OT: 27 May 1911 – Charles Bannatyne “The Great Highland Bagpipe and Its Music”



The Oban Times, 27 May, 1911

The Great Highland Bagpipe in Its Music

Salsburgh, by Holytown, 20 May, 1911

Sir,–Your correspondent, “Morag,” today asks me to prove a negative to the following statements made by him in your issue of 6th inst.:–

(1). That the bagpipe was in the Highlands in the year 100 A.D., as stated by Quintillianus. Where is the statement to be found?

(2). That several piobaireachd named by him, such as “The Desperate Battle” (1390) and several others of earlier date, were composed at the time of the events they celebrate.

(3). That the Clan Menzies and the bagpipes were at Bannockburn in 1314.

As “Morag” made the statements ex parte, the onus of proof lies with him.

Your correspondent also says:–” I can give both of your correspondents (‘Sassenach’ and Dr. Bannatyne) an answer, and a satisfactory one too, to any question which they may put to me on the subject on which I am writing.”

That is all I have asked him to do, and I again ask him to do so. I do not negative his statements; I only seek for proof.

“Morag” also says:–”I am much indebted to Dr. Bannatyne for correcting the misprint regarding ‘the MacLeod’s Controversy.’ It was composed in 1503, not in 1603 as appears in my letter. Perhaps your correspondent overlooks the fact that he admits that they bagpipe was in the Highlands 100 years earlier than he did in his lecture by this correction.” This is surely dissimulation. “Morag” states in his letter of 6th inst. that “MacLeod’s Controversy” was composed in 1503. I corrected this to 1603. In my lecture I stated that no reference can be found to the bagpipes in the Highlands earlier than the latter part of the 16th century. I say so still. I may inform “Morag” that 1503 was the 16th century.

I say again I can’t find reference to the bagpipe in Scotland from 1326 onwards, in history, but no reference to it in Highland history earlier than the 16th century.

The “great” Highland bagpipe or warpipe was called “great” simply to distinguish it from the “lesser” or reel-pipe. Perhaps a quotation from my lecture, “Pipes, Pipers, and Piobaireachd” (1904) a prude to “Morag” that I am no enemy of the bagpipe:–” Whence, when, or how the bagpipe came to Scotland matters little in face of the fact that to the Highlanders it owes its celebrity in war, song, and story, and its immortal niche in the temple of fame. It is to them it owes its greatness as the vehicle of the whole gamut of the essential human passions.”

While I think the bagpipe was in the Highlands from a very early date, say 45 A.D., I cannot prove it, and I want “Morag” to prove it, simply because he asserts it. Assertion and proof are two different things. –I am, etc.,

Charles Bannatyne, M.B., C.M.

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