The British Newspaper Archive can provide an interesting and rewarding few hours for those searching for piping history.
Below is the Inverness Courier’s report on the Northern Meeting in 1928. Remember it was held outside in those days, at the Northern Meeting Park close to where the Eden Court Theatre is today.
Back then the Meeting was always a couple of weeks later than it is today – to tie in with the associated social calendar. Weather could be fickle and it was not unknown for pipers to be playing during the first blasts of the northern winter, snow on the platform, drones complaining bitterly.
No such problems fortunately for the reporters on this occasion but chilly air nevertheless for the pipers: ‘The sky was blue except for an occasional white fleecy cloud, and the sun shone brilliantly. Inverness was again in a gay mood and the principal streets from were animated.
‘Large crowds made their way to the Northern Meeting Park to savour the delights of athletics, piping, highland dancing and entertaining displays by the 11th Perthshire Wolf Cubs with Scottish country dancing and the gymnastic team from the Cameron Depot.
‘The judges for piping were Mr Somerled Macdonald, Lt. Col. JP Grant of Rothiemurchus and Ian Ramsay. The standard of piping was higher than in previous years. On the first day there were 19 entrants for the supreme award, the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal and £8 for piobaireachd.
‘Only two of the competitors broke down altogether, a notably low proportion, but a number were handicapped by defective reeds which was possibly due to the coldness of the air. The Gold Medal was won by R Brown of Balmoral. Of the 12 tunes scheduled, he played Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon and the runner-up RB Nicol, also of Balmoral, played Donald Gruamach’s March. These two were a long way ahead of the others in the judges’ opinion.
‘They had both been taking lessons from Pipe Major John MacDonald, one of the most famous pipers and teachers ever. He had in fact entered the competition but withdrew.
‘On the second day Brown took first place in the Strathspey and Reel competition in which Nicol came third. They were both King’s Pipers and received King George’s congratulations through his Commissioner, Major D.W.A.Mackenzie.
‘The big contest of the [second] day was for the Gold Clasp for attachment to the London Highland Society’s Gold medal which, in order to compete, competitors had to have won at a previous Meeting. The winner was Pipe Major William Ross of Edinburgh with Glengarry’s March.
‘Lt. Col. Grant declared Ross had never before played as well at the Northern Meeting. The runner-up was Malcolm R. MacPherson, Inversion, who performed Donald Gruamach’s March. It was another very musical performance, but his pipe did not keep in tune as well as Pipe Major Ross’s.
‘John Wilson of Edinburgh was third with a very sweet rendering of Glengarry’s March and fourth placed Pipe Major Robert Reid, 7th HLI, played an interesting tune called The End of the Great Bridge, the bridge in question being the big bridge over the Spean which was the scene of the very first patrol fighting of the ’45.
‘The March, Strathspey and Reel competition for the Silver Star of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society was won by Lance Corporal A.Thomson of the 2nd Cameron Highlanders who played The Highland Wedding, Balmoral Castle and John MacKechnie’s Big Reel. John Wilson was second and Pipe Major Ross third.
‘It was a very keen competition and the judges had a hard time picking the prize winners but as usual a certain amount of competitors put themselves out of the running owing to false fingering.’
- The unique picture up top is from the same newspaper and was taken by amateur photographer in Sir Bejamin Stone in 1903, 25 years before the report. The park however was the same and the front pipers are listed as: P/M Andrew MacDonald, Scottish Horse, P/M Willie Ross, Scots Guards (who won the Gold Medal on this occasion), P/M James Sutherland 3rd Seaforths, another P/M W Ross this time of the 4th HLI, and P/M Charles Dunbar DCM of the Gordons. Angus MacPherson, piper to Andrew Carnegie at Skibo Castle can be seen behind P/M MacDonald. Angus was the father of Malcolm mentioned above.