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Updated 05/10/2013


The Atholl and Breadalbane Gathering
Pipe Major William Fergusson

Not to be confused with the Atholl Gathering (and its associated Highland Games at Blair Castle), the Atholl and Breadalbane Highland Games take place in early August, on Aberfeldy's Victoria Park.  Breadalbane (Scottish Gaelic: Brŕghad Albainn, the upper part of Alba) is a region of the southern/central Scottish Highlands in Atholl. 

The tune was composed by Pipe Major William Fergusson (1885-1945).  William Fergusson (shown above) was born in Arbroath in 1885 and died in Glasgow in 1949. Composer of such march standards as “The Australian Ladies,” “The Atholl and Breadalbane Gathering,” and “Kintara to El Arish,” as well as the strathspey “Dornie Ferry,” he learned piping in the 102nd Boys Brigade under ‘P/M Hutchins,’ and was then taught by 7th Battalion H.L.I. Pipe Major Farquhar MacRae, a pupil of Sandy Cameron. He would succeed MacRae as pipe major in 1914, though before this he was divisional pipe major of the 52nd Lowland Division. Most of his great tunes were written during the war years. 

After the war he became pipe major of the City of Glasgow Pipe Band, which became the legendary Clan MacRae Pipe Band. In this position he became one of the first of the modern era’s great prize-winning pipe majors, leading the Clan MacRae to World Championships in 1921, 1922, 1923 and 1925 and unrivalled success throughout the 1920s. The band was a prize-winning machine, and on the day of one of their Cowal wins, Sir Harry Lauder was heard to exclaim, “You would actually think it was one set of pipes and a drum that was playing!"
Fergusson left the band in 1929 on the eve of his first tour of Canada. Hamish MacColl succeeded him as piper major. MacColl had been tutored by Fergusson and had been a member of the band since 1907.

Fergusson would tour Canada again in 1931.  In 1940 he published Fergusson’s Bagpipe Melodies, which contained tunes and arrangements by himself and others. Known by many as “Fergie,” he was an enthusiastic member of the Scottish Pipers’ Association during his latter years. 

When he died in 1949 his fame was  such that it warranted an appreciation in the Oban Times written by the great Robert Reid.