History of the Argyllshire Gathering: the 1990 competition


• PART 55 •


In 1990 the Argyllshire Gathering was held on August 22 and 23. The first obvious change was to the programme. The cover design of the fiery cross and clan banners for the Games programme had been in use since 1979, with a separate programme for the first day. This year the programme had been increased from A5 to A4 with a cover picture of the pipe band of the Scots Guards.

The set tunes for the Gold Medal were The Bells of Perth, The Blue Ribbon, The End of the Great Bridge, The Fingerlock, Hector MacLean’s Warning, My King has landed in Moidart, The Prince’s Salute, The Vaunting. Four tunes were to be submitted.

The Piping Times report

by Jeannie Campbell

The First Day

The Gold Medal event began at 9am in the Corran Halls, judged by Ronald Lawrie, John Burgess and Neill Mulvie. There were 29 entered in this event and each had to submit four tunes from a list of eight.

A new feature this year was the introduction of lights to limit tuning to five minutes. This system has been used at Inverness for some time, with the slight difference that at Inverness a man is employed solely to operate the lights whereas at Oban the judges had to do this themselves.

Another change this year was the new style programme which was large and glossy with colour pictures and advertisements. Unfortunately, though the programme covered the two days, the pipers playing on the second day were not listed in the programme.

Most popular of the medal tunes was The Vaunting, submitted by eighteen of the competitors. Least popular was Hector MacLean’s Warning, submitted only four times. This was the only one of the set tunes which is not in the Kilberry Book. Of those entered 16 were from outwith Scotland; 7 from Canada, 3 from the USA, 2 from New Zealand, 2 from England and one each from South Africa and France.

The Senior Piobaireachd was not due to start until 11am, so until that time there was a reasonable audience for the Medal. As 11am approached, Colin MacLellan was due on but as he was first on in the Senior some change in the running order in one or other event was inevitable. The steward announced that Colin would play at a later time in the Medal. This signalled a mass exodus to the St. Columba Hall, which must have been disconcerting for the player who was just coming in. However we had by this time heard the best of the Medal competition, as first and second prize winners had already played. When the results were announced the Gold Medal was awarded to Brian Donaldson of the Scots Guards who played The Vaunting very well except for a poor crunluath-a-mach variation. In second place was Donald MacBride playing The End of the Great Bridge. Third and fourth were Gordon Walker, Royal Highland Fusiliers, (The Prince’s Salute) and Jonathan Gillespie, Luton, (The Vaunting).

Senior Piobaireachd

The Senior Piobaireachd was held in St. Columba’s Cathedral Hall, the smallest of the three halls in use. The audience was the largest so at times there were not enough seats. It is a pity also that the stewards do not keep the audience under control. One couple in particular who were in the centre of the second row stood up several times during performances to take videos and flash photographs then decided to leave half way through one tune but were signalled to sit down again by the other people on the row.

There were fifteen entries for the Senior, each submitting ten tunes of their own choice. Iain MacFadyen, Allan MacDonald and Alfred Morrison did not play and there were two breakdowns, Dr. Angus MacDonald with Lament for MacSwan of Roaig and Robert Wallace with MacDougalls’ Gathering. Last year’s winner, Michael Cusack, playing the Park No.2, had two bad chokes near the end of the tune.

•Donald and Gwen MacPherson

Highlight of the day was an outstanding performance of Lady MacDonald’s Lament from Donald Macpherson. Donald first won this event in 1948 and this was his fifteenth win, an achievement which I am sure will never be equalled. In second place was Willie McCallum, playing The Groat, third was Roddy MacLeod playing My King has landed in Moidart and fourth was Alasdair Gillies playing Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay.

The others who played were: Colin MacLellan (Glengarry’s March), Andrew Wright (Mary’s Praise), Murray Henderson (Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon), John MacDougall (Lament for the Departure of King James) and Kenneth MacLean (The King’s Taxes).

The judges were Ronald Morrison, Tom Speirs and Andrew Pitkeathly.

The Silver Medal competition took place in the basement of the Great Western Hotel. There were 29 entries, each submitting six tunes of their own choice. The judges were Hugh MacCallum, Evan MacRae and John MacKenzie. The winner of the Silver Medal was Michael Gray of the Queen’s Own Highlanders. Second was Iain Hurst from Oban, third Michael Elder of the Black Watch, fourth Rory Grossart, Glasgow, and fifth Alan Minty, Glasgow.

Former Winners’ MSR

The Gold Medal was the last of the three events to finish, being over by 6.15pm, so we then had a short break until the commencement of the Former Winners’ MSR at 7.30pm in the basement of the Great Western Hotel. Judges for this were John MacKenzie, Sandy Macpherson and Neill Mulvie.

Once again, there were insufficient seats and a large crowd was standing in the doorway. Eleven had entered but two of them did not play. Tunes submitted were six of each, and those chosen were played twice over. Robert Wallace was unfortunate in breaking down after losing the blowpipe and being unable to re-capture it; one of the hazards of the Gore-tex bag.

The result was: 1. Willie McCallum (Clan MacColl, John Roy Stewart, Bessie MacIntyre), 2. Murray Henderson, 3. Alasdair Gillies.

The Royal Celtic Society Prize for the best senior piper was won by Willie McCallum.

The Second Day

The Games day began with the usual march of the Duke of Argyll, the Stewards and the pipers from the railway station to the field. Of the 66 pipers listed to compete at the games 32 played up the road. Pipe Major of the band of pipers was the Gold Medallist, Brian Donaldson. After last year’s take-over by the Queen’s Own Highlanders there was some speculation as to whether we would get the regimental tunes of the Scots Guards, but there were no such incidents this year. The pipers played Glendaruel Highlanders and The Campbells are Coming, followed by The Argyllshire Gathering to enter the field, as printed in the programme. Brian was not competing as he has already won both events but he was playing during the afternoon with the band of the Scots Guards.

There were 35 pipers in the A Grade events and 31 in the B Grade. The four events were run simultaneously on platforms in the four corners of the arena. The names of the pipers and the orders of play were not in the programme but this had been displayed the previous evening on the door of the Secretary’s office.

The A Grade played the march once over but the B Grade played twice over.

Gordon Walker in 1990 being judged by Ronald Lawrie, John MacKenzie and Evan MacRae

The results and judges were as follows:

A Grade March

  1. Gordon Walker
  2. Michael Cusack
  3. Wilson Brown
  4. Colin MacLellan
  5. Ronald McShannon
    Judges: Ronald Lawrie, Evan MacRae and John MacKenzie
•Ronald Morrison and John Burgess

A Grade Strathspey and Reel

  1. Bruce Gandy
  2. Gordon Walker
  3. Donald MacBride
  4. Roddy MacLeod
  5. Michael Grey
    Judges: Sandy Macpherson, Tom Speirs and Neill Mulvie
•Andrew Pitkeathly and James Burnet
•The Duke and Stewards of the march to the games in 1990