The Oban Times, 20 May, 1911
17 May, 1911
Sir,–in your issue of last week I read with interest the continuation letter by our correspondent “Morag.” A great deal of doubt exists as to the origin of our bagpipe. It does not place us a whit nearer the truth to state that the bagpipe existed in this and the next place, and then come to the conclusion that it is of foreign origin.
Every nationality under the sun has its own musical instrument, designed and constructed according to the existing times. Why make an exception of an excluded the bold, fearless race north of the Grampians? Are we to imagine that it was not in the Highlander to construct his own musical instrument or bagpipe. Only a “Sassenach” imagines these things.
It takes a Highlander of the “Morag” type, whole-hearted and with a love purely Celtic for an instrument and music so peculiarly our own to be so imbued as to write by such glowing terms as “Morag” has done upon a subject dear to the hearts of all Highlanders.
“Sassenach” writes to offer information which he does not think is at present public property. I may inform “Sassenach” that the contents of the said pamphlet never were wholly confined to [?]. Its contents did and still interest me a little, but do not prove to us that our bagpipe is of foreign origin. Travel abroad and you find practically extinct the foreign bagpipe set before us as the form at birth of our beloved instrument. Such as do exist abroad have met with no improvement worth talking about. The Highlander alone can lay claim to the instrument now, existing in our midst, handed down in crude form through generations of [?]ing existence, improved upon from time to time, until at last we have with us in instrument well modeled and beautifully finished, having as its birthplace “the land of brown heath and shaggy wood.” By the Highlander alone comes a natural place for the Great Highland Bagpipe.
My object in writing and voicing my appreciation through these columns for the letters by “Morag” was partly to ask the support of so able a pen towards furthering the cause of piobaireachd composition. No, “Morag,” it was never proved that the art of composing piobaireachd was far behind; nothing has ever been done to seek out those who do compose and write down their own compositions–an art not given to all. The art will never be lost or forgotten as long as the Great Highland Bagpipe exists (more proof on its behalf as an instrument of the Highlands), but knowledge of the art will certainly be lost to the public at large if something is not done by way of encouragement. I have always voiced the matter in past contributions of mine, and I would again suggest that something be done annually by way of competition, say at Oban and Inverness, or elsewhere, each competitor to hand in a copy or copies of one or more piobaireachd, composed and written by himself, one of which he may be called upon to play, and judged accordingly.
Finally, no good can arise by wrongously (sic) representing the Great Highland Bagpipe as of other than Celtic origin. Let us study and weigh carefully the natural instinct born in all Highlanders for the bagpipes. To them nothing appeals like the soul-stirring and inspiring music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. There is a something in all this that cannot be expressed in words. –I am, etc.,
Loch Sloy [D. Macfarlane, Piper, Oban]