Final years of the Glasgow Celtic Society’s Grand National Gathering



In 1860 the Glasgow Celtic Society announced that: “The directors having resolved on suspending for a season their Annual Games have arranged an Excursion Trip per the ‘Craignish Castle’ to Arrochar on Thursday 5th July at 8.30am returning from thence at 6pm. At which place the members and their friends will be provided with the means of participating in their usual Athletic Sports.

“Tickets (to and from) 3s each. To be had from the Treasurer, 1 Buchanan Street or any of the Directors. Members and friends are requested to appear in Highland Dress. Treasurer Donald Campbell. Dinner etc will be supplied on board at half past 4pm to holders of Dinner Tickets according to priority of application 2s each.” Members of the Society were also involved in other events including assemblies, soirees and lectures.

•The Glasgow Celtic Society’s Grand National Games on College Green, Glasgow in 1867.

In 1861 there was again an excursion to Inverarnan at the head of Loch Lomond on Tuesday 6th August by train and steamer with Highland Games and Rifle shooting competitions at Inverarnan and dinner at the inn.


The fourth National Gathering was held in 1862 on May 22nd and 23rd in the Upper College Park. On the first day the procession assembled in St Enoch Square and marched to the Park, headed by 17 pipers. The weather was described as delightful but the turnout of spectators was not so numerous as had been expected. The Highland dancing and bagpipe playing were extremely good, the various performers being frequently applauded. On the second day, after the procession from St Enoch Square the games resumed at 11 o’clock with a large concourse of spectators. The weather was dull but cleared up in the afternoon. Volunteers in uniform and under command were admitted free of charge and there were extra athletics events for volunteers only. The results were:


  1. Alex Cameron – winning the Society’s Silver Medal and £8
  2. William M’Kinnon – £4
  3. Malcolm M’Pherson – £2

Reels and Strathspeys

  1. William M’Kinnon – winning the Society’s Silver Medal and £3
  2. David M’Ferran – £2
  3. Donald M’Phie – £1


  1. Hugh M’Kay – winning the Society’s Silver Medal and £3
  2. Aeneas Rose – £2
  3. Duncan M’Dougall – £1
•Alexander Cameron

There were two extra prizes for the volunteers and these went to Boy Brown for piobaireachd and Boy Murray for dancing. Aeneas Rose won the prize for best dressed Highlander at his own expense and Michael M’Carfrae was a prize winner in the dancing.

•William MacKinnon was born in Bothwell in 1840. In 1861 he was a bagpipe maker and he may have been taught piping and pipe making by William Gunn. MacKinnon joined the 74th Highlanders in 1863, became Pipe Major in 1874, then paymaster sergeant, then RQMS. He was commissioned QM of the 4th Battalion (Militia) and retired with the rank of Major. During his army service he travelled extensively. William MacKinnon won the Prize Pipe at the Northern Meeting in 1864, the Former Winners Gold Medal in 1866 and composed the march 74th’s Farewell to Edinburgh. By 1881 he was stationed at Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow. In 1891 he was the Quarter Master at Hamilton Barracks. By 1901 he was living in Partick and had retired. He died in 1918

•Malcolm MacPherson was the famous Calum Piobair. He was born in Skye in 1833, son of Angus MacPherson (1800-1887). He worked as labourer, then a ship’s carpenter in Greenock, then as a piper on board the revenue cutter Prince Albert. He was a member of the Greenock Volunteers which became the Renfrew Rifle Volunteers in 1860. By 1865 he had succeeded his father as Piper to Cluny MacPherson. At the Northern Meeting he won the Prize Pipe in 1866 and the Gold Medal for Former Winners in 1871. At the Argyllshire Gathering he won the Gold Medal in 1876. He taught all his sons and many other pipers who went on to compete with great success. He died at Laggan in 1898.

•Hugh MacKay was born in 1813 at Dornoch. He enlisted in the 71st Highlanders around 1830 and was Pipe Major 1836-1851 then Pipe Major of the Stirlingshire Militia 1852-64. His compositions include 71st Quickstep, 71st Highlanders, Stirlingshire Militia, Crags of Stirling, Angus Campbell’s Farewell to Stirling, Charles Edward Hope de Vere and MacKay’s Farewell to the 71st. He died in Stirling in 1864.


In 1863 there was an outing to Inverarnan in June by special train and steamer. The Glasgow party was joined at Bowling by a group from Greenock accompanied by members of the Greenock Rifle Volunteers and: “Alexander Cameron, one of the best, if not the very best of pipers in Scotland, who combines gentle harmonious, rendering, with the peculiar, heroic, and plaintive elements of which pipe music of the first class essentially consists.” At Inverarnan there were competitions for foot races, rifle shooting, stone and hammer. After dinner at 4.40 at the Inverarnan Hotel the party returned to the steamer where there was: “dancing on deck with unflagging spirits until their destination was reached.”

1864 – 67

During the following years membership grew to 1124 members and there were concerts, excursions and dinners. In 1866 games were planned but were postponed until the following year, 1867 when the fifth and last Grand National Gathering and Games were held on 31st July and 1st August in the College Park. The Prize winners were:


  1. Colin Cameron, piper to Mr G F W Callander, Argyllshire;
  2. Donald M’Kay, Piper to Sir Geo. MacPherson Grant of Ballindalloch;
  3. William M’Kinnon, 74th Highlanders.

Reels, Marches and Strathspeys

  1. William M’Kinnon – winning the Silver Medal
  2. Donald M’Phie, Coatbridge
  3. Duncan M’Kay, piper to Captain Robertson Aikman of the Ross, Hamilton.

Donald M’Phie was first for dancing the Highland Fling. Donald Dinnie was the overall winner in the heavy events. Messrs M’Crimmond, Cattanach and MacKay were judges of the pipe music; Messrs MacKay, M’Eachern and M’Pherson of the dancing, and Captain Dewar of the athletics contests. The attendance on Thursday was reported to be much larger than on Wednesday. Mr James Campbell of Tillichewan presented the prizes at the close of the second day.

•Colin Cameron (1843-1916) was the eldest son of Donald Cameron. He won the Northern Meeting Prize Pipe in 1861, when piper to Keith W Stewart MacKenzie of Seaforth. In 1864 he was Piper to William Malcolm of Glenmorag, Dunoon. In 1865 he won the Former Winners Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting. In 1866 he was appointed piper to Prince Alfred but did not stay long in the Royal service. In 1867 he was piper to Mr G F W Callander, and in 1868 piper to George B Forbes then in 1870 piper to Lord MacDuff, later Earl and then Duke of Fife. From then until 1891 he lived in London, afterwards returning to live at Maryburgh.

•Donald MacKay (1845-1893) enlisted in 78th Regiment in 1859 aged 14. He served at Fort George and in Edinburgh 1860, 1861 and was discharged in 1862. He was Piper to Sir George MacPherson Grant of Ballindalloch 1866-74 and Piper to the Prince of Wales 1874-1893. He won the Northern Meeting Prize Pipe 1863, the Strathspeys and Marches 1866, the Marches 1871 and the Former Winners Gold Medal 1872.

•Donald MacPhee was born in 1842 at Bothwell in Lanarkshire of Islay parentage. In 1861 he was employed as a smith’s Hammerman but by1868 he was a spirit salesman living in Glasgow. In 1871 he became a bagpipe maker, firstly in Thistle St, then in West Nile St then from 1875 at 17 Royal Arcade, at the top of Hope St. Donald MacPhee published a tutor for the bagpipe, a collection of light music and two collections of piobaireachd. From 1867 to 1877 Donald MacPhee was a regular competitor, winning prizes for both piping and dancing at the Argyllshire Gathering Northern Meeting and many other competitions. Although his business was very successful his health broke down under the strain. His in December 1880 at Lenzie Asylum near Glasgow aged 38.

The 1867 event was the last of the National Gatherings but the Society continued with its other activities, with dinners, excursions, Grand Celtic Balls and other events in addition to their bursaries and assistance to the poor. They continued some support for piping through presenting medals for competitions of the Glasgow Highlanders.