Introducing the personal letters to John Grant


Thanks to the descendants of Pipe-Major John Grant I have photographs of many letters he received from functionaries in the Royal Household of the United Kingdom thanking him for gifts, illustrated brochures of his original compositions, collections of bagpipe music, and the like. I believe these have historical value, for many are the product of such notable people as Alan Lascelles, Frederick A. M. Browning, Sir Dighton Probyn, and Henry Streatfeild, among others, all of whom signed their letters by hand.

As time permits, I am now placing these letters in the “Personal Letters” section of this website.  When one of Grant’s original tunes are referenced, a link is being provided for the reader to see and hear the music in question.


Alan Armstrong

OT: 29 March 1924 – [unsigned] “Scottish Piper’s Association / Bagpipe Competition in Glasgow”

The Oban Times

29 March, 1924

Scottish Piper’s Association

Bagpipe Competition in Glasgow

The bagpipe competition held in the Religious Institution Rooms, Buchanan Street Glasgow, under the auspices of the Scottish Pipers’ Association attracted a large number of competitors and others interested in pipe music.

In opening the proceedings Pipe-Major William MacLean, Locheil Camerons, Stirling, made sympathetic reference to the death of Dr. Charles Bannatyne, a life member of the Association, and a recognised authority on pipe music, who was ever ready to encourage the young in the art of bagpipe playing. He was pleased to say that the Scottish Pipers’ Association was doing everything possible to encourage the playing of Piobaireachds, Ceol Mor, Marches, Strathspeys and Reels. To become a member of such an excellent Association of bagpipe enthusiasts was a very easy matter as the membership fee was a very modest one. Numerically and financially the Association was in a flourishing condition, and its membership included some of the best-known Highlanders and pipers in Scotland.

The officials of the Association were much indebted to the secretary, Pipe-Major Malcolm MacLean Currie for the excellent arrangements made.

The following were the prizewinners:–

March (confined to juveniles who never won a 1st prize at any competition), four handsome medals– 1, J.S. Burnie, Glasgow; 2. B. Ferguson, do.; 3. R. Cowie, do.; 4, J. Brassie, Lanark.

Strathspey and Reel– 1., J. Brassie; 2, J. Cowie; 3, H. Bradshaw, Glasgow; 4, P. Hay, Glasgow.

March, Strathspey and Reel (confined to amateur members)– 1. H. Kennedy, Tiree; 2, J. McNicol, Islay; 3, Cameron Hutchieson, Dalmuir; 4, R. Davidson, Glasgow.

Piobaireachd (Ceol Mor) –J. MacDougall Gillies trophy and gold medal– 1, John McL. McIntyre, Glasgow (who played “MacKay’s Banner”); 2, H. McTavish, Glasgow (“Earl of Seaforth”); 3, John Kerr, Dollar (“Kinlochmoidart Salute”); 4. H. Kennedy, Tiree (“Glengarry’s March”); 5, N. Shaw, Islay (“Groat”); 6, Cameron Hutchieson, Dalmuir (“MacLeod of Raasay Salute”).

The judges were Pipe-Major John MacDonald, Stirling, and Mr. James McIver, Govan.

OT: 22 March 1924 – George G. MacKay “The Prince’s Salute”

The Oban Times, 22 March, 1924

Edinburgh, 12th March, 1924

“The Prince’s Salute”

Sir,–In justice to the composition of a great Piobaireachd Master, and in view of the fact that the above tune is to be played in the forthcoming competitions at Oban and Inverness, the time is opportune for pointing out a grave error in that part of the piece known as the “Singling” of the “Taorluath,” and also the “Crunluath.”

The mistake, although confined to the “singling,” has also affected the “doublings” by throwing the latter out of perspective and destroying the fine contrast between them. The striking feature of these “variations” is the fine effect produced by the one section operating on the other. Deprived of this, it is no longer necessary or even desirable that both parts be played, as the one becomes merely a tiresome repetition of the other.

This “singular singling” is neither a “singling” nor a “doubling,” but a curious combination of both, and this accounts for the difficulty players are familiar with in their endeavour to render the part intelligently. This is not surprising when it is realised that they are trying, unconsciously, to play both variations in one, and with a laudable desire to assist them in this strange performance it has been found necessary to remove, or to ignore, the cadence notes, so essential to the measure, it being assumed that these were superfluous. The assumption that the “cadences” were at fault has much too readily been taken for granted. These notes are not the cause of the trouble, and their removal has only acted as a palliative in making the parts more playable.

A simple method of clearing up the confusion, and incidentally proving the truth of all that has been said on the subject, is to write dots in the first line of the “doubling,” using only the four main notes of the melody, around which the whole tune revolves. Stripped of all detail, this consists simply of four bars, each containing four crotchets. To convert this into the singling, all that is necessary to do is to reverse the last two notes in the second and fourth bars. It will thus be seen that by a perfectly natural reversal, the one “variation” has reverted to the other in a very simple, and the only possible, way–the way of the composer.

Much might be said in regard to the rest of the tune; the “ground” and its counterparts being so weak and featureless. But these cannot be dealt with now. It was once a thing full of much time, full of light and shade, and fine contrast; but it has lost much of its attractiveness since the ‘45, and as is often heard nowadays is merely tiresome. I am, etc.,

George G. MacKay

OT: 15 March, 1924 – [unsigned] “The Late Dr. Bannatyne” [obituary]

The Oban Times, 15 March, 1924

The Late Dr. Bannatyne

The death of Dr. Charles Bannatyne, Salsburgh, on Wednesday last week in a nursing home in Glasgow removed from our midst a gifted Highlander who was as distinguished for his musical talent as he was pre-eminent in medical practice. The elder son of the late Mr. J. Bannatyne, exPovost of Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, and a brother of Mr. J. S. Bannatyne, writer, Glasgow, he received his early education at Ayr Academy and graduated in Medical Science at Glasgow University. The Bannatynes belonged to an old Bute family who migrated in the 17th century to the neighbouring island of Arran, after which they took up residence in Ayrshire.

Intensely interested in everything Highland, Dr. Bannatyne associated himself with every good Highland cause. He was a composer of merit, devoting special attention to bagpipe music, and his marches, strathspeys and reels are everywhere popular.

He was an early member of the Piobaireachd Society and took a share in editing some of the publications of that Society. He had an intimate knowledge of pipe music and was frequently called upon to act as a judge of bagpipe music at Highland gatherings. He was perhaps the first in recent times to revive interest in the ancient cainntaireachd [sic] method of writing piobaireachd music. He possessed a valuable collection of piobaireachd manuscripts, some of them written in cainntaireachd. He was very successful as a composer of bagpipe tunes. He won the first prize for a reel in a competition arranged by the Cowal Highland Gathering in the composition of marches, strathspeys and reels in which most of the leading pipers were competitors, and in a subsequent competition in 1920 he was awarded the first prize for a strathspey.

He was possessed of a fine tenor voice, and on many occasions he figured as a vocalist a charity concerts. Among articles from his pen we note those on “The Voice and Voice Production,” which are regarded as authoritative. At the time of his death, Dr. Bannatyne, who was unmarried, was in his 56th year. Our readers will have happy recollections of several brilliant contributions which from time to time he was able to give to the columns of the “Oban Times.”

© Copyright Pipe Major John Grant - Designed for Dr. Alan Armstrong