History of the Argyllshire Gathering: the 1987 competition

The march to the games in 1987 with John Hanning, Murray Henderson, Roy Gunn, James MacGillivray and Dr Angus MacDonald

• PART 52 •


In 1987 the Gathering was again held over three days, August 25, 26 and 27. On Tuesday the Silver Medal was held in two heats in the Corran Halls and St Columba’s Cathedral Hall, with 22 in each. Five from each heat were chosen to play in the final. The set tunes were The MacLeods’ Salute, The MacGregors’ Salute, Corrienessan’s Salute, The Rout of Glenfruin, The Piper’s Warning to his Master, The Lament for the Castle of Dunyveg, MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart. Competitors were to submit three tunes. The ten finalists were Alan Minty, Stuart Shedden, George Taylor, Leslie Hutt, Brian Williamson, Brian Hutcheson, Michael MacDonald, Bruce Woodley, Angus MacColl and Gordon Lang.

On Wednesday the Gold Medal started at 9.15am in the Corran Halls and the Senior Piobaireachd in the Phoenix Cinema started at 10am. The junior MSR was in St John’s Cathedral Hall at 9.15am and the Silver Medal final was in St Columba’s Cathedral Hall at 10.15am. In the afternoon the two heats for the Strathspeys and Reels started at 2pm in St John’s Cathedral Hall and St Columba’s Cathedral Hall.

The set tunes for the Gold Medal were Isabel MacKay, The MacKays’ Banner, The Parading of the MacDonalds, Welcome Johnnie Back Again, The Lament for MacDonald’s Tutor, Duntroon’s or MacDonald’s Salute and competitors were to submit three. There were 28 names in the programme:

  • Scott MacAulay, Canada
  • Duncan Watson, Aberdeen
  • William Gass, Edinburgh
  • James Bayne, Montrose
  • Alasdair Gillies, Fort George
  • Jacky Pincet, France
  • John Hanning, New Zealand
  • Ed Neigh, Canada
  • James Stack, USA
  • Colin Drummond, Bathgate
  • William McCallum, Campbeltown
  • Chris Terry, South Africa
  • Colin MacLellan, Canada
  • Ronald McShannon, Glasgow
  • Amy Garson, Canada
  • Andrew Young, Glasgow
  • Andrew Berthoff, Edinburgh
  • Logan Tannock, Alloa
  • Angus MacDonald, Canada
  • Roderick McLeod, Cumbernauld
  • Roy Gunn, Strathglass
  • James McGillivray, Canada
  • Donald Lindsay, USA
  • James  Hood, Bonnyrigg
  • Gordon Walker, Edinburgh
  • Michael Grey, Canada
  • Patricia Henderson, Kirriemuir
  • Anne Spalding, Dundee.

For the Senior Piobaireachd competitors were to submit four from a list of set tunes which were The Lament for the Harp Tree, Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon, Donald Gruamach’s March, The Stewarts’ White Banner, The Lament for the Union, The Blue Ribbon, Craigellachie, The Grants’ Gathering. The 14 competitors were:

  • John McDougall, Kincraig
  • Michael Cusack, USA
  • Donald MacPherson, Powys
  • Malcolm McRae, Strathglass
  • Iain MacFadyen, Kyle of Lochalsh
  • Hugh MacCallum, Dunblane
  • John Wilson, Strathclyde Police
  • Murray Henderson, Kirriemuir
  • James McGillivray, Canada
  • Colin MacLellan, Canada
  • Roderick MacLeod, Cumbernauld
  • Alfred  Morrison, Bishopton
  • Andrew Wright, Dunblane
  • Robert Wallace, Glasgow

The competitors for the junior MSR were:

  • Campbell Birnie
  • Sheila Tinto
  • Shona MacLeod
  • Alastair McKechnie
  • Ewan Henderson
  • Stuart Liddell
  • Lorne Cousin
  • Tony Campbell

On Thursday at the field there were the local events, the Former Winners and the finals of the Marches and the Strathspeys and Reels. The programme listed 75 competitors for these events but only the 20 finalists from each played at the Games.

There were 16 names listed for the Former winners but Donald MacPherson did not play. The others were:

  • James McGillivray
  • Scott MacAulay
  • William Morrison
  • Michael Cusack
  • Alasdair Gillies
  • Iain MacFadyen
  • Angus MacDonald
  • Hugh MacCallum
  • John McDougall
  • Kenneth MacDonald
  • Ed Neigh
  • Murray Henderson
  • Malcolm McRae
  • John Wilson
  • Hugh McInnes

The Piping Times report

“The first of the two Meetings took place on the 25th, 26th and 27th of August in Oban. West Highland hospitality still accepts entries from all who wish to play, so what was normally a two day event has been extended to three.

“An improvement this year was that a reasonable amount of piping was reserved for the actual day at the Games – the lack of piping after one o’clock last year created a notable hush which seemed to take the heart out of the proceedings.”

The Silver Medal

“Angus MacColl scored a popular local success by winning the Silver Medal. Most of the winners came from one section of the draw which might be an argument for seeding these players. The standard was about average for this event. Two Scots took second and third places but the Canadian challenge at this level made itself felt when two of them took fourth and fifth. The results were:

  1. Angus MacColl – Corrienessan’s Salute
  2. Gordon Lang – MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart
  3. George Taylor – The Piper’s Warning
  4. Bruce Woodley, Canada – MacLeods’ Salute
  5. Michael MacDonald, Canada – Corrienessan’s Salute
    Judges: Iain Cameron, Dr Leslie Craig and Ronald Morrison.

“Others who made it through to the final were, from Section A, Brian Williamson, Leslie Hutt, Alan Minty, and Stuart Shedden, and from Section B, Brian Hutchison.”

The Gold Medal

“The standard of the Gold Medal event was very high, the event being won by John Hanning from New Zealand who played an outstanding Isabel MacKay. His throws on F were perhaps a bit fast and there could have been more change of tempo between variations, but this was beautifully played on an excellent bagpipe.

“If Dr Angus MacDonald can be called a Canadian now, then all the other places were taken by men from that country. Angus himself played Duntroon’s Salute in excellent fashion, well thought out and presented. He could perhaps have given more indication of the ends of the phrases (these may be obvious to a piper who knows the tune but not so clear to the general audience, and anyway the whole tune is always improved by respectable pauses in the proper places). The fosgailte was a model of fingering except that it was too fast sometimes for the second note to be heard distinctly.

“Third prize went to Scott MacAulay who was first to play and whose tune, MacKay’s Banner, was not without fault, but his dashing approach, appropriate in this particular tune, obviously helped considerably. Fourth prize went to Ed Neigh with The Parading of the MacDonalds. He played well throughout, making the best of a not very great tune.

“Others who played well included Duncan Watson, playing Duntroon’s Salute, whose only fault was that he paused in some peculiar places, certainly not always the ends of the phrases. Jimmy Stack on the other hand had all the pauses in the right places but one or two technical faults in the crunluath ruled him out. Colin MacLellan played well enough but a spray of crossing noises from low A to D dropped him down the list. Michael Grey played well but slow. Like all the others playing The Parading of the MacDonalds he rested on the B in the run-down in the Ground – nobody tried the Binneas is Boreraig phrasing. Anne Spalding gave a nice performance but there was some scraping in the crunluath.

“Of the others Jimmy Bayne and Gordon Walker impressed, but they will never get a prize (from a decent judge) if they persist in beating time throughout the tune. Andrew Young has to learn to do the taorluath and crunluath from D with a B grace note. It can be done – Colin MacLellan has managed the transition. The results were:

  1. John Hanning, NZ – Isabel MacKay
  2. Dr. Angus MacDonald, Canada – Duntroon’s Salute
  3. Scott MacAulay, Canada – MacKays’ Banner
  4. Ed Neigh, Canada – Parading of the MacDonalds
    Judges: Robert G. Hardie, Seumas MacNeill and Evan MacRae”

Senior Piobaireachd

“The event was dominated by Hugh MacCallum’s playing of Donald Gruamach’s March. This was an outstanding tune and obviously the one to beat, but nobody managed the trick. The standard throughout in fact was considered to be rather poor and it may be that this will always be the case as long as Oban and Inverness are only a week apart. Oban is perhaps being looked on as simply the dress rehearsal. The results were:

  1. Hugh MacCallum – Donald Gruamach’s March
  2. Murray Henderson – Craigellachie
  3. Roderick MacLeod – Donald Gruamach
  4. John MacDougall – Lament for the Union
    Judges: John D. Burgess, Andrew MacNeill and Donald Morrison”

The Games

•The march to the games in 1987 with John Hanning, Murray Henderson, Roy Gunn, James MacGillivray and Dr Angus MacDonald

“The day was bright and sunny but windy, and with piping on three platforms simultaneously some of the life and spirit seemed to have returned to the Argyllshire Gathering. Young Alasdair Gillies again won the MSR for Former Winners in quite a good competition. The other events were noted for the double victory of Willie MacCallum who seemed to have developed more confidence and dash than he had the day before.”

Former Winners’ MSR

  1. Alasdair Gillies, Q.O.H.
  2. Murray Henderson
  3. James MacGillivray, Canada
    Judges: Andrew MacNeill, Donald Morrison and Andrew Pitkeathly

March (former winners excluded)

  1. Wm. MacCallum
  2. Bruce Gandy, Canada
  3. Angus MacColl
  4. John MacLeod
  5. Alfred Morrison
    Judges: Robert G. Hardie and N. Mulvie

Strathspey & Reel (former winners excluded)

  1. Wm. MacCallum
  2. Angus MacColl
  3. Iain Hurst
  4. Mike Cusack, USA
  5. James Bayne.
    Judges: John D. Burgess, Seumas MacNeill and Ronald Morrison