The Oban Times, 19 August, 1933
The MacCrimmon Memorials
12 August, 1933
Sir,–It is gratifying to those interested in the music of the MacCrimmons that at last some memorial to them has been placed near their old home.
Why, however, should the writer of your very interesting article describing the unveiling etc. (and others) ascribe the tune” Lament for Rory Mor” (thirteenth Chief, who died in 1626) to Patrick Mor MacCrimmon.
Donald Mor MacCrimmon was piper to Rory Mor and accompanied him to Ireland in 1594. Donald Mor probably died some years later than Rory Mor. The tune is, of course, by Donald Mor. His style is not that of the son Patrick. Donald Mor’s tunes have a bold, crude strength not so apparent in his son’s. The tune is certainly in the same style as other well-known tunes composed by Donald Mor. It is interesting to find it on record that a Donald MacCrimmon, piper, was with Mackay (afterwards Lord Reay) in Tongue in May 1612. This gives credence to the story that Donald Mor did take refuge with Mackay after the “Flame of Wrath” incident, and there composed “Too long in this Condition.”
Patrick Mor MacCrimmon was piper to Ian, fourteenth Chief of MacLeod (died about 1649) and to Rory (the “Witty”), fifteenth Chief (died about 1664). Patrick Mor’s style is less crudely grand that his father’s, but perhaps more melodious and sweet. Besides the many tunes known to have been composed by him, he could perhaps be credited with “Is it mirthful you are” (perhaps composed on the birth of Rory the Witty), the “Lament for the HarpTree,” the “Lament for Hector of the Battles” etc. The “Lament for the Earl of Antrim” is possibly one of his early compositions.
Patrick Og MacCrimmon was piper to Ian Breac, sixteenth chief (died 1693), and was alive when Mary MacLeod, the poetess, died, possibly soon after her Chief; vide “Lament for Mary MacLeod.” Ian Breac’s harper was Rory Dall and his bardess Mary MacLeod. Unfortunately there are few tunes which can be definitely ascribed to Patrick Og. His “Lament for Mary MacLeod” is perhaps best known. He must have composed this after he composed his “Lament for Ian Garve. The reference to the “fingers of Patrick” in one of Mary MacLeod’s poems must, of course, be to the fingers of Patrick Og. It is clear, in any case, that as a composer Patrick Og did not approach his father or grandfather.
Of subsequent MacCrimmons there are few who could be called composers of great merit. Certainly Donald Bane is credited with “MacCrimmon will never return,” and if the tune is his, all honour to him. Some think the tune older than his time, however, in which case the song may have been composed to earlier music.
The tune “I got a kiss of the King’s hand” is often ascribed to Patrick Mor, it being said he accompanied Rory Mor to London and there kissed the King’s hand! As Donald Mor was Rory Mor’s piper, Patrick Mor could hardly have composed a tune on such an occasion. Certainly its style is more that of Donald Mor than Patrick Mor.
We have, however, the evidence of the Wardlaw MS that this tune was composed at Torwood in 1651 by “John Macgurmen,” piper to the Earl of Sutherland. This “MacGurmen” was a “very old man” at the time and, if a “MacCrimmon,” may perhaps have been a brother of Donald Mor. Certainly the tune is not Patrick Mor’s style at all, but more that of Donald. “The Glen is Mine” has merit, and was composed by John MacCrimmon, piper to the Earl of Seaforth and son of Patrick Og.
The present is a very suitable time to raise points of this nature, with the unveiling of the MacCrimmon Memorials fresh in our memories, and they are raised with no desire to belittle the sentiment connected with the old music.
I am, etc.,
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