More Memories of Harry, Two Super Days at Cowal and the Great Trophy Theft

Last week’s tribute to Harry McAleer brought back many memories, writes Barry Donaldson. He was a close friend and a huge personality. Here is one of the many memories I have.

When the band was at its best, the individual playing was world class and Harry was as good a player as anyone.

The band photo marching up the street at Cowal on the Saturday morning [top] was taken in 1984.


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The day before we had scooped up all the Cowal solo prizes. Harry won the Strathspey & Reel, John Wilson the Piobaireachd and I won the Marches.

We also shared all the second and third prizes. The best dressed piper award went to myself, as announced over the loudspeaker.

When Barry met Harry… Cowal 1984

However this was hotly disputed in the beer tent as John had, somehow, managed to acquire the prize-winners’ ticket.

He reckoned he was better dressed than me, regardless of the fact that one of his brogues was held together with a piece of string.

Old Sandy McQueen, the piping steward, was called on to conduct an official enquiry.

Wisely, Sandy refused to become involved and the dispute continues to this day.


Piping Press is grateful to Yves Tyson in Brittany who snapped this picture of Harry tuning up in the gardens at Dunoon during the Cowal Gathering. P/M Ian McLellan listens intently to Harry’s chanter whilst two other pipers wait their turn. Appreciate if someone could confirm the names. We believe the first to be Wilson Brown

The photo of John and myself with the Best Dressed trophy [below] was taken on the Saturday prior to marching down the street.

On that day the band took first prize in Grade 1 and were also awarded the title, Champion of Champions.

There were so many trophies to carry down to the pier that evening that we had to draft in extras to front the band.

The photo of myself and Harry was taken at Cowal on the same day.

Barry and John fighting over the Best Dressed trophy in 1984
Still at it nearly 40 years later (picture courtesy Bob Worrall)

But back to that Best Dressed dispute. Years later Wilson still holds onto the trophy. Here we are [above] in the Cowal trophy tent in 2018. He’s not letting go!


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