Donald Morrison Archive: Downpour at the Northern Meeting 1930

The following is from a clipping from the Inverness Courier found in Donald’s papers. The headlines read ‘Great Washout at Northern Meeting’, ‘Disastrous Effect of Ceaseless Deluge’, ‘Handful of Spectators Watch the Games’ and ‘Balmoral Ghillie’s Piping Triumph’.

In these days the Meetings were held out of doors in the Northern Meeting Park. The report goes on:

Rain ruined the Northern Meeting Gathering which opened at Inverness today, even more than it did the Braemar Gathering [presumably the previous week].

Instead of the usual crowd of between three and four thousand spectators, only three hundred people were present and unless a great change comes over the weather today, the Society will have to shoulder a heavy financial loss.

History repeated itself with pitiless accuracy. A year ago rain destroyed all the glory and colour of the opening day of this famous meeting. Precisely the same thing happened today.

Long before dawn rain soak the Highland capital. It was still pouring when the last spectator left the Northern Meeting for home and there was not a dry spell of even a moments duration in between.

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So heavy was the downpour that the pipers, instead of marching in procession to the park, went in taxi cabs. The piobaireachd competition had to be played off in the grandstand among spectators who sat swathed in great tartan plaids.

Such was the interest that they all remained listening intently to eighteen pipers playing piobaireachds, each of which takes fifteen minutes to go through – four and a half hours of bagpipe music.

The piobaireachd and the march competition brought notable triumphs to a young Deeside piper, a native of Durris. He was Mr RB Nicol who is employed as a ghillie on the King’s estate at Balmoral.

A son of Mr David Nicol, Kilcluny Cottage, Durris, he has frequently played when the King and Queen were at dinner at Balmoral. [Bob Nicol is pictured at the top of this article. It is from 1930s when he was serving in the Gordon Highlanders.]

He first of all won the piobaireachd competition and thus earned the proud right to be numbered among the premier pipers of Scotland.

Pipers parading before the march to the games at the Northern Meeting in 1908…not in 1930

His winning tune was the lament Glengarry’s March composed about a shocking incident which took place in a Ross-shire church. Pursued by their enemies the Macdonalds, a number of the Clan Mackenzie took refuge in a church at Muir of Ord. Not to be thwarted the Mackenzies set fire to the church and burned those inside.

Nicol’s victory was popular and the crowd cheered the modest young piper who achieved a heart’s desire with this attempt.

Nicol then went and played his way into first place in the March competition which he won with a skilful rendering of Glengarry Gathering.

Never has a Northern Meeting enclosure shown such a drab appearance as it did yesterday. The rain washed out all the colour associated with the Northern Meeting enclosure.

Among those who braved the weather were the Earl of Leven and Melville, Lord Lovat, Mackintosh of Mackintosh, Locheil and Lady Locheil.

Results (Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal):
1 RB Nicol, Balmoral
2 P/M J Maclean, Scots Guards
3 Piper Angus MacAulay, Lovat Scouts
4 P/Cpl MacMillan, Scots Guards

P/M John Maclean, Scots Guards, runner up to RB Nicol in the Northern Meeting Gold Medal 1930

1 RB Nicol
2 P/M Maclean, Scots Guards
3 equal P/Cpl MacMillan and John Wilson, Edinburgh

Judges: Col. JP Grant, Rothiemurchus, Mr Somerled Macdonald, Inverness, Dr Colin Caird, Edinburgh, and Mr J Graham Campbell of Shirvan.

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