• PART 54 •


In 1989 the Argyllshire Gathering reverted to two days, August 23 and 24. Entry to the Gold Medal had been expanded to include those selected on merit by the Joint Committee of the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting so the number of competitors increased to 32 and the number in the Silver was reduced to 30. In a new arrangement the MSR for Former Winners took place at 6pm in the Great Western Hotel. Although this was shown in the programme for the first day, it was also shown in the programme for the second day which caused some confusion. There were also changes to the light music events which were held on the second day. The entries for the march and the strathspey and reel had been divided into A and B grades, each with about 30 competitors. Moving the MSR to Wednesday evening freed up a platform for the second day for the extra events. For the spectators there was no indication of this in the games programme, with no starting times or platform locations indicated.

The Piping Times report

The Piping Times report was written by Jeannie Campbell. “This year with restrictions on entries the Argyllshire Gathering reverted to a two day event. On the first day there were three halls in use, and as the rain fell ceaselessly all day, anyone going between the various halls got a good soaking.

Gold Medal

“In the Corran Halls the Gold Medal began at 9.25am. There were 32 competitors, almost half being from outwith Scotland. Competitors submitted eight tunes of their own choice. The judges were Ian Cameron, Andrew Pitkeathly, and Leslie Craig.    

“It was 8.30pm before this event was over. For the last couple of hours, with the March, Strathspey and Reel being played in the Great Western Hotel, there were never more than half a dozen people in the hall.” 

The result was:

  1. Alasdair Gillies – Lament for the Viscount of Dundee
  2. Gordon Walker – Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon
  3. Colin MacLellan, Canada – Glengarry’s March
  4. James Bayne – Black Donald ‘s March

Junior MSR

“At St Columba’s Cathedral Hall the first event was the junior March, Strathspey and Reel, starting at 10am. This is confined to local pipers under the age of 16. Judges were Evan MacRae, John Burgess and John MacLellan.”

The result was:

  1. Jamie Sandilands
  2. Graham Campbell-Mulholland
  3. Tony Campbell
  4. Iain MacIsaac

Open Piobaireachd

“The Open Piobaireachd followed in the same room with the same bench. The room used was not the main hall as in previous years, but a smaller lounge which was dimly lit and very chilly. However one of the stewards went away for coins to feed the meter and after an hour or so the room began to warm up. The surroundings were not inspiring, the view from one window being a stone wall and from the other a washing line.

“There were 11 competitors, each submitting four from a list of six set tunes. Most popular of the set tunes was Good Health to you Donald submitted by all 11 competitors. In second place was Lament for King George the Third submitted by nine pipers, the exceptions being John MacDougall and Andrew Wright. This is a good tune, although it would be expected that no-one with any national feeling would play a tune with such a name. But perhaps this shows that tune names don’t matter, or that pipers will do anything for a prize. Editorial notes in Book 14 mention fulsome protestations of loyalty to the illustrious dynasty which sways the British sceptre, but the immortal words of the poet E.C. Bentley are more appropriate: ‘George the Third ought never to have occurred, one can only wonder at so grotesque a blunder.’

“First on was Andrew Wright with Port Urlar, as always a very musical and enjoyable performance. Next was Robert Wallace with Lament for King George the Third, particularly inappropriate for one bearing the name of the Guardian of Scotland. Robert had several chokes during the tune. Next on was Kenneth MacLean, with a particularly appropriate tune for him, Glen’s setting of The MacLeans’ March. Next was James McGillivray with Good Health to you Donald, and then Murray Henderson with Hindro Hindro.

“First on after the lunch break was John Hanning from New Zealand playing The Sutherlands’ Gathering, then Roderick MacLeod, Port Urlar, then Mike Cusack with The MacLeans’ March. Next was Allan MacDonald, who spent a long time tuning and adjusting the sellotape then broke down early in Good Health to you Donald.

“Next was John MacDougall with Hindro Hindro and last to play was Dr. Angus MacDonald with Lament for King George the Third. Angus had trouble with the middle drone stopping when he was tuning but his brother Allan in the audience was able to provide another reed.”

The result was:

  1. Mike Cusack
  2. Roddy MacLeod
  3. John MacDougall
  4. John Hanning

Silver Medal

“Meanwhile the Silver Medal competition was taking place in the Great Western Hotel. This was not in the pleasant lounge used last year, but in a dark basement filled with a haphazard arrangement of tables and chairs. Although they no longer have the Dunollie Hall or the Phoenix Cinema, Oban never fails to find other venues equally depressing.

“Judges for the Silver were Ronald Morrison, Ronald Lawrie and James Burnet. There were 30 competitors, each offering three from a list of eight set tunes. Most popular were MacLeod of Raasay’s Salute and Lament for Mary MacLeod, each submitted 23 times. Least popular were The Rout of the MacPhees and Cluny Macpherson’s Salute, each submitted once only.”

The result was:

  1. Derek Fraser, Southampton
  2. Donald MacBride, U.S.A.
  3. Bruce Gandy, Canada
  4. Niall Matheson, Q.O.H
  5. Bruce Woodley, Canada

Former Winners MSR

“The Silver Medal was followed at 6.30pm by the Former Winners March, Strathspey and Reel. Judges were John MacLellan, John Burgess and John MacKenzie. There were 13 names in the programme and 10 played, each submitting six marches, six strathspeys and six reels and tunes were played twice over. Normally this event takes place at the Games Field on the second day. First on the programme was Dr. Angus MacDonald but as he still had to play in the Gold Medal he was allowed to miss his turn and played last to win the event.

The full result was:

  1. Dr. Angus MacDonald
  2. William MacCallum
  3. Murray Henderson
  4. Robert Wallace

The Games

“On the second day the rain continued and pipers preparing for the march to the field were sellotaping over the tops of the drones to keep the rain out, or putting in their worst reeds. The Argyllshire Gathering was not played this year; instead we got the regimental tunes of the Q.O.H. The pipers approached the field playing Caber Feidh and entered to the Piobaireachd of Donald Dubh. As Brigadier Rory Walker said in his speech at the Northern Meeting a week later: ‘This was an historic event. Alasdair Gillies as Pipe Major, backed by a solid phalanx of Queen’s Own Highlanders, marched the Duke of Argyll on to the Argyllshire Gathering field to the Piobaireachd of Donald Dubh. They’ve hanged men for less.’

“Programmes were on sale outside the field but were totally misleading as they had obviously been re-printed from last year’s gathering. Anyone paying the £2.50 admission and expecting to see the Former Winners MSR as detailed in the programme would be disappointed as the event had already taken place the previous day.

“There were no lists of competitors for the local piping or the March and Strathspey and Reel; no mention that there were separate A and B events; no announcements; no names of players or tunes put up on the board.

“People were trying to follow a march competition using a list of players for the MSR, the only list in the programme. Enthusiasts from faraway places like New Zealand and Islay had to rely on others to identify the players for them.

“Most of the dancing events were transferred indoors and the rain continued all day. Guest pipe band was the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and there were the usual athletic, heavy and fun events. A new feature of the Gathering this year was the Heritage Centre, a large marquee with displays by local history societies and the Scottish Tartans Society. As the programme said: ‘The membership of the Argyllshire Gathering includes a large number of Chiefs and Chieftains and it may be possible for you to meet the Chief of your clan’.

“Tickets were available to meet the Duke or any other Chief of your choice.”

A Grade March

  1. Angus MacColl
  2. Roddy MacLeod
  3. Barry Donaldson
  4. Donald MacIntyre
  5. James Bayne
    Judges: Andrew Pitkeathly, Ronald Morrison, Malcolm McRae.

A Grade Strathspey and Reel

  1. Robert Wallace
  2. Gordon Walker
  3. Roddy MacLeod
  4. Wilson Brown
  5. Mike Cusack
    Judges: John Burgess, Ian Cameron, James Burnet.

B Grade March

  1. Niall Matheson
  2. Leslie Hutt
  3. Robert Crabtree
  4. Alan Minty
  5. Lewis Barclay
    Judges: John MacLellan, Leslie Craig, Ronald Lawrie.

B Grade Strathspey and Reel

  1. Robert Crabtree
  2. Andrew Bonar
  3. Darren Banister
  4. Anne Spalding
  5. Peter Hunt
    Judges: Evan MacRae, John MacKenzie.