All piping eyes today turn from the World Championship and Glasgow Green to the West Highland town of Oban where the first of piping’s two most important solo gatherings gets underway. The Argyllshire Gathering hosts four major piobaireachd competitions: the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal, the Silver Medal, the Senior Piobaireachd and the MacGregor Memorial Piobaireachd for intermediate level. Success in these events are highlights in every piper’s career.
They are very difficult to win; in all but the MacGregor, pipers must play tunes from set lists drawn up by the Music Committee of the Piobaireachd Society.
Results will start to trickle in from around 4.30pm so stay tuned to PP for the latest. In all 105 pipers are registered to compete in the open competitions at the AG games and to this can be added locals and juniors. There will be almost 500 solo piping performances overall. 26 pipers will compete for the Gold Medal, 27 for Silver and 18 for Senior. The MacGregor competition has attracted 32 young piobaireachd players. Competitors from Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the USA have entered this competition. Those that compete in the MacGregor will also play, on games day, in the recently introduced Intermediate MSR competition for the P/M RG Hardie Memorial Trophy.
Another new addition this year will be the Angus Nicol Memorial Silver Medal to be awarded to the player who has the highest aggregate in the MacGregor and Hardie competitions. Angus Nicol was a former Piping Steward of the gathering and a tremendous supporter of piping throughout his life.
Visitors and spectators might like to note the following venues for today’s events:
Gold Medal, Corran Halls, small theatre 9am
Silver Medal, Skippinish Ceilidh House 9am
Senior Piobaireachd, Corran Halls, main hall 9am
MacGregor Memorial: Separate heats take place in the Regent Hotel and in the Great Western Hotel from 9.30am, with the final in the Regent at approximately 4.30pm.
In the evening the Former Winners’ MSR takes place in the Corran Halls at the conclusion of the Senior Piobaireachd. This is one of the most stringent light music tests in world piping with competitors having to submit six tunes of each, then be prepared to play them in any combination and twice over.
The day will be masterminded by AG Piping Convenor Torquil Telfer and his team of stewards an assistants. Mr Telfer said: ‘We are once more looking forward to a great day of piping and I would encourage those who like to hear the very best of our music to come along and have a listen. You will not be disappointed.’
Though all pipers at Oban are mainly interested in the prestige and promotion that comes from any major success, there is also a substantial prize fund on offer:
Day two at the Argyllshire sees the march to the games field where ‘A’, ‘B’ and Intermediate grade light music contests are held. The winner of the previous day’s Gold Medal acts as the duty pipe major for the march. This is attended by His Grace the Duke of Argyll, Gathering Chieftain, and there is always a large turnout of pipers to support the new Gold Medallist. The top picture shows last year’s Gold Medallist Craig Sutherland leading the march.