OT: 12 March 1921 – Charles Bannatyne “Piobaireachd, Canntaireachd and Tosh”



The Oban Times, 12 March, 1921

                                               Piobaireachd, Canntaireachd and Tosh

 Salsburgh, 28 February, 1921

 Sir,–The continuation of Mr. McInnes’s serial has not taught me anything new regarding Piobaireachd or Canntaireachd, but has given me a sane [?] and deep appreciation of the slang word “Tosh.” The bigger part of the Johannesburg letter concerns Mr. Fraser, for whom I hold no brief, though I may say he knows the MacCrimmon verbal notation well. Regarding Captain Neil MacLeod of Gesto, the late Dr. K.N. MacDonald, writing to me in 1912, stated that MacLeod was a piper and a MacCrimmon pupil. It seems a pity the title of MacLeod’s collection did not awake more than emotion in your correspondent’s mind. The description, “as verbally taught by the MacCrimmon pipers to their pupils,” would point to the obvious deduction that they taught music by their own musical notation, as it was the only one day new. Mr. McInnes detects tune No. 8 in MacLeod’s book, “Greshornish,” as being the same as “MacLeod’s Rowing.” The detection is rather amusing in face of the fact that the Piobaireachd Society in a note regarding this tune published in 1905 state plainly what Mr. McInnes has apparently newly detected. It is there also suggested that the use of the word “Rowing” is due to a mis-translation, “Port Iomarbhadh Mhic Leoid” or “MacLeod’s Strife.” The history of the tune has no reference to boats or rowing, and its rhythm does not seem suitable for keeping time to oars.

The bar, “hiendo botriea hioa himli” is high G grace note on E, opening low A. D grace note on B, plain C, double E opening D, G grace on E, plain B and D, G grace on low A opening E with G grace note. Sir, I have had a very good musical training and I am a highly-trained vocalist. In studying speech in song according to the scientific methods of A.J. Ellis, F.R.S., I learned that vowels had a time value, that sounded dwells on them alone and that consonants interrupt or cut off sound. Therefore, in spite of Mr. McInnes, the whole time and rhythm are present in my line of “The Big Spree” :Hienho durnraw hodin hiohovi odro hiawdrawdin, and the grace notes too are all there. Mr. MacInnes says “hodin” is C, A, but where are the grace notes? He has a lot more to detect yet before his bombshells are fit to do much damage. His high G grace note is on C, d is D grace note on A, e.g., “hodin.”

Mr. McInnes says he cannot reconcile one of my statements with sanity. The fact that his own mind cannot grasp this statement is no reason why he should endeavour to cast reflections upon the mental calibre of his opponent.

I am tired of the sophistries which try to teach the humbug of pipers, after the forty-five concealing their tunes and making them devoid of time, tune, accent and rhythm. I edited many tunes for the Scottish Piobaireachd Society many years ago, and I defy Mr. McInnes, the President of the R. A. M., or any other body to find a flaw in the notation time, tune, accent, rhythm or any other point, clerical errors and misprints always accepted. I am, etc.,

 Charles Bannatyne, M.B., C.M.

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