History: A look Back at the National Mod Piping in 1970

Saturday sees the National Mod piping competitions in Dunoon. For today’s story we take a look back at the contest from 1970. This report is from the Oban Times. It may be by their the piping correspondent Fred Morrison though we are not sure if Fred was in post at that time ….

Nineteen of Scotland’s foremost piping exponents entered for the March, Strathspey and Reel competition held at the National Mod and which was sponsored by John Player and Sons [cigarette manufacturers] which firm presented a Gold banner and prize money amounting to £150.

This turned out to be a competitions of the Highest standard and far and away above similar competitions held earlier in August and September at Oban and Inverness.

Perhaps with the main piobaireachd competitions behind them, the competitors were able to devote more to practice for this arduous competition which really tests a piper’s technical skill as well as his musical artistry.

The winner was Hugh A. MacCallum, Bridge of Allan, [pictured above] who played the tunes Abercairney Highlanders, Lady Loudon and the Grey Bob. His bagpipe was excellent, his technique of a very high order and the whole performance was one of well-controlled expression.

With a performance that was also of very high merit Pipe Major Iain MacLeod, Edinburgh Police, placed second. He played Leaving Glenurquhart, Inveraray Castle and the Rejected Suitor.

Last year’s winner, Iain MacFadyen, placed third. He played MacLean of Pennycross, Caledonian Society of London and Lexie MacAskill. In this set the standard of the march did not quite match up with that of the strathspey and reel.[polldaddy poll=10116643]

In fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively were John MacDougall, Arbroath, Hector MacFadyen, Pennyghael, and William MacDonald, Benbecula. The adjudicators were Mr Neil Angus MacDonald, P/M Ronnie MacCallum and Captain John MacLellan all of who took some time at the end of the competition to come to their final decision, such was the overall high standard of the playing.

Earlier in the day there were amateur competitions for the under-15s and for those between 15 and 18. In the former competition, playing a march for the Roderick Munro trophy, first prize was won by Donald McBride, Prestonpans, who played in most excellent fashion Donald MacLellan of Rothesay.

Donald McBride ten years later in 1980

Second prize went to Roderick MacDonald, Inverness. For these two it was a matter of ‘like father, like son’, for their fathers both competed in the senior event. Third place went to Kenneth MacDonald, Newton Mearns.

For the more senior amateurs there were two competitions – a march for the Royal Highland Fusiliers Cup, and a strathspey and reel for the Colonel Murdoch MacTaggart Memorial Trophy.

Anne Sinclair from Tiree gave a most polished performance of Stirlingshire Militia to win the marches. Placed second and third were Anne Stewart, Carnoustie, and Ronald Elmslie, Glasgow.

Playing Tulloch Castle and the Smith of Chilliechassie, Thomas Johnstone, Glasgow, won the strathspey & reel competition. Runner-up to him was Anne Sinclair, whilst Ronald Elmslie gained his second third prize of the day.

In all these competitions the playing standard was very good, though it was noticed that many of the bagpipes in the amateur competitions were not quite so well tuned as they could have been.

However, the good standard of playing shows that piping is in as healthy a position as ever and that the future is promising.

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1 thought on “History: A look Back at the National Mod Piping in 1970

  1. Ha
    First real solo contest I played in – Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban with no base drone for the last part, I recall. I think Tom Johnstone’s got a good photo of some of us youngsters- Donald was 12 and I was 13.
    The senior contest was twice through each tune and to my young ear many great performances which have stuck with me. Amongst the others competing that come to mind were Donald’s father Willie McBride, a young Hugh MacInnes and Davy Hutton.

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