OT: 18 May 1912 – Charles Bannatyne

The Oban Times, 18 May, 1912

Salsburgh, by Holytown

13 May, 1912

Sir,–It may not serve any good purpose to pursue this controversy further, seeing so much extraneous matter is being introduced: but it is my earnest wish that Mr. Grant should be given every legitimate chance of adding to his knowledge both of controversy and piobaireachd.

He tries in vain to get away from the statement he made that I claimed to be one of two man alive who understood pipers’ sol-fa. I challenged him to say when and where I made the statement. He cannot; and he is not keen and honourable sportsman enough to say he was mistaken, but instead, asks why I did not contradict the statement.

He has never yet explained the reference to the keen and devoted few who have studied canntaireachd, nor the laudation of its uses, to be found in the preface to the last edition of his published works, and in view of the remarks there made, his present uncompromising hostility to all forms of pipers’ notation is, at least, amusing.

Mr. Grant’s last letter does not explain away his travesty of the honour and veracity of the late Captain Macleod, who had a collection of nearly two hundred tunes in MacCrimmon canntaireachd, some of them written by Patrick Mor. He says I published a key to the Gesto collection admittedly made up by the hints and help of others. When and where did I admit this? I published a key which, whether right or wrong, turns Captain Macleod’s canntaireachd into music.

Mr. Grant says he can put the notation alongside tunes in modern notation and so read the music. Can he? Let him try it with tunes 5, 15, 17, and 19, and tell us what he makes of them. He says I cannot play piobaireachd. This is another of the many things he knows nothing about.

After this the greater part of his letter is taken up with praise of himself and his publications, and he tells with evident gusto how he and his teams have been fêted and lauded by those in high places. I may just add that it is left to come in more plebeian spheres to prick the bubble, and this is the first tilt.

Regarding Mr. Grant’s tunes, I am sure they will go down to posterity, though the point from which they are viewed may not be so appallingly high as that from which their maker regards them. He says he had a letter from me praising them as fine melodies, I challenge him to produce and print such a letter in your columns. He has my permission to do so. There is part of a text which says, “By their works shall ye know them.” It will soon be apparent to anyone who studies Mr. Grant’s works that the estimate of his knowledge to be derived from them is very much less flattering than his own estimate contained in your columns last week.

If any of your readers would like to become pibroch composers à la mode, here is a recipe. Take phrases and cadences from every known Pibroch, write them down on separate slips, mix them up in a hat or other suitable receptacle, then get somebody to draw them out separately. String them together as drawn, give them names, and print them, then pose. This is one method of composing; the other is born in a man. All the born pibroch composers are dead!–I am, etc.,

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

© Copyright Pipe Major John Grant - Designed for Dr. Alan Armstrong