OT: 11 September 1915 – John Grant “The Highland Bagpipe and Gaelic Song”



The Oban Times, 11 September, 1915

The Highland Bagpipe and Gaelic Song

27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, 30 August, 1915

Sir,–Mr. MacPharlain’s letter of the 28th ult. says I have gone back to a matter which has been settled already. Sir, he has never settled anything; he has not answered my question. May I ask it again? What has the Highland Bagpipe got to do with Gaelic song, that he compares them? He has not answered this question.

In the eyes of all lovers of the Bagpipe, Highland or Lowland, there is no relation between the two; thus I see there is no need for your correspondent to clash them together. Of course, we all know that the military authorities will never have twelve men and drums singing Gaelic songs at the head of our Highland Regiments. This is the sum and substance of Mr. MacPharlain’s contention.

Sir Walter Scott, that greatest of all Scottish writers, says that–” Twelve Highlanders and a Bagpipe made a Rebellion,” but 1200 Gaelic songsters would create no inspiration in the bosom of Highlanders and a Highland Regiment to-day.

There are not nine notes in the Highland bagpipe scale. There are only eight. One must stick to Bagpipe music for genuine Highland Bagpipe music, and not mix that up with music played on the Highland Bagpipe that does not belong to it. We cannot allow an argument to be used to suit the individual and to help him out of the serious difficulty. One must stick to facts.

I have read the book by Mr. Grattan Flood, and my opinion of it is as of Mr. MacPharlain. Neither appears in the image, garb or spirit of the Highlanders who plays the pipes. Mr. Flood would fain claim everything about the pipes to be Irish, but never while I live. I do not know exactly about Mr. Flood, but Mr. MacPharlain admits himself that he cannot play the bagpipes. Then that being his own admission, I say in plain English that Mr. MacPharlain does not know anything whatever of the real merits of its music.

I do not care a couple of old chanter reeds for what Mr. Flood knows of music. I know Highland pipe music, and can play it and the bagpipes too.–I am, etc.,

John Grant

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