The Call of the Bagpipes – The Argyllshire Gathering

“The Oban Games – The Argyllshire Gathering – is one of the largest in Scotland and attracts international visitors and competitors to its events, many of which are for Scottish championship titles.” Oban, UK

January 25, 2021, the world will be celebrating Robert Burns.

To commemorate and prepare for this event, I have returned to Scotland via photography. Before I head over to Alloway, the birth place of Robert Burns, I am visiting Oban which is known for the Argyllshire Gathering. Come join me as I follow the bagpipes and take a tour around the historic resort town of Oban. You will sense the energy and excitement as we join the bagpipe band procession that will take us to the open spaces where the Highland Games will take place.

In 1871, several landowners and families of Argyll resolved to begin an annual tradition of gathering together to socialize and to compete against each other. The first Gathering was held in 1873. That was the beginning of the Argyllshire Gathering which includes the Highland Games.

The Argyllshire Gathering Association is well known to be “instrumental in the teaching and promoting of the Highland bagpipe” through their charitable endeavours.

A highlight of the Games is the opening march of the Gathering Stewards from the centre of Oban to the Games field at Mossfield, led by a pipe band made up of the competitors and winners in the Piping Competition. This is a truly unique opportunity to hear some of the best solo pipers in the world playing together as a band. Be at Station Square by 10.30am to follow the band to the Games.Oban Games

On the day following the piping competitions, all competitors form a band and march through Oban in “The Stewards’ March“

Someone told me that the bagpipe instrument chooses those who will become a bagpiper.

Have you heard the call of the bagpipe? If so, you will be joining a community of kindred spirits who share a connection with music and history. What a marvelous way to enhance our world through transformation of breath into music.

This old barbaric music has magic in it. It transforms the Gael. It reawakens in the depths of their being, even in this…century, impressions, moods, feelings inherited from a wild untamed ancestry for thousands of years, and thus gives them, more than strong wine, that strength of arm and that endurance of soul which makes them invincible.” Michael MacDonagh 1916

45 Comments Add yours

  1. cindy knoke says:

    SO moving! And so impactful! I had Scottish paternal grandparents. I have visited Oban. Love to you Rebecca დ

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Oh, Cindy – we could have crossed each other on the boardwalk. Oban is lovely and welcome is all to experience their history and amazing music. This is where I first heard the banks, Skipinnish. https://youtu.be/xNn2UdI-kvA

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah I can hear the skirl. xxxxx Great post Rebecca and a way to be here right now if you get me xxxx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I do indeed, my dear friend. When you hear the call of the Bagpipe, you will never be the same again. Sending hugs to you and the Dudes!!!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Mary Jo Malo says:

    What a gorgeous location, the Little Bay! So many bagpipers IN TUNE, and so many colorful kilts for all the different clans. In the video as the Oban High School Band is marching, you can see a green storefront sign that reads “Wool and Needlecraft Centre.” What a delightful touch. I bet it was difficult leaving there, Rebecca! What a wonderful capture on video and photos.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I knew you would see that sign, Mary Jo: “Wool and Needlecraft Centre.” Oban (“little bay” in Gaelic) has a population of 8,500, but is known to swell up to 25,000 during the tourist season. We had to book our hotel a year in advance. It is the unofficial capital of the West Highlands – the “Gateway to the Isles.” From Oban you can reach Iona, and Staffa. Even Queen Victoria gave Oban her seal of approval. The story of bagpiping goes back centuries. Remember the saying, Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned. Well, some believe it was the cithara, the forerunner of the lute. But there is some talk he played a form of bagpipe, which was well known to Romans. In fact, Julius Caesar recounted that the vision of a piper beckoned him to cross the Rubicon. So many stories come to us via music. Thank you so much for joining me in the procession. Sending hugs!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Mary Jo Malo says:

        Such amazing lore. Thank you for sharing with all of us. 🤗🤗🤗

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Hugs back and the hope you will hear them HERE again xxxxxxxxxx

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Mary Jo Malo says:

        You meant this for our dear Rebecca. ☺️ I too hope she gets the chance again!

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Clanmother says:

        I am stopping by to pick you up, Mary Jo!!! The bagpipes are calling!!!

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Mary Jo Malo says:

        I’m ready! 🤗🤗🤗

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Paul Andruss says:

    Stirring stuff. I can imagine everyone’s heart is now beating a little faster. It is better to travel hopefully is one of my favourite life quotes

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Let us travel hopefully together, Paul. Even though it will be virtual, it will be always hopeful!!!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Dave Astor says:

    Such an enjoyable post, Rebecca, including the wonderful music and images in the video — capped off by that excellent Robert Louis Stevenson quote near the end of the video. Quite a presentation you put together!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I am so glad that you joined me in the procession. I heard the call of the bagpipes – well, it really wasn’t me. It was my son Thomas. In 2003, we travelled to Halifax for me to attend the capstone course for my MBA. Halifax has a famous citadel where bagpipers parade through the main yard. While I was deep into my studies, Thomas visited the Citadel and met one of the bagpipers, who kindly spoke to him about his bagpipe and why he liked to bagpipe. Isn’t it interesting that one conversation can change the trajectory of a person’s journey. When we returned to Vancouver, the bagpipes entered our home. One of the reasons why Thomas chose Simon Fraser University was because of the World Champion Simon Fraser University Pipe Band. Some of those pipers were in the Stewards’ March. We plan and then serendipity comes calling.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Ms Frances says:

    This is a fantastic entry! ! i have commented in several places, but I would like to say again, that this is a very special post. The music is really enjoyable and remembering Robbie Burns shows that he was and is still very important. I saw the short photo of Thomas! I remember he learned to play, and hope that you still have a bagpipe in your home. I know he is too busy to spend much time playing it, but maybe later it will be a good relaxing time for him, at least it will bring back memories of your journey there. Thank you for these precious memories.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you for celebrating Robbie Burns with me! Thomas loves the bagpipes and being in a pipe band. There is a wonderful camaraderie that comes within a musical community. The Argyllshire Gathering was cancelled in 2020 due to the Pandemic, but plans are being made for a comeback once travel comes back.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I am thrilled that you joined me in the procession, Michael. I love the Scottish proverb “Twelve Highlanders and one bagpipe make a rebellion.”

      Liked by 4 people

      1. What a great saying!!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. J.D. says:

    That must have been something to experience. Bagpipes have a way of getting the blood pumping. Someone once told me they were used during war to aggravate the enemy. 😂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Bagpipers were the most vulnerable in battle. There are famous stories of bravery where pipers gave courage. I read that pipers defied the enemy with sheer bravado. “At Waterloo, with his regiment formed into a square and facing the onslaught of the charging French cavalry, Piper MacKay of the 79th bravely left the safety of the square to march around his comrades while he played the Pibroch, War or Peace, indifferent to the dangers he faced.”https://ageofrevolution.org/200-object/bagpipes-played-at-the-battle-of-waterloo-the-highlanders-museum-fort-george/

      Liked by 4 people

      1. J.D. says:

        So interesting, Rebecca. Thank you.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Clanmother says:

        Sending hugs!!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Lavinia Ross says:

    What a beautiful, inspiring place and interesting event! Thank you for sharing, Rebecca!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I’m so glad you joined the Stewards’ March. Music bring us together in community. And that is of great comfort to me. Hugs!!!!

      Liked by 3 people

  9. You were right about the feeling of excitement coming through the video. It was palpable and brought to mind “pagentry” and “spectacle.” Now that I think about it, the sound of bagpipes, particuarly en mass, gives a sense of a mighty, unstoppable breath that you don’t get with other wind instruments.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Did I tell you about the time that I attended my first my first piobaireachd event which took place in a home. I was so excited so I sat very close to where the bagpiper would walk (pipers walk very slowly when they play piobaireachd. There is a special protocol) I noticed that most of the audience sat farther back. When the piper began to play the first piece, I understood completely. The next time I attended a piobaireachd event, I had ear plugs. The Argyllshire Gathering was where we listened to the greatest pipers compete. It was an unforgettable moment – but I did take along my ear plugs because the competition was conducted inside. Bagpipes are sensitive to atmospheric and humidity changes – it is a very difficult instrument to play.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Liz says:

    I didn’t know, before we moved to Scotland, how much I adore the sound of bagpipes! Thank you for this wonderful post with all its might and wonder! X

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Liz – when I attended my last MBA intensive in Halifax in 2003, bagpipes were the last thing that I would ever have thought would become part of our lives. One conversation, less than 5 minutes in length, that Thomas had with a young bagpiper at the Halifax Citadel truly changed the trajectory of our lives and brought us to Scotland. We may plan our lives, but serendipity has a marvelous way of shaking things up. And that gives me great comfort. Hugs and more hugs!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Liz says:

        Oh thank heavens for that wondrous 5 minutes! X

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Jean-Jacques says:

    Ah, the bagpipe, an emotional sound ’tis this instrument, and so historically for so many reasons.One that I recall vividly was expressed during one of the many wars we humans have been made to participate, was “The lades for hell” by the enemy who seemingly were frighten by their will to persevere in impossible odds.
    If memory serves, Rebecca, your son by now must be an accomplished bagpiper by now!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thomas really enjoyed the bagpipes and had the most amazing teachers. He achieved the highest level before going professional. Professional bagpipers are remarkable. Their hours of practice are formidable. That was when Thomas had to made a very difficult decision. He is now in Phd studies at Simon Fraser University. But he will always follow the bagpipes. And Don and I will tag along….

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Carolyn Page says:

    No, Rebecca, I haven’t heard the ‘call’ of the bagpipes; something for which, I’m sure, my neighbours would be exceedingly pleased. I have, however, begun to learn the piano keyboard; something I’ve longed to do, forever! And, my neighbours don’t have to listen. Thankfully, it is of the electric variety which allows me to use headphones. They truly don’t know how lucky they are!

    What a stirring video. My first husband, Veronica’s father, was a Scot. He loved Robby Burns and all things Scottish, of course. I loved his accent, even though at times he was hard to understand, there’s something quite magical in the lilt of that tongue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clanmother says:

      I am thrilled to hear that you are learning the piano keyboard. I know you will have many hours of fun tinkling the keys. In 2021, I am going to restart my recorder studies. Music vitalizes doesn’t it? We live in a condo so when Thomas started to play, we closed all the windows and hoped for the best. YIKES!!! One day, my upstairs neighbour asked why hadn’t she heard Thomas play the bagpipe (I guess all our efforts to muffling the sound worked) Her words were “Tell Thomas I want to hear the sounds of a bagpipe.” You guessed it – she was Scottish! I am looking forward to playing a duet together – you on the piano and me with my recorder. As dear Vincent Van Gogh once wrote: “In the end we shall have had enough of cynicism, skepticism and humbug, and we shall want to live more musically.”

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Resa says:

    LOVE the pipes, always have!
    They don’t just call me, they break my heart, in a good way!
    Hahaha! I thought the part where they were warming up sounded fabulous. If you hadn’t told me I would not have known.
    Off topic, but I also adore the Tartans. There is great history and craft behind each one. Years ago, on a project, I had to acquire a specific Tartan. The place I went to sadly does not exist anymore, but the place and the people there were rich in lore. They gave me what looks like a fold out road map, the old fashioned kind.
    When unfolded, there is a numbered list of all of the Tartans, and shows them in regular and dress variations. On the other side is a map of Scotland. Here are areas with numbers that correspond to the list. So, I know where each Tartan comes from.
    I adore that map!
    {{{HUGS}}}

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      That map is a treasure Resa! Every tartan has a story and meaning. I was reading up on the ancient tartans because there is a definite difference in colours. Today’s tartans are brighter, more bold. whereas the “ancient” tartans are more subdued, red appears more orange, and the dyes are those that look more like colours you would find in nature. There are so many stories of people who immigrated from Scotland to Canada. How lucky you were to meet up with people who hold the stories. The bagpipes are a difficult instrument because of their sensitivity to heat/cold and humidity. One minutes they are in tune and the next minutes they are out of tune. One of my favourite tartans is Forever Scotland, especially the ancient colours. https://clan.com/design/3999-Scotland-Forever/

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Resa says:

        A very pretty Tartan!
        Absolutely the colours were more subdued in the past. Dyes all came from nature. Now, it’s all chemicals. Certain dyes have become illegal n Canada, because they are so hard on the environment.
        Onion skins = yellow ochre
        Beets = burgundy/aubergine
        True Indigo (a plant from the bean family) = Indigo
        Certain Grass & Leaves = various greens
        Eau de Nil = an early aniline dye
        Mauve was the first chemical dye
        A fascinating topic.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Clanmother says:

        Resa – a fascinating topic indeed. You and I have discussed fast fashion before and how we can respond to the issues of fast fashion, dyeing and environmental concerns. I just read that “A great environmental concern with dyes is the absorption and reflection of sunlight entering the water. Light absorption diminishes photosynthetic activity of algae and seriously influence on the food chain as the algae are the base of the food chain, thus affecting every organism above it”https://www.trustedclothes.com/blog/2016/06/23/impact-of-dyes/ I believe that there is a growing awareness to seek better choices in fashion. You continue to inspire me with your commitment to the environment, Resa!

        Liked by 4 people

      3. Resa says:

        I was working on a series of articles about Fast Fashion for Flapper Press, just before the pandemic hit.
        I still have the notes, and links. I might take it up again. I was hoping the Fast Fashion chains would fold up during the pandemic.
        Turns out it’s the small guys who have folded.
        Kind of crazy, but keeping it all brief, pollution is a lot to blame for the virus mess we are in. Yet, the mess we are in is creating more medical pollution than was imaginable.
        Talk about the wrong kind of recycling!
        Also, the info I was gathering about Fast Fashion was massive and depressive.
        I started having better thoughts about promoting a healthier, non-polluting fashion rave! Slow Fashion, for the beauty of body, mind and soul.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Clanmother says:

        I think you have chosen the right direction – promoting a healthier, non-polluting fashion rave. I love the idea of focusing on the possibilities. People want to care for our world, but sometimes they don’t know which steps to take and how to begin. This is a wonderful conversation, Resa!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Carolyn Page says:

    How thrilling for you to have a bagpiper in the family; it really is a unique sound; one that would have been quite stirring entering battle!
    I took the time to read some of the comments and your replies. Does Thomas still live with you? And yes, I agree; music is so intoxicating and a creator of great comradery.
    The keyboard has been sitting idle since 2014 or 15. We bought it during the time I was quite ill (2013-2015). I couldn’t play it though back then; I was just too ill with little to no energy. However, not today. Today is a much better and brighter day with loads of energy and a thirst to learn the language.
    We certainly have so much in common, Rebecca. You are indeed a great girl…
    xoxoxo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thomas has moved into a new stage of his life. He is enjoying his academic journey, but his bagpipes are always close at hand. I am so glad that you are back to health Carolyn. I look forward to our duet together! And yes, we are most certainly kindred spirits!!! Sending many hugs across the miles.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. This a fabulous post, Rebecca! I loved the video. I wanted to join in the crowd. Loved the bagpipers tuning up, the students marching, the beautiful scenery. Beautifully done and so much information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you, Catherine for following the call of the bagpipes with me. Looking back at the huge crowds without masks to cover their faces is almost a surreal experience. So much has changed over the course of one year. We were to have travelled to Scotland again this year, so I am enjoying looking back and traveling virtually. Looking forward to our many travels together!

      Liked by 1 person

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