The Oban Times, 17 November, 1914
Piobaireachd and the MacCrimmon Sol-Fa
27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, 12 October, 1914
Sir,–Although this subject has been thrashed out to a considerable extent, Mr. Simon Fraser seems to be as persistent as ever it is old world style of controversy. He is most particular in his quotation of the date on which it began on this subject, but as regards its ending he has made a grievous miscalculation.
He says I started on a voyage, had a rough passage, and ended where I began. Imagination goes a long way, and it is this imagination that lies between Mr. Fraser and success. If the editor of “The Oban Times” cannot spare room to publish Mr. Fraser’s six-syllabled movements in staff and sol-fa notation in detail, I am sure if Mr. Fraser sends them in MS. to Oban I will get them there, and thus be enlightened or disappointed, although I am convinced that the latter will be the result.
As I have done already, I would remind Mr. Fraser that the Canntaireachd is only one form of notation, and the instrumental performance is not affected by it in the least. It would be madness for the British Army to go to the Continent to fight with obsolete armaments. Our weapons and methods of war must be up to date to ensure success.
The same illustration applies to piobaireachd. As “Mons Meg” on the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle, is out of date, the same may be said of Canntaireachd. It is a relic. We are proud of our relics, and we are proud of remnants we possess of canntaireachd, but it has passed as a notation. No piper living ever learned a tune from it, although Mr. Fraser will doubtless inform us in the Mother Country that he has; but we have only his word for that, as we have for his entire knowledge on piobaireachd. We have neither heard Mr. Fraser play piobaireachd nor seen his writing of it; nor have we ever been informed that he can compose “Ceol Mor.”
As is well known to readers of “The Oban Times,” several men have sneered at my efforts in the composition of piobaireachd; but that does not lessen the value of my work. I have fulfilled my purpose. Two of the critics who have hopelessly failed to dismantle the “Royal Collection of Piobaireachd” have never composed a single bar of piobaireachd, and for that reason we can never hope to judge there capabilities in the art. I have already challenged both of them in the art of piobaireachd playing. They have not yet accepted, but turned a deaf ear, and were I to do so to Mr. Simon Fraser he might say–”but what about the seas between us?”
I would not have people believe that I can overshadow the MacCrimmons themselves, or that I hold the key of piobaireachd in my own hands, but I would not like to light a candle and place it under a bushel. My third publication on the art of piobaireachd is on the eve of issue, and Mr. Fraser will get there in black and white what the study of piobaireachd means, and it will be open for any of my opponents to eclipse it.–I am, etc.,