December 12, 2017

All that glitters . . .

The recent online auction of the Highland Society of London Gold Medal from the 1902 Argyllshire Gathering raised a few eyebrows (our own included) with those in the piping community concerned about the preservation of a historical artifact.

Engraved with “William Ross,” the medal was immediately assumed to have been won by the great Pipe-Major of the Scots Guards.

The medal was listed as 20 karat solid gold and purportedly sold to a Russian gold dealer for US$1,300. But when the auction house was contacted by pipers around the world concerned with its preservation, the buyer reportedly offered to resell it to the highest bidder, starting at US$3,000.

While it is the authentic Gold Medal from 1902, it was actually won by a different William Ross, not the Willie Ross who actually achieved the prize in 1907, after winning the equivalent medal at the Northern Meeting in 1904.

pipes|drums reader and piping scholar Jeannie Campbell said, “Concerning your item on the 1902 Medal, the winner was William Ross, born 1865 in Urquhart, Ross-shire, parents John Ross, Annie Davidson, died 1930 in Edinburgh. (Brother of P-M George Ross, Black Watch.) William enlisted 1889 Black Watch. Served in Crete during the insurrection, April 1894 Pipe-Corporal 2nd Black Watch at Maryhill Barracks. October 1894, P-M 1st Seaforth. 1896-98 Sudan campaign. Wounded Atbara April 1898. June 1900 P-M on permanent staff 4th Militia Batt HLI. 1900 HLI South African War. Awarded long service and good conduct medals 1909. Discharged on pension 1912. 1914-16 P-M Royal Scots (Queens Edinburgh Rifles) at home Edinburgh. Won Oban Gold Medal 1902. Composer of “Olive Groves of Candia.” He accompanied the Scottish Curlers to Canada 1911-12. When asked how he enjoyed himself he replied, ‘My, it was cold out there, but they kept some grand whisky.’ He married Hughina Cameron 1894 in Hillhead Glasgow when he was a Lance-Corporal in the Black Watch stationed at Maryhill Barracks. Children: Johanna 1894, Williamina 1897, John 1900.”

Despite the claims of the auction house, the medal is by all accounts only plated. If so, the value of the gold itself would be nowhere near the price paid. But, to a collector of piping artifacts, the value might still be high, as the lustre and allure of one of piping’s biggest prizes rises with every year.

While we wipe the egg from our collective faces, we remain pleased that, by all accounts, there is no indication to believe that the more significantly historical Gold Medal won by Pipe-Major Willie Ross has been lost, even though its whereabouts are not known.



  1. Oh well, at least it isn’t the Black Watch pipe major William Ross who first went to Queen Victoria as sovereign’s piper before the civilian Angus MacKay…that one was sent away after he, incensed that a couple of English footmen laughed at his mode of dress, clobbered them soundly!

    Hugh Macpherson
    Pipe Major (Chief Warrant Officer Retired)

  2. It would be a horrible loss to see this medal melted down, what if someone started a gofundme page or something like this to raise the funds in order to purchase this medal. Ideally the National Piping center, to which I personally would donate money if it meant this would be added to the museum. Whomever purchased this medal for $1300 US was lucky. They are already up money on it and likely didn’t even know its true historical value (nobody really does). Anything above $1300 is pure margin. Trading 101, buy low, sell high and know your market and also have liquidity. in this case it seems the buyer fell into a great deal unknowingly. I don’t trade in gold however in this case gold is not the commodity, history is (everyone loves history). it could go for much more than $3000 if the right buyers present themselves.

    Steven T.

    1. Hey Steven, this medal is currently on ebay right now….. very interesting item…..

      looks like the same one…..

  3. Very pleased to stumble across this. The 1902 Oban Gold Medal winner (William Ross) is my great grandfather. I had some of information on his military career but this article provided more detail…fascinating, thank you for posting! I see the medal still is available on eBay.

    Jeannie Campbell – if you could provide any insight on how I can find out more on his military career I would be grateful! — Matthew Sullivan



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