The Oban Times, 14 November, 1931?
MacCrimmon Memorial and Music
Cape Town, South Africa, 23 September, 1931
Sir,–I read with great interest the letter of your correspondent, Mr. Cameron, on the subject of a MacCrimmon Memorial and Music. I am inclined to side with Mr. Cameron on his remarks about the proposed memorial. The pipers were not strongly in evidence on the subscription list, and I think the subscription list is as far as the memorial will get.
Your correspondent states that MacLeod of Gesto published a book of fifty tunes as dictated by John Dubh MacCrimmon, and that it contained a key to the sheantaireachd, a history of the MacCrimmons, and verses to the tunes by Padruig Mor. Further, that the book was condemned by the censors and was burned, with the exception of two notations which escaped the flames. The Gesto book of twenty tunes was reprinted by Jock Glen in 1880, but this book has no key and no fixed system of vocables, and is of little use except for the tunes, which are known. One could not decipher an unknown tune with any degree of certainty. As to its being a world’s classic, there will no doubt be conflicting opinions on the subject. If Mr. Cameron would be the means of having this “banned” book of Gesto’s reprinted, piping enthusiasts would be greatly indebted to him. There would be no lack of funds to support this project.
I am afraid your correspondent is treading on uncertain ground by stating that the MacCrimmons were the first to compose Ceol Mor. We cannot honour them too much, but at the same time we must not depart from facts. No doubt they elaborated and perfected the compositions, but there were many fine pieces prior to their time. There are also many fine tunes by other composers (some of them unknown) whose compilations compare with, and in some cases surpass, anything produced by the MacCrimmons. Not one of them attained to the heights of Ian Dall as composer and poet. Born blind, yet his poetic description of Nature is not surpassed. Ceol Mor with his compositions reached its climax.
Your correspondent is too severe in his strictures on present-day judging. The judging was never fairer than it is to-day, as almost every judge is a player. The encouragement given to young players is greater than ever before. Credit is surely due to the Piobaireachd Society for the praiseworthy changes they have wrought during the past twenty years.
There need not be any argument as to how the MacCrimmons played, because that has been preserved by Angus MacKay, who wrote down all his father’s music, and his father was a pupil and friend of John MacCrimmon.
Are the English verses quoted by your correspondent translations? I cannot imagine any of the MacCrimmons giving expression to their poetic feelings in a foreign tongue.–I am, etc.,