Chapter VII - 1858 to
IN 1857 the 16 lb. hammer
was thrown 103 feet 3 inches by Wm. MacHardy, Aberdeen, a good throw.
It is of interest to record
that more than once has the hammer been thrown out of line, as on this
Other times were when the
cap feathers of a distinguished Highland Chieftain were "dashed" while he
was officiating as a judge.
Another hammer fell at
Aberdeen, at the feet of a landed proprietor recumbent on the grass. Yet a
third time, in close proximity to the Countess of Seafield near the
roof-tree of a marquee at Strathspey. On this occasion the tent ropes just
prevented the handle from inflicting injury. Somewhat naturally it was
suggested that the preliminary swing should be abolished, as was done at
Blair Atholl and elsewhere. It certainly does seem fortunate more
accidents have not occurred in this event. Perhaps they have, but have not
been noticed by historians.
1859. The Invergordon
poisoning case caused a diminution in the number of spectators.
Members were admitted by
Entry fee 65, subscription
£2, or 425 for life membership.
Honorary members £2,
Supper tickets 8s. (ladies
In this year the Highland
Society of London gave a Championship Gold Medal (value £5) for pipers.
Donald Cameron (Seaforth
High) won it with "Mackintosh's Lament."
1860. More dancers than
ever. The room was so crowded that parties had to dance in the lobby and
landing-places on the staircase.
The great Donald Dinnie won
the two hammer events, tossing the caber, putting the stone, 150 yards
race and the hurdle race. The caber was 20 feet long.
A small person of peculiar
figure, in tartan dress, was piper to Donald Stewart of Achindaul. He made
his entry too late, but piped so well that he was given a special money
prize, and engaged to pipe at the ball.
In 1862 we note that the
costume of the two winners in the dress competitions were made from the
wool of black-faced sheep bred in the Cairngorm Mountains. Lord Lovat was
elected a permanent steward.
The Duke of Richmond is a
patron next year, and the venue was Bell's Park, beyond Academy Park. The
caterers were Mr. Peacock, with the Royal and Caledonian Hotels. The
enclosure was small and mean compared to the Academy one; it was boarded
in and would have presented the appearance of a travelling theatre or
circus had not three policemen been there. The company, however, was
In 1864 was achieved the
New Park near Ness House on the river's bank, to the extent of four acres.
The numbers at the balls in
1865 were five hundred and fifty and six hundred and thirty, and there was
a great run on the "Moselle Cup."
The piper to His Royal
Highness the Prince of Wales won the second prize in the pibrochs in 1866.
In 1867 a special prize for
pibroch was awarded to Keith Cameron of Maryburgh, aged eleven.
A grand fancy bazaar in
1868 caused an increase of spectators, and prizes were won by pipers to
the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh. Mr. White retiring from the
post of convener amidst general expression of gratitude, Mr. Fountaine
Walker of Foyers was elected in his place.
In 1869 Donald Dinnie's son
Cuthbert, aged nine, was commended for his dancing. In this event one
competitor wore a shield and sword.
Old Dinnie was away in
America in 1870. Pipe-Major Macdougall won the bagpipes he had himself
supplied ! We have this year mention of W. McCombie Smith of Aberdeen
University. He won the long jump, and in later years was the well-known
author of the book on Scottish Athletes. At the ball held later, the Rajah
of Kolapore was present, and was the partner in the Lancers of Mrs. Merry
Bad weather prevailed in
1871. Prizes were won by pipers to Lord Breadalbane and The Mackintosh
(James Robertson and Donald Macdonald). Mr. T. G. Henderson (interim
secretary) was appointed secretary. An interesting event was a race twice
round the enclosure between four gentlemen.
Winner, Mr. Douglas Moffat.
Second, Captain Bolland, 3 yards start.
Third, Mr. Wingfield Strafford, 15 yards start.
The other gave up the first
time round, and passes to posterity nameless.
The band of the 91st
Highlanders was present in 1872.
David Airtley of Lochletter,
winner of the dress competition, had attended for fifty years. The
purveyors were Hunter and Glover of Edinburgh.
In 1873 single stick
exercise was introduced by the 78th Highlanders, and the secretary's
salary increased by £20 a year.
The band of the 99th
Regiment played in 1874, and one of the Society's rooms let free of charge
to the Inverness School of Art.
The 1st Royal Scots sent
their band in 1875. Lance-Corporal MacGregor caused some amusement in the
pole jump. He pretended to be a poor leaper, but when the height of 9 feet
1 inch was reached, he told the stewards to put the bar up another foot,
and then cleared it gracefully. Lord Lovat died this year, also Mr. White,
for many years the convener.
In 1876 a 600 yards
handicap was added. Property occupied by Mr. Chisholm, ironmonger, was
purchased this year for £2,000, so that the buildings by enlargement would
enable the ball and supper rooms to be on the same floor.
Tugs-of-war come on in
1877, and music by the band of the 79th Cameron Highlanders. A dispute
arose because a man of the Inverness team passed his hands over the blue
ribbon marking the space between the two teams. Their opponents from Nairn
appealed, and a new heave resulted in another win by Inverness. Nairn won
the next heave, so the judges ordered another pull. But Inverness
objected, and left the ground, Nairn receiving the prizes.
The floor of the ball-room
in Church Street was refloored with pitch-pine. This was much appreciated
the next year. The tug-of-war was won by the Inverness Rifle Volunteers
Lord Lovat in 1879 gave
notice of a new proposal, i.e., that the names of the new honorary members
be submitted to a quorum of not less than ten; if the black balls in the
ballot box exceeded one-third the candidate was not elected.
A great feature in 1880 was
the addition of a mile handicap foot race. Lord Lovat's proposal was
In 1881 we are told that
the death of a venerable gentleman of striking appearance caused his
absence to be felt.
An obstacle race took
place, the first portion being a run of twenty yards backwards.
Ventilation of the rooms
was advocated, and carried out to general satisfaction.
1834 saw a larger
attendance, and the suggestion of a new set of rules, which were adopted
the following year.
The famous athletes Bremner,
Fraser and Cameron attended in 1886. The Duchess of Sutherland was
present. Supper was served at horse-shoe tables, and it was resolved to
give a handsome prize at the International Exhibition at Edinburgh.
In 1887 Lord Lovat died,
and a motion of condolence with his widow was passed.
1888 was a notable year from the attendance of several wrestlers in the
Cumberland and Westmorland style. Their prowess was watched with
considerable enthusiasm, the final order being :
1st. Hexham Clarke (14 St. champion).
2nd. Tom Kennedy (13 St. champion).
3rd. J. Robinson (12 St. champion).
4th. J. Kerr.
5th. H. Nelson.
On the resignation of Mr.
Fountaine Walker as convener, Colonel Mackenzie was elected in his place.
A slope was added to the lawn.
Several novelties were
introduced in 1889, among them being tent-pegging, tilting at the ring,
and an exhibition of wrestling by picked men from Cumberland. There was
also made a "crush-room" (not mushroom) 35 feet square by 15 feet high,
the walls being lined with Japanese paper; a dado of gold and red
lincrusta-walton with a rail of polished mahogany completed the
decoration. The supper was served to members seated instead of standing.
The loss by death is
recorded of Mr. Davidson of Cantray, convener of the county.
In 1890 nearly ten thousand
attended, and the assembly was the most brilliant ever held in Scotland.
The Highlanders Artillery Volunteers' band was present; Hussars from
Scotland gave an exhibition, and special acknowledgment was made of the
services of Mr. T. G. Henderson, the secretary.
1891 saw a display by a
detachment of the 6th Dragoon Guards.
1892 was remarkable from
the fact that Donald McDonald of Arnamurchan was victor in the tossing of
the caber, the trunk having six inches more wood on the thick end than any
other competitor could tackle.
Mackenzie of Flowerburn (1892), Sir Hector Munro, Bart., of Foulis Castle
became convener in 1893. His portrait is facing page 169. It was a very
wet year, but a girls' skipping race of 160 yards was included. Those who,
like the writer, have the pleasure of Sir Hector's acquaintance, as well
as that of his connections, the Stirlings and Ainsworths of Cumberland,
will readily endorse this appreciation of his popularity and fitness for
the honour he thus received and held until 1908.
Lord Roberts, V.C.,
presented the medals in 1894 to the winning Volunteer team in the bayonet
competition. He also addressed the men on the comparative utilities of the
lance and the bayonet in hand-to-hand warfare. The band of the Black Watch
attended, and amongst other distinguished Indians present were the Gaekwar
of Baroda and his wife.
Nothing special occurred
the next two years, but in 1897 the Duke and Duchess of York attended for
a long time, making themselves extremely sociable and popular.
In 1898 a captivating
military display was given by sixteen troopers of the Royal Scots Greys,
under Lieutenant Parker; they went through the plaiting of the Maypole,
the musical ride, and the Balaclava Melee; other items were cleaving the
Turk's head, over jumps, tent-pegging, and lemon-cutting. The question of
increasing the gathering's premises was discussed next year, and an
exhibition of gymnastics was given by the and Seaforths.
1900 being overclouded by
the South African War, no dances took place, but one day's sports were
held. Local Volunteers gave an exhibition of bayonet exercise, and surplus
funds were applied to war purposes.
Next year was very cold,
and made it hard for the pipers to execute the wonderful grace-notes,
usually so much admired. There was a two-mile bicycle handicap; in the
final four out of the six racing having been brought down by a collision,
the other two received the prizes. The Mackintosh presided at the meeting
later on, at which it was decided to redecorate the room.
In 1902 the Yeomanry gave a
musical ride, competing also in "heads and posts," lemon-cutting and
tent-pegging. Her Highness Princess Sophie Dhuleep Singh of Farr graced
the ball with her presence.
1903 was normal, but the
next year the competition for the gold clasp to the previous winners of
the medal for pibroch playing was thrown open, and the Inverness Town Band
provided the music.
In 1905 three Japanese
wrestlers from London appeared named Myake, Eida, and Kanaya, and threw
the local wrestlers easily. Only one young soldier scored a point by
bringing one jiu-jitsu man down.
The Duchess of Wellington
attended the ball in 1906, and the sports included a 300 yards race for
soldiers in marching order with rifles. Seven out of seventeen entrants
Six thousand came in 1907,
and witnessed, among other things, a display of horsemanship given by a
detachment of the 18th Hussars from York, under Lieutenant Lawrence, V.C.
In 1908 a "shinty" match
between Lochaber and Newton Moor showed the clever handling of Caman. The
Jap wrestlers turned up again. Sir John Macpherson Grant was elected
convener in succession to Sir Hector Munro, to whom a presentation was
made of a solid silver salver with the Munro arms upon it, also a silver
bowl (being a copy of the Monteith bowl) with his crest upon it, on an
ebony stand of Chippendale design. The inscription on each piece of plate
was "To Sir Hector Munro, Bart., of Foulis, from the members of the
Northern Meeting, in recognition of his Convenership 1892 to 1908."
In 1909 a musical race was
given by the 2nd Seaforths and a score of naval ratings from the Home
Fleet. Mr. Henderson and his brother had completed forty years' service at
this year's meeting.
Sailors were present in
1910 from H.M.S. King Edward VII and H.M.S. Bellerophon. A
physical drill by boys and a musical maze were added.
Fashionable ladies will
learn this year of larger muffs, electric seal as the favourite fur,
half-length jackets being worn, the skirts having a broad pleat at the
back and a narrow one in front. The "chiel amang them takkin' notes" said
this gave them greater grace than heretofore with a "tied-in" appearance.
Hats were trimmed with wide wings, flowers and ostrich plumes. The vogue
of the previous few months was altered, and women now walked as nature
1911 saw the strathspey and
reel won by a Canadian. W. Knox of Canada also won the pole leap with 11
feet 6 inches, and there was a barrel race for dock labourers. Very few
ladies wore the hobble skirt. Mrs. David Logan received a handsome cheque
for her services as musical director of the balls.
Knox won the pole leap
again in 1912 a with 11 feet 8 inches and received a gold medal and £3.
The band of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders attended.
1913 saw five hundred Boy
Scouts present, and a four-mile bicycle handicap was won by Hans Holmer,
the American, from scratch.
After the great
international upheaval, 1919 was of note from the joint election of
Brigadier-General Ross of Cromarty and Colonel Baillie of Dochfour as
conveners. Mr. Henderson, after fifty-one years' service, was granted a
substantial pension, and Major David Ross (portrait facing page 163) was
elected secretary in his place.
Amongst the ten thousand
spectators present in 1920 were Their Royal Highnesses the Earl of
Inverness and Prince Albert. £10 was added as prize money to the gold
medal for pibroch playing. The kilted boys from Queen Victoria School at
Dunblane were competitors in dancing and piping. A football match of
five-a-side was played, and the country dance called "Strip the Willow"
was an innovation.
Colonel Rose was convener
in 1923, and the next year saw the debut of James Maitland, the hefty
young farmer from Banffshire, in the heavy competitions. He was thirty
years of age, 6 feet 4 inches in height, and 15 stone in weight. His
distance for throwing the hammer was 94 feet 6 inches.
The Yahoo Jazz Sextet
attended the dance, which terminated at five a.m. with the stirring gallop
of "John Peel."
1926. A glance at the
programme gives a very comprehensive idea of the festival as it took place
this year. Everything went like clock-work, thanks to the indispensable
energies of the secretary, Major David Ross, and his assistant, Mr.
Wotherspoon, besides many others.
A word should, perhaps, be
said about the display given by the youthful pipe army from Dunblane, in
command of Pipe-Major W. M. Taylor. Their dancing and piping were
exemplary exhibitions of the exercise of lungs and limbs.
The social side of the
meeting is one that has rightly an enormous attraction for the Highland
aristocracy, and it may safely be said that hardly any family of ancient
lineage was without its representative, on one or both of the days, and it
would be an invidious task to compare the stalwart clansmen in full
costume with their smartly dressed relatives and friends of the gentler
The true Highland spirit of
healthy sociability was no less in evidence at Ardross Street Park in the
daytime than it was at the Church Street ball-room in the evenings, where
the creations of world-famous couturieres in London and Paris vied with
each other in tasteful contrast to the bemedalled uniforms of the Silent
and its sister services. Amongst the ships to send officers were H.M.S.
Revenge, Royal Sovereign, Hood, Iron Duke, Emperor of India, Curacoa,
Walker, Furious, Walpole, Cyclops, and Campbell, and gay in the
extreme was the spectacle presented in the eightsome reels both nights.
The cold weather had a
rather depressing effect on the spectators, but the interest in the events
was so well sustained that no diminution was noticed in the attendance on
the stands, though it was acknowledged that it was warmer in the sunshine,
not under cover. The pipers felt the cold in their fingers when attempting
the grace notes, and it also affected their drones. The well-known passage
in "Macbeth" regarding the Inverness climate, was for once misleading, but
it made the warmth of the subsequent social amenities much more
appreciated in consequence.
Here follows the list of
Pibrochs on Great Highland
Bagpipes and Highland Society of London's gold medal and £8 - 1, John
Macdonald, Glasgow Police; 2, £5, Ronald M. Meldrum, Clarkston, Glasgow;
3, £3, Hugh Kennedy, Mount Florida, Glasgow; 4, £1 10s., David Ross,
Marches - 1, £4, John
Macdonald, Glasgow Police; 2, £3, Hugh Kennedy, Mount Florida, Glasgow; 3,
£2, John Wilson, Edinburgh; 4, Robert Bell Nicol, Balmoral.
Marches - Boys under 17 -
1, £2, Francis J. Bigger Hope, Belfast; 2 and 3, Pipe-Major R. Shelton,
Dunblane School, and Sergt. W. Mackinlay, Dunblane School; 4, Angus M.
220 yards Foot Race
(handicap) - 1, £2, T. Yeudall, 4th Cameron Highlanders; 2, Sergt. Colin
Cameron, Elgin; 3, James Edwards, Falkirk.
Five Lap Race - 1, Smith;
2, Cameron; 3, Mackenzie. Five-a-side Football Competition, 1st round-Caley
Citadel. Clach beat
Thistle. Final-Caley and Clach draw after extra time.
The annual meeting of
members was held under the convenership of Colonel Hugh Rose of Kilravock,
C.M.G., and largely attended. The retiring stewards were General Lord
Horne of Stirkoke, and Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Gairloch, and their places
were filled by Archibald C. Macpherson of Cluny, and Sir Ronald Baillie of
Jedburgh, O. B. E.
Four new members were
elected, viz., Captain Warre of Gledfield, Mr. Eion Merry, Jun., of
Belladrum, Sir Theodore Brinckman of Nairnside, and Major the Hon.
Alistair Fraser of Moniack.
The numbers at the two
balls are given as about seven hundred and seventy and seven hundred
respectively, Mrs. D. Logan's band providing the music. It was six o'clock
on the Saturday morning before dancing terminated.
It seems fitting to
conclude this short notice of the Gathering with a reference to the
amusement caused by the diverting stunt given by the Seaforth and Cameron
Highlanders towards the end of the proceedings each day. Entering the
arena with poles and well protected about the head and body, they engaged
in serious combat of a lively nature, but finally discarding the weapons,
took to fisticuffs and pantomimic boxing features that convulsed the crowd
and brought laughter to the voices and smiles to the faces of the happy
onlookers, as they wended homewards to discuss the contests of the various
athletes in those other places of gathering and sodality.
"They tell o' lands with
Where freedom's voice ne'er rings;
Gi'e me the hills where Ossian dwelt,
And Coila's minstrel sang!
For I've nae skill o' lands, my lads,
That ken na to be Tree;
Then Scotland's right, and Scotland's might,
And Scotland's hills for me!
We'll drink a cup to Scotland yet
Wi' a' the honours three!"
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.