OT: 14 August 1915 – John Grant “The Highland Bagpipe and Gaelic Song”



The Oban Times, 14 August, 1915

The Highland Bagpipe and Gaelic Song

27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, 2 August, 1915

Sir,–Those taking part in controversies often go wide of the mark, and, like your correspondent, Mr. Calum MacPharlain, some correspondents would rather wander from the subject altogether then answer the direct question concerned.

Your correspondent seems to maintain that my object in writing is to advertise my new work, “Piobaireachd: Its Origin and Construction.” Such is not the case. Now, Sir, I understand that Mr. Calum MacPharlain is responsible for the publication under the heading of “The Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness.” This work was reviewed in your columns, so your correspondent got an advertisement of a work which he is responsible for. Your correspondent appears as a sort of jester or Indian juggler in his manner of replying to my last letter, and I shall pass over without notice his remarks which have no direct bearing on the subject. Having regard to your space, I shall speak to the point.

In dealing with the work edited by Mr. MacPharlain, your reviewer said that Mr. MacPharlain did not give the bagpipe much credit as regards its influence on Gaelic song. Your reviewer agrees with me that Mr. MacPharlain’s manner was hostile to what I claim to be the most superior and invaluable instrument in the world in the present crisis. Mr. MacPharlain attempted in his statements to lower the reputation and lessen the value of the great Highland Bagpipe by saying that it was the enemy of Gaelic and Gaelic song. This is the whole matter in dispute. If Mr. MacPharlain is not jealous of the Highland bagpipe, why does he use it as a means of comparison with Gaelic song? They have no connection. Gaelic songs are not genuine bagpipe music, and genuine bagpipe music is not Gaelic song. Genuine bagpipe music has no words, and it cannot be sung. Therefore the one can in no way be compared with the other. This being so, why bring the Highland Bagpipe into the matter of Gaelic song at all? The Highland Bagpipe and Gaelic song are as different as sugar and salt. If your correspondent admits that he is jealous of the Highland bagpipe, as it is clearly to be seen and he is in an extreme degree, or that he cannot play the instrument nor understand its music, then the correspondence is ended. If he does not admit jealousy, but still holds out as he has done, he puts himself in the position of refusing to face facts until they are brought home to him.

I am delighted to see that Mr. MacPharlain admits that the Highland Bagpipe wiped the bard and the harper out of the retinue of the Highland Chieftain. The bagpipe gained the victory, and the reigns supreme to-day in the field of battle, inspiring millions to victory, and the same instrument administers the last strain of music to the dying Highlander.–I am, etc.,

John Grant

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