Published: July 31, 2003

Arthur G. Gillies (1934-2003)

Arthur G. Gillies died on the morning of July 13 at the age of 69. Arthur was one of the most respected and the most liked competitors of the scene. In 1950 he turned professional at 16 and won the local events of the Argyllshire Gathering in the same year.

Under the influences of Angus and Ronnie Lawrie of Oban, he was to become one of the most prominent exponents of the old school of Argyllshire piping. Donald MacLean of Lewis, one of his idols, was another one Arthur Gillies’s mentors. In his piobaireachd playing, Arthur had also strong Argyll connections. For more than 20 years he studied with Archie Kenneth, Stronachullin, and gained greatly from the vast knowledge of James Campbell of Kilberry. In gratitude to these men he would always refer to himself as being of the Kilberry School. With one of the tunes taught to him by Archie Kenneth, “Farewell to the Laird of Islay,” he won the Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1975.

With an incredible consistency over the years, he went on to win the Open Piobaireachd at Oban in 1993. His consistency and class as a competitor were extraordinary. He won the Open Piobaireachd at Cowal against big fields for three years in succession. In Inveraray he was able to equal this record of his own. The Senior Masters’ Gold Axe at the Lochaber Gathering in Fort William he won on three occasions, which he considered himself one of his greatest achievements. Never retiring from professional competition, Arthur went on for more than 50 years of constant success on the boards.

The crispness of fingers, the sweetness of his bagpipe, and his natural musicality added up to performances that will be remembered by many as among the best. After the passing of his beloved wife, Barbara, in 1993, Arthur devoted a lot of his time and commitment to teaching and encouraging others. An instructor at the summer schools of the Piping Centre, a loyal supporter of the College of Piping, a respected teacher on the outer Hebrides as well as a popular instructor in Alaska, North America and Germany, Arthur encouraged piping where he could. Especially on German piping he had a tremendous impact, teaching at summer schools and workshops organized specially for him for more than seven continuous years.

Arthur was one of the finest men one could have met. He was genuine, he was generous with his knowledge, and he had a natural gift of gaining friends and being a loyal friend himself. The piping circle will not be the same again without him. He will be missed greatly. The funeral will be held at Kilchrenan at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, July 18.

– Submitted by Martin Kessler

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