According to our copy of that year’s programme, sixty-one pipers entered for the senior events – not too dissimilar to today’s restricted event at Inverness. In 1972 anyone could play but the burgeoning numbers were soon to prove impossible for promoters to handle.
This Northern Meeting was held in the Dr Black Hall and the Caledonian Hotel Ballroom – the move to Eden Court a few years off. The dates were September 14th and 15th a couple of weeks later than today’s competitions. Thirty played for the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal (today it is 25). In the years immediately following there was an upsurge in the numbers playing for the Gold and this led to the formation of the Competing Pipers’ Association, at the instigation of Jimmy McIntosh, and the establishment of the first Silver Medal contest (1977).
The winner of the 1972 Gold Medal was Dr John MacAskill, Fort William (pictured), with Colin Drummond, Bathgate, in second. The current President and Hon. Secretary of the Piobaireachd Society, Dr Jack Taylor and Dr Bill Wotherspoon (addresses for both given as St Andrews) came third and fourth respectively, with Arthur Gillies, Kilchrenan, in fifth. All apart from Colin were to go on to take the medal at a later date. Check the lists here. Judges were James Campbell, Dr Robert Frater and John MacFadyen.
The set tunes in the medal were all short pieces but pipers had to submit six from a list of eight: Lament for Alasdair Dearg, Struan Robertson’s Salute, MacKay’s Short Tune, MacLeod’s Short Tune, Lady Anapool, Catherine’s Lament, Salute to Donald, MacLean of Lochbuie’s Lament. These are all pieces that would be more usually set for the Silver Medal today and this perhaps shows that, though some may have misgivings about the interpretive quality of playing nowadays, the repertoire at least has improved in the past 40 plus years.
The senior piobaireachd event for the Gold Clasp was won by Hugh MacCallum playing MacNeill of Barra’s March. In terms of difficulty and duration the tune does seem to be out of kilter with the others in that year’s prescribed list: Mrs MacLeod of Talisker, My Dearest on Earth, Lament for the Union, MacKenzie of Gairloch’s Lament and the Red Speckled Bull.
Others in the Clasp list were: Donald Morrison (second with Gairloch), Donald MacPherson (third with the same tune), and Iain MacFadyen (fourth with My Dearest on Earth). Iain’s address was given as Rutherglen, Glasgow. This was a couple of years before he was to head north and begin his teaching success story at Kyle of Lochalsh. The judges were Archie Kenneth, Captain John MacLellan and Seumas MacNeill.
Selected other pipers and their tunes were Jimmy McIntosh (My Dearest), William MacDonald, Benbecula, (Red Speckled Bull), John MacDougall and John Burgess (both Lament for the Union), Cpl. Iain Morrison (Gairloch), and Andrew Wright (Red Speckled Bull).
1 Iain Morrison
2 Hugh MacCallum
3 P/M Iain McLeod (Edinburgh Pol.)
The judges were Archie Kenneth, Iain C. Cameron and Captain John MacLellan. Also playing, but not making the prizes, were Jimmy Young, P/M Angus MacDonald, Thomas Pearston, Donald Morrison, Willie Morrison, John MacAskill, Iain MacFadyen, Dougie Ferguson and John MacDougall.
The March contest was notable for the success of Vancouver-based piper Harold Senyk (left) whose address was given as c/o RG Hardie, Bishopbriggs. Harold, or Hal as he is better known, played with Hardie’s Muirhead’s band at the time. Hal was also P/M of the Triumph Street Pipe Band and led that band to international recognition in the 1970s. Second went to Hugh MacInnes, Glasgow, a superb piper who unfortunately did not play piobaireachd, third to Arthur Gillies, a fine march player, and fourth to Willie MacDonald (Benbecula). The judges here were Iain C. Cameron, Dr Kenneth MacKay, Laggan, and Seumas MacNeill.
The Strathspey and Reel went to John MacDougall (John was to go on to win the Former Winners only a few years later), Hugh MacInnes again in second, Dougie Ferguson in third with Bill Livingstone, Whitby, Ontario, making the list in fourth. Judges were John MacFadyen, Dr Robert Frater and Capt. Iain C. Cameron.
The Jig result shows a victory for Willie MacDonald (Benbecula) with Hugh MacCallum completing a great Inverness in second, and Iain McLeod third. The judges were Donald MacGillivray, Nigg, Dr Kenneth MacKay and James Campbell.
The full list of senior competitors apart from those mentioned above was: James Troy, Victoria, (father of the current top piper James P. Troy), Patrick Grant, now on the NM committee and who must have been very young then, P/M Harry McNulty of the Edinburgh Police and Scottish Power bands, Walter Cowan, Annan, leading ceol beag judge, Duncan MacDonald, Glencoe, George Grainger (Glasgow Police), John Stewart, Aberdeen, John Wilson, Campbeltown, but then in Glasgow, George Innes, Strathpeffer, James Matheson, Lairg, Ian McKay (we think this may be Sir Ian from NZ but his address is given as Copland Road, Glasgow), William Smart, Fife, Robert Pinkman KOSB, Sandy Davidson, Scots Guards, Brian MacRae, Gordon Highlanders and later Sovereign’s Piper, Donald Stewart, Huntly, Jimmy Banks, Scots Guards, Andrew Hill, Alness, John Matheson, Bathgate, George Lumsden, Edinburgh Police, Neil Smith, Glasgow Police, George Stewart, Stonehaven, David Steven, Thurso, Alexander Robertson, Perth, Sandy MacKenzie, Invergordon, David Weir, Edinburgh, Duncan MacDiarmid, Aberfeldy, Douglas Young, Dysart & Dundonald PB, Willie Dickson, Dundee, Eddie Clark, Strathtay, Duncan MacFadyen, Johnstone, Farquhar McIntosh, Skye, Jimmy MacGregor, Glenalmond, RA Sutherland, Tasmania, Bill Hepburn, Turriff, Albert Anderson, Penicuik, and Donald Tryk, New Mexico.
In the juniors (then only open boys from the Highland counties) we have John Don M Mackenzie, Dornie, winning the March for ‘boys under 15’ and the MSR for ‘boys under 18’ going to Ian Larg, Dundee. It was to be a couple of years more before all contest promoters were forced by law to admit lady pipers.
1 JD Mackenzie 2 K Lynch 3 D Bisset 4 G Hadden
1 I Larg 2 R MacDonald (This is 16-year-old Roddy S now down in Queensland) 3 G Brown 4 W Whyte
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