OT: 12 April 1913 – John Grant “Origin of the MacCrimmons and Their Verbal Notation”



The Oban Times, 12 April, 1913

Origin of the MacCrimmons and Their Verbal Notation

Edinburgh, 7 April, 1913

Sir,–Your worthy correspondent, Dr. K. N. MacDonald, has been listened to on the above subject without interruption, but, if I may say so, the time has come when his remarks are worthy of contradiction. Of what I have read from your correspondent’s pen, his chief aim and goal seems to be glory for Gesto, and the fitting of a crown on his head for the achievements of the MacCrimmons, a race of which Gesto was no member. The major portion of Dr. McDonald’s letter in your issue of last week is purely of a religious nature, and has nothing whatever to do with the MacCrimmons or piobaireachd. It is true that all our actions should be more or less guided and governed by the religion that has cultivated and purified the inhabitants of the universe, but at the same time it is the essence of imagination even to attempt to say that the great MacCrimmons used their verbal system of noting piobaireachd for religious purposes. They never said they did. It was only Mr. Simon Fraser, Australia, who said so; he has no proof of this whatever, and now Dr. MacDonald seems to accept Mr. Fraser’s erroneous ideas.

With your permission, I will now take the opportunity of analyzing Dr. MacDonald’ s story, which runs as follows:–” To shorten the story of Petrus Bruno, he took the name of ‘Cremmon,’ and added ‘Mac’ to it. Whether this be true or not, Gesto did not invent it.” May I ask who invented it? Gesto was the only man who ever seems to have written the statement, and if he did not invent the story, who else is responsible for it?

To say that this Italian was the father of the MacCrimmons is pure nonsense, and a wrong to every Highlander that values the work of the MacCrimmons, who never saw Italy, not one of them. We have no proof of their origin being Italian. The MacCrimmons are of purely Highland origin, and had nothing to do with Cremona. We have all heard the fairytale of Patrick Mor MacCrimmon going to Italy. Traveling was ten times more expensive in the middle of the seventeenth century than it is now, and it is not cheap in 1913. There is no authentic foundation for the story.

According to Dr. MacDonald’s version, Patrick Mor went to Italy to study religion, not music. It would be better to stick to facts–not fancies! Dr. MacDonald asserts that “the Lament for the Laird of Annapole” is a “Lament for Bruno,” because r u n o occurs in the tune so often. He will find r u n o in almost every tune in Gesto’s book, and very much so in tunes Nos. VI and XIV. Now according to Dr. MacDonald’s theory, all the tunes in Gesto’s book are laments for Bruno. Dr. MacDonald says:–” Petrus, it is said, was the original inventor of sheantaireachd.” We may go on saying “it is said black is the same as white,” but when we consult facts and place them together, black is no more like white then east is beside west. I might be persuaded to believe that this Petrus invented sheantaireachd, but without doubt the MacCrimmons invented canntaireachd. The MacCrimmons were capable of laying schemes that out with their best pupils, and Gesto too. Gesto never wrote a perfect MacCrimmon system of canntaireachd–far from it.

In conclusion, it may be worthwhile pointing out to your correspondent that he contradicts himself in his letter. Dr. MacDonald said that the verbal notation of piobaireachd was Petrus Bruno’s invention, and before he closes he says it was the MacCrimmons who invented it.–I am, etc.,

John Grant

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