for marches were Archd. Campbell, A.R. Keith, and James MacKillop, the first and last mentioned being members of the Scottish Pipers’ Society. In the strathspey competition Keith was first, Campbell second and W. MacKinnon, London, third.

“There was also a competition for the Caledonian Asylum boys, and the playing of the youthful pipers was certainly very creditable. Probably even more popular than the piping was the dancing. There was a considerable number of competitors, some of them consummate masters of the art, and the way in which they carried themselves through the intricate evolutions of Gillie Callum, the Highland Fling and other Highland dances, greatly delighted the spectators. John MacColl, Angus MacRae, John Macpherson and Donald Macpherson, Kingussie, gave an exhibition of dancing before the competitions commenced, and they subsequently figured conspicuously in the prize list. The following gentlemen acted as judges of the Highland competitions” Major General Roderick MacKenzie, Colonel E.L. Fraser, Mr. H.T. Munro, Mr H.B. Kirkwood. The general management of affairs was in the hands of Mr. Finlay A. MacRae, the hon. secretary.”

The prizes were presented by the Duchess of Argyll. A correction appeared later: “Mr Donald Mackay, 33 St. Paul Street, Islington, writes to say that he is the winner of the prize for amateur piping (strathspeys and reels) at the Scottish gathering held at Stamford Bridge on Whit Monday, which prize was ascribed to Mr A.R. Keith.”

The Cambridge paper also mentioned the competition: “Success of a ‘Varsity Bagpiper. At the Scottish gathering at Stamford Bridge on Whit Monday, an undergraduate of Pembroke College, named Archibald Campbell, a member of the Scottish Pipers’ Society, obtained first prize for Marches, and second for Strathspeys. By the former victory he holds the Scottish Gathering Challenge Medal for pipe music amongst amateurs.”

•Archibald Campbell (1877-1963) of Kilberry, Argyll, was in the Indian Civil Service 1901-192 as a high court judge and afterwards was a Lecturer in Indian Law at Cambridge until 1941. He was a founder member of the Piobaireachd Society and produced the Kilberry Book of Ceol Mor.

The Highland Gathering 1899

The Great Highland Gathering of the London Highland Athletic Club followed on 17th June, also at Stamford Bridge. The President, the Marquis of Tullibardine, presided and the prizes were presented by his mother, the Duchess of Atholl. The piping began at 10am and the athletics at 2.30pm, or as one London reporter put it: “The pipers settled their differences in the morning, for which the ignorant Saxon may have felt thankful, and the afternoon was productive of some excellent sport.” The weather was bright and sunny and there was a large attendance.

The results of the piping competitions were:

Piobaireachd (9 entries):
1. £4, D.C. Mather, Lochcarron; 2. £2, Peter MacDonald, London; 3. £1. Donald MacLeod, London.

Marches, Strathspeys and Reels (10 entries):
1. £3, Corporal W. Ross, 1st Scots Guards; 2. £1.10s, D.C. Mather, Lochcarron; 3. 15s, Piper G. Allan, 1st Scots Guards.

Marches, open to members only (8 entries):
1. Silver cup, D.S. Robertson, 2. Gold medal, Donald Mackay, 3. Silver handled paperknife, Archibald Mackay.

Strathspeys and Reels (8 entries):
1. Tartan plaid, Archibald Mackay, 2. Telescope,  D.S. Robertson, 3. Pair of flower vases, Donald Mackay.

Archibald MacKay and Donald MacKay were brothers.

Dancing. Professionals. Highland Fling (5 entries):
1. £3, D.C. Mather, 2. £1.10s, PM James Smith, 2nd Scottish Rifles; 3. 15s, R.L. Reith, London Scottish.

Gillie Callum (5 entries):
1. £3. PM Smith, 2. £1.10s, D.C. Mather, 3. 15s, R.L. Reith.

Strathspey and Reel (5 entries):
1. £2, D.C. Mather, 2. £1.5s, PM Smith, 3. 15s, R.L. Reith.

Members. Highland Fling (9 entries):
1. Silver medal, Donald MacLeod, 2. Fitted dressing case, Donald Mackay, 3. Cigarette holder and silver case, Ronald MacInnes.

Gillie Callum (9 entries):
1. Marble clock, Donald Mackay, 2. Silver plated inkstand, D.S. Robertson, 3. Silver and gold medal, Donald MacLeod.

Strathspey and Reel (7 entries):
1. sgian dubh, Donald MacLeod, 2. silver sovereign case, S.G. MacDonell, 3. kilt pin, Ronald MacInnes.

Seann Triubhais (3 entries):
1. Hogskin sporran, Donald MacLeod,  2. Rug, S.G. MacDonell.

The judges were: Major Colin Thomson, W. Clifford Mellor, James Bremner (M.D.), A. MacKenzie Hay, and John MacKenzie.

Among those present was Colonel Hector MacDonald, of Soudan fame, who received a hearty greeting from his fellow countrymen, many of whom belonged to his native county of Ross: “At the conclusion of the presentation of prizes, Colonel Hector MacDonald called for a hearty cheer for her Grace the Duchess of Atholl, which was awarded with great enthusiasm, and the proceedings thereafter  terminated, having formed  one of the most attractive and successful events in the annals of the Club.”

Colonel Hector MacDonald is remembered in Scott Skinner’s tune Hector the Hero.

In 1899 the wedding of Mr John Macpherson, the well known piper took place at the Presbyterian Church, in London. Papers reported: “Mr Macpherson is a son of the late Malcolm Macpherson of Laggan, champion piper of the world. Mr John Macpherson has taken and maintained a foremost place among the best Highland pipers and dancers of the day, and has won the Highland Society’s Gold Medal. On many occasions he has taken first places for piping and dancing. We understand that Mr Macpherson has decided to reside permanently in the Highlands. His numerous London friends hope that he will still appear at the annual Highland and Scottish gatherings in the Metropolis.”

The Highland Gathering 1900

At the annual meeting of the London Highland Athletic Club it was announced that the Highland Gathering would be held on Whit Monday 4th June 1900. The profits would go to the fund for the widows and orphan of soldiers.  Before the gathering further information was issued to the press: “The piping competitions start at 10.30, and for these and the dancing competitions there are entered all of Scotland’s champions, among whom are John MacColl, Oban; John Macpherson, Drummond Castle; D.C. Mather, Lochcarron; John Macdougall Gillies, Glasgow; John MacNeill, Edinburgh; J.G. Melvin, Aberdeen; Donald Macpherson, Lochcarron; John MacKenzie, Glasgow; Pipe Major Harry Fraser and Piper D.G. MacArthur of the Scots Guards.”

In addition to the usual events there was an exhibition of Scottish home industries under the patronage of the Duchess of Sutherland who was present with her daughter.  Conditions were described as most pleasant in one paper and a gloriously fine day in another: “The band of pipers of the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry and the pipers of the 1st Scots Guards were on the ground throughout the day, and played excellent selections of Highland music. The sports, dancing, and pipe playing were got through in admirable order and well up to time: but it was much to be regretted that several of the professional pipers and dancers did not put in an appearance after having entered their names.”

Professional. Piobaireachd:
1. PM H. Fraser, 1st Scots Guards; 2. R. Reith, Banff; Lance Corporal. Piper Sutherland, H.L.I.

Marches, Strathspeys and Reels:
1. Lance Corporal Piper J. Sutherland, H.L.I.; 2. Pipe Major H. Fraser, 1st Scots Guards; 3. R. Reith, Banff and Piper Purvis, H.L.I..

Marches (Members):
1. Donald McKay, Beauly; 2. W. McLennon, Inverness-shire; 3. D.S. Robertson, Perthshire’

Strathspeys and Reels:
1. D. MacKay, 2. D.S. Robertson, 3. W. McKinnon.

Dancing. (Members). Highland Fling:
1. S.G. MacDonell, Glengarry; 2. R. McInnes, Isle of Skye; 3. Donald MacKay, Beauly.

Gillie Callum:
1. D. MacKay, 2. R. McInnes, 3. A. Dawson.

Strathspey and Reel:
1. D. MacKay, 2. W. MacK. Fraser, 3. S.G. MacDonell.

Professionals. Highland Fling:
1. J. McNeill, Edinburgh; 2. G.T. Melvin, Aberdeen; 3. R. Reith, Banff.

Seann Truibhais:
1. J. McNeill, 2. G. T. Melvin, 3. R. Reith.

Gillie Callum:
1. J. McNeill, 2. G. T. Melvin, 3. R. Reith.

Captain the Marquis of Tullibardine D.S.O. was serving with Sir Redvers Buller’s army in Natal but the Marchioness of Tullibardine was in attendance and presented the prizes.

This was to be the only London gathering in 1900.  During June and July the newspapers announced: “The committee of the Scottish Gathering in London have decided to abandon their fixture this year, owing to the numbers of their supporters being directly affected by the war in South Africa. This is to be regretted, seeing that these gatherings have been successfully held for twenty consecutive years.”

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