OT: 30 November 1912 – K.N. MacDonald “Highland Music and “Sheantaireachd”



The Oban Times, 30 November, 1912

Highland Music and “Sheantaireachd.”

21 Clarendon Crescent, Edinburgh, 24 November, 1912

Sir,–In a second letter from Mr. Simon Fraser, he writes:–

“Since writing you last week I went out to Mrs. Godfrey Mackinnon, Blackburn, and had a very interesting chat with her about Gesto. She also very kindly lent me your books, ‘The Gesto Collection’ and ‘The Skye Collection of Strathspeys and reels,’ and I must congratulate you by saying that they are the best collections I have ever seen (not bad for a compiler). I have Capt. Fraser’s Low’s, Gow’s, and several others. I am considered a good all round player of dance music, and have been playing strathspeys and reels on the violin since 1860, having been taught by a Mr. John Smith, a noted player in Edinburgh for 18 years before he came out here. I told you in my last that Peter Bruce had lessons from Gesto as well as from his father, Sandy Bruce, and he often spoke to me about this when teaching myself, and he taught me in exactly the same way as he was taught himself, by chanting over the beats and then showing me how to finger them on the chanter. I enclose Peter and John Bruce’s photos, as I thought you would like to have them. Mrs. Mackinnon knew them both well, and they were both highly respected. Tell Dr. Bannatyne that I wish him every success with his book, as it may be the means of restoring the MacCrimmon notation once more. Judging from your own compositions in your excellent books, I would be greatly pleased to have a copy of any piobaireachd you composed, as we would learn to play it. I have never seen a complete piobaireachd correctly noted in ordinary notation, and I found that out years ago when writing down tunes as I was taught to play them, and when I wrote them down I found the beats to correspond exactly with the beats as in MacLeod’s books. The letters I or e are one of the puzzles in MacLeod’s books, and these beats are not there is written in Mackays and others; dra and tra are the same, so are dro and tro; I hein and hiein are different, so are I hiririne and hieririne.

Yours truly,

(Signed) Simon Fraser.”

I venture to send Mr. Fraser’s letter for insertion in your columns, as it may interest some readers.–I am, etc.,

K. N. MacDonald

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