The Oban Times, 29 November, 1924
The Prince’s Salute
Johannesburg, 22nd October, 1924
Sir, –Your correspondent Mr. George MacKay, began my telling us that the tune had changed, and how the Taorluadh and Doubling ought really to be played. He admitted that he had no authority for his statements except his own opinion. Notwithstanding his admission he still confidently asserts that he is right in that everybody else is wrong.
I noticed some letters a while ago complaining of other tunes being misconstrued and misunderstood. From their general tone and the fact that they were signed “Bratach Bhan Clann Aoidh,” and dated from Edinburgh, I take them to be from the same Mr. MacKay. Now, if Mr. MacKay has set out to improve Piobaireachd generally, it would be as well to examine the whole matter further to see if his views are at all worthy of consideration. He is very strong against irregularity, and is wroth at the mere suggestion of it, although there is plenty of evidence to show that it has existed for a long time. For his views to carry any weight, he must be consistent; yet I have heard him play often, and certainly in many tunes I have heard him lengthen the bar with cadences. Further, he has kindly sent me a copy of the “Prince’s Salute” as he plays it, and there is no regularity in it. In the ground there are bars of the value of 9, 9 ½ and 10 quavers respectively, besides starting notes of the value of 2 quavers to each phrase, which he says are essential. This is a sample of what he calls regular metre, I suppose. In addition, the last note, G, in the second bar, and A in the fourth bar, is a crotchet instead of a quaver. What can any musician think of this, and what weight can the views of the author of it carry?
I am misconstrued as quoting Dr. Johnstone as an authority on Piobaireachd, when I mentioned him as a witness only. I am asked to account for the virgins and published style, but do not see that it is incumbent on me to do so. If the suggestion is of any use, what about the probability of there having been other enthusiasts with a mission to improve Piobaireachd, to their own satisfaction at any rate.
Why make confusion by unwarranted alteration? Mr. MacKay thinks he has discovered something in Piobaireachd; but it seems to be the same kind of discovery that the Pickwick club made when they found the stone on which the immortal Bill Stubbs had set his mark. –I am, etc.,