Piping in London: the final fling of the Highland Gathering in 1911


• PART 18 •


The news of a London Gathering appeared in the Northern Chronicle on Wednesday, December 28, 1910: “London Highland Athletic Club. The Highland Gathering at Stamford Bridge, London, held annually since the foundation of the Highland Athletic Club in 1893, was an event which was always looked forward to with very keen interest by the Scottish community in the Metropolis, and consequently there was a feeling of deep regret at the abandonment of the games for the past three years owing to a combination of adverse circumstances. Not only did the meeting encourage the practice of our manly athletic games of strength and skill, but it afforded to many Scots an opportunity of renewing old friendships and of meeting their fellow countrymen under the most congenial circumstances.

“Such of our readers as are interested in athletics will be pleased to learn that an effort is now being made to revive the Meeting. With this end in view, and with the object of raising funds and of bringing together the members and supporters of the Club, a Cinderella dance is to be held in the Hamilton Hall, Abercorn Rooms, on Friday, January 20. The Highland Strathspey and Reel Society of London have generously offered to supply the music, and this should prove a special attraction. The Marquis of Tullibardine has been chief of the Highland Athletic Club ever since its early days, and the president is the Ven. W. MacDonald Sinclair, Archdeacon of London. The conditions of membership of the Club, and particulars of the above entertainment, may be obtained from the honorary treasurer, Mr Ian MacKenzie, Walton House, Heath Park, Romford.”

The same article appeared in the Ross-shire Journal two days later.

Further news came in May 1911: “Whitsuntide Highland Sports. The London Highland Athletic Club are holding a special Coronation Scottish Gathering at Stamford Bridge Sports Ground on Whit Monday, June 5, 1911, under A.A.A. laws. All Scottish sports are included in the programme, and the leading professional pipers and dancers from Scotland will compete. The club also includes in its programme the final shinty match for the Dewar Shield. There is also a wrestling championship, tug-of-war, throwing the hammer, putting the stone, tossing the caber, walking and running races, &c. The profits from this gathering are to be divided between these two excellent charitable institutions – the Royal Scottish Corporation and the Royal Caledonian Asylum. Tickets and entry forms can be had from the hon. secretary, J.E. Boyes, 15 Whitefriars Street, E.C.”

Advertising added: “A Military Band and Pipers will be in attendance. Admission to the Gathering, 6d; To Grounds and Enclosure, 1s. To Ground and Unreserved Stand, 2s. Reserved and Numbered, 3s.6d and 5s.”

The gathering was favoured with brilliant weather. The dancing and piping of the boys of the Caledonian School were very prominent features of keenly contested items of a purely Highland character. As before, there were events for amateurs and members in piping and dancing as well as for professionals. The results of these were:

Piping, Marches: 1. M.B. McDonald, Kenmore; 2. Gordon Gillies, Caledonian School. Strathspeys and Reels: 2. M.B. McDonald, 2. W.D. MacKay.

Dancing. Highland Fling: 1. F.L. Narramore, 2. D.G. MacLeod. Seann Triubhais: 1. F.L. Narramore, 2. D.G. MacLeod. Strathspeys and Reels: 1. F.L. Narramore, 2. D.G. MacLeod. Gillie Callum: 1. A. Finlayson, 2. H. Davidson. Strathspeys and Reels: Ian R. MacLeod, 2. M. Ross.

Piping. Professionals. Piobaireachd: 1. Pipe Major W. Ross, 2nd Scots Guards; 2. Pipe Major G.S. McLennan, Gordons.

Marches, Strathspeys and Reels: 1. PM G.S. McLennan.

Strathspeys and Reels. 1. Piper M. MacPhee.

Dancing. Professionals. Strathspeys and Reels: 1. PM McLennan, 2. PM Ross.

Highland Fling: 1. M. MacPhee, Piper to Lord Bute; 2. PM Taylor.

Gillie Callum: 1. Piper M. MacPhee, 2. PM McLennan.

At the close of the gathering Lady Helen Stuart Murray presented the prizes.

•M. MacPhee was Michael MacPhee (1895-1953). He was Piper to the Marquis of Bute prior to the 1914-18 war and then served with the Cameron Highlanders before transferring to the Black Watch. He won many prizes in piping and dancing.

•This photo was taken in the years around the final Highland Gathering in London in 1911. It shows two of the competitors from the 1911 Highland Gathering, Pipe Major Willie Ross on the left with GS McLennan in the centre. The third piper is John MacDonald of Inverness.

Donald MacKay’s brother Archibald had continued as a piper to the Fairy Circle in London but In May 1915 newspapers announced: “The Strathnaver Fairy Circle Pipe Major, Archibald MacKay, has just been appointed chauffeur and piper to Colonel MacRae-Gilstrap, of Ballimore, Argyllshire, and he went north on Sunday last, May 23, to commence his duties; accompanied by the good wishes of his many S.F.C. and other friends among London Scots. By way of a send-off he spent Saturday with the S.F.C. Chief, Mr James Mead Sutherland, whose S.F.C. work is well known in Surrey, and a party of S.F.C. leaders, members and friends.”

There were no more London Gatherings, but in 1924 the promoters of the Wembley Empire Exhibition invited the Cowal Committee to hold the Gathering in London instead of in Dunoon. This was not a popular suggestion and the usual gathering went ahead at Dunoon, although the athletes, solo competitors and bands did express their willingness to attend a second gathering in London. Various plans were made, such as using a fleet of ships with accommodation on board to transport everyone to the Thames but due to the difficulty and expense involved in getting the competitors to London and providing accommodation for them the plan was abandoned.

• Part 1
• Part 2
• Part 3
• Part 4
• Part 5
• Part 6
• Part 7
• Part 8
• Part 8-2

• Part 9
• Part 10

• Part 11
• Part 12
• Part 13
• Part 14
• Part 15
• Part 16
• Part 17