OT: 20 February 1937 – John Grant “Angus MacKay and Piobaireachd”



The Oban Times, 20 February, 1937

Angus MacKay and Piobaireachd

 Lochnagar, Edinburgh, 12 February, 1937

Sir,–Mr. MacPherson calls it my “Autobiography” when I give him facts, and I know he does not like that. He speaks of my “tree,” and I am not ashamed of it. In this respect I am not alone. Mr. MacPherson has got a “tree” also, but the plums have fallen off.

Mr. MacPherson would have the readers of the Oban Times to believe that in becoming piper to Abercairny I got his cast off clothes. One of the conditions of service at Abercairney was that the piper must play a piobaireachd every evening. My master was a connoisseur in Ceòl Mor. The Toarluath and Crunluath were his favourite variations, and they had to be played correctly, as did the MacCrimmons and all the old masters of the art. I can do that, and did it.

Mr. MacPherson draws my attention to a pipe tune which appeared in the Oban Times. Let me tell him there is not a tune nor a word that escapes my eye in the Oban Times. There is no need to draw his friend into the matter at all. I can form my own opinion of the tune, and I leave the rest of the readers of the Oban Times to do the same, other than to say there is no Toarluath movement in it.

Mr. MacPherson calls in the Piobaireachd Society to his aid. Why? They will not help him out of the difficulty which he finds himself.

Angus MacKay was a piper of the very highest rank, and Her Majesty Queen Victoria honoured him by appointing him as her personal piper. He not only collected and preserved all the piobaireachd which we possess, he wrote them correctly. He had a perfect knowledge of the theory of music, and was a composer of a very high order.

If we are to compare Mackay with this family of MacPherson’s of which my opponent speaks, what then? We have not a note to play, nor a word to guide the perplexed piper from Mr. MacPherson or his forefathers. Had it not been for Angus Mackay we would have had no piobaireachd to-day. Mr. MacPherson says “when he (Mr. Grant) can emulate the record held by the family from whom I am descended he will then be in a position to write with authority.”

In conclusion let me tell Mr. MacPherson that I do not stand on the ruins of departed glory, and baost of what my father did, but I lay before him the challenge (or more autobiography if he cares) that when he creates the record which I hold he will not only be able to write with authority, but have the necessary ability and knowledge to stand on his own.–I am, etc.,

John Grant

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