Argyllshire Gathering – How it All Began

How many of us have convened each August for the second day of the Argyllshire Gathering  and wondered at the stewards and their associates who gather to be led to the games by the pipers?

A closed group, well-to-do and generally benevolent towards piping and the Highland arts, they follow in a tradition established by their forbears 140-odd years ago.

The Argyll Arms Hotel built by John Adam of the famous architect family
The Argyll Arms Hotel, built by John Adam of the famous family of architects and venue for that historic first meeting in 1871

These were the very men who brought the Gathering into being in the first place. This historic advert from the Oban Times of 1871 (below) tells us how it all came about. Led by the Duke of Argyll, we read of a meeting being called, a committee formed and of great names such as Campbell of Kilberry, Glen Caladh, Cameron of Lochiel.

Close examination reveals that the original gathering was to be for the ‘Gentry of the County of Argyll for social purposes’. No mention of piping, cabers or Highland dancing. But you cannot have a games without them so it naturally followed that these events would be instituted along the lines of similar events elsewhere in Scotland.

With the presentation for competition of the Highland Society of London‘s Gold Medal in 1873, Oban’s piping was immediately imbued with an importance other games could only envy. The high society connections Oban enjoyed must have played a part in securing this patronage from the HSL.

The rest is all history (you can read a list of the Oban Gold Medal winners here) and how many pipers have enjoyed the benefits that success at the Argyllshire Gathering brings? Without that historic meeting in the Argyll Arms Hotel, Inveraray, in 1871 none of it might ever have happened.  Oban-Games-advert• The picture at the head of this article is of 2013 Oban Gold Medallist Finlay Johnston leading the march to the games. The Duke of Argyll can be seen rear left.


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