The cobbled courts of Pembroke College, Cambridge, resounded to the sound of the pipes last Saturday as the inaugural James Campbell Medal competition was held in the College Chapel.
Founded as a memorial to James Campbell (1916-2003), the renowned piobaireachd judge and player and son of Archibald Campbell of Kilberry Book fame, and who was also a Law Fellow at Pembroke for many years, the competition was attended by an audience of about thirty five people on a drizzly, dreich March Saturday afternoon.
By Robert Porter
After a welcome speech by the Master of Pembroke (Chris Smith, Lord Smith of Finsbury), Roddy Livingstone delivered a tribute to James Campbell on behalf of himself and The Piobaireachd Society. James served on the Society’s committees throughout his life and was Honorary President at the time of his passing.
The judges were headed by Dr Peter McCalister (Inverness Gold Medal, 2018). He was accompanied by Lord Smith and Catherine Groom, the Director of Music at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, who was once the official Clarsair (clarsach player) to the Scottish Office.
Contestants were invited to play a mixed programme of music of up to fifteen minutes each, which could include both Piobaireachd and/or Light Music.
Four contestants battled it out, and the standard was high. Eventually the judges determined the following placings:
Winner – James Carnegie (King’s College). James played a selection of slow airs and jigs followed by Lament for Sir James McDonald of the Isles.
Runner Up – Graham Spicer (Wolfson College)
Third Place – Calum Rennie (St Catherine’s College).
After the judging, Peter McCalister delivered a forty minute masterclass of marches, reels, jigs and hornpipes making way for plenty of audience participation, after which he finished off with a fine rendition of the piobaireachd The Desperate Battle.
The afternoon concluded with a champagne reception outside the chapel. It was generally felt by organisers, participants and audience, which included a cousin of James Campbell and a representative of the Skye-based MacLeod family who had generously donated the JC Medal, that the competition was a resounding success and that it would be cemented as an annual event.
Ultimately, everyone believed the day was a fitting tribute to James. It delivered an afternoon of which he would have been proud, and by which he would have been entertained and intellectually stimulated – as we all were.