Lochaber Gathering pipers tune up for live event in August

Lochaber Gathering adult winners were, from left, Andrew K Lewis, Sandy Cameron, Sean McKeown and James McHattie. NO F35 Lochaber gathering festival adult winners
Lochaber Gathering adult winners in 2019 were, from left, Andrew K Lewis, Sandy Cameron, Sean McKeown and James McHattie. Picture: Abrightside Photography.

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A summer of silence could be broken in August with the skirl o’ the pipes ringing out across Fort William and beyond.

Lochaber Piping Association has announced that the popular Lochaber Gathering professional piping contest will go ahead this year, after cancellation in 2020.

Barring unforeseen problems, it will be one of the first ‘in person’ solo contests to be held in Scotland post-pandemic.

Following the sad news last year of the death of Allan MacColl, who almost single-handedly ran the competition, it looked as if this popular and successful event might disappear from the calendar.

However, the society stepped up to the mark and agreed with the MacColl family that they would take over the running of the competition.

Ken Cameron, society chairman told the Lochaber Times: ‘As well as providing an outlet for competitors after a long enforced absence, this event brings the very best players from the UK and abroad for an audience to appreciate the skills and the music on display.

‘Piping and its music are important cultural assets and bringing excellence to Lochaber, in this now novel ‘Live’ format, will form a real step towards normality.

‘This would not have been possible without the support of The Moidart Trust and The P F Charitable Trust, whose generosity has enabled the society to organise the event.’

Mr Cameron also revealed the group was looking to name one of the categories after the late banker and philanthropist Robin Fleming, who was a great benefactor of the competition for many years.

Whilst retaining the attractive prizes, which have long been a feature of the competition, this year will also see an exciting change of venue, with the event being held in the centre of Fort William, using the new cinema for two indoor platforms, plus a covered outside space.

‘The change of venue puts this event in the centre of Fort William at the height of the tourist season and should bring a boost to the profile of the town in the form of an event that can be enjoyed and appreciated by tourists and locals,’ added Mr Cameron.

For the competitors, the Lochaber Gathering will comprise a familiar array of classes, although the number of entries will likely have to be capped and, unfortunately, there will be no junior competition. The society has said it will review this for subsequent years.

The competition, on Friday August 27, will follow straight on from the Argyllshire Gathering, August 25 and 26. The Northern Meeting is scheduled to begin just a few days later on September 2.

The plan at the moment is to hold the Piobaireachd and MSR competitions indoors and the outdoor area in Cameron Square for Hornpipes and Jigs.

Further details, including how to enter, will be announced soon.

Photograph in August 2019 dated folder (NO-F35-Lochaber-gathering-festival-adult-winners.jpg).