26 November 1910 – Ceol Mor “The Scottish Piper’s Union”

The Oban Times, 26 November, 1910

The Scottish Pipers’ Union

21st November, 1910

Sir,–I notice in your issue of Saturday last an answer to my letter on the subject by Dr. Bannatyne.

The question which I asked regarding formation of the Scottish Pipers’ Union has been answered by Dr. Bannatyne in the following manner, viz.:–” This is a free country, and anyone can call such a meeting if inclined to do so. A reference to the advertisement in your present issue will give single quote Ceol Mor’ other details.” As an intelligent reader of your paper, I cannot accept this as a sufficient or satisfactory answer to my question. I quite agree that this is a free country, but I wanted to know if there had been any preliminary meeting of any body of those interested in piping and dancing, who passed a resolution to call such a meeting as is now advertised?

When the need of a union or society is felt it is generally proposed to be formed by the general public as a body who are directly concerned, spontaneously and unanimously, if it has been a long-felt one, or to be a success. I have read the advertisement referred to by Dr. Bannatyne, but I am still at a loss to know from the advertisement if the meeting arranged has been proposed or called by a spontaneous and unanimous wish of pipers and dancers. I or any other reader can only see from the advertisement that this necessity has been felt, and the meeting called, by one man only.

Your correspondence has:–”I have not hitherto in my letter on the subject mentioned ‘The Piobaireachd Society,’ or used any expression that can be construed as pointing to that body.” I admit that. Nor has Dr. Bannatyne made any reference to my remark that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” We have the Piobaireachd Society and the Scottish Pipers’ Society, both of which have special aims, which embrace piping and dancing, and which see justice done to both pipers and dancers, whether this is Dr. Bannatyne’s opinion or not. And to have a new Union such as advertised would only be going from bad to worse. If Dr. Bannatyne is an admirer of some novelty, I am, a patriot, an upholder and admirer of these old and well-established bodies, which had been for years and have come to stay. As a patriot it is not my desire to haul in the two Societies mentioned with any intention to attack, belittle, or degrade them. No! But only as an admirer of them I put forth their good qualities and splendid work and worth that I may? encourage them; give them credit for what they have done in the past, and trust them in the future. The Piobaireachd Society is entirely confined to the cultivation of piobaireachd only, and the War Office has, through it, instituted a school for pipers at Inverness. The Society controls more than three or four gatherings of Scotland–at least there are many more gatherings them that which come under its influence. The Scottish Pipers’ Society is as strong a body as is in existence; all, or most of, its members are pipers or dancers, and some are both. It has members not only in Scotland, but all over the world. They are to be found in sunny India, where their efforts to keep the bag moist are much harder than in Scotland, owing to the terrible heat. They are to be found in regions where the cold is so intense that it is almost impossible to finger “The Children’s Lament.” In Africa, in Egypt, in Malta, and many other places the members of the Scottish Pipers’ Society are to be found nobly and diligently keeping up the ancient martial music of Caledonia, and also tripping the light fantastic toe in a spirited “Hoolachan” or “Sword Dance.” Who are they, the patriotic pipers and dancers who would attempt to divide the house into another department, to lessen or curtail that which is already developed into usefulness?

Will any of the members of the Piobaireachd Society become members of this “Scottish Pipers’ Union?” Will any of the members of the Scottish Pipers’ Society join its ranks? I am afraid that if there are any they will be few. Then we are left with a fraction of pipers and dancers who, under the spell, or magic wand, of one man, are to form a “Scottish Pipers’ Union.” Can it be a success? I would rather try to strengthen what we have, and live in the hope of seeing all being brought into perfect concord than stimulate new and uncertain fancies.

Your correspondent says: “It is not the intention of the Union to give prizes to be competed for’. . . . “Nor will the Union be controlled by members who are in habit of competing at games, any more than the Scottish Athletic Association, which is controlled by old athletes.” If a man was to throw a hammer, the distance can be measured by means of a yardstick or a tape line for that purpose. If pipers were to play a tune in a competition it is impossible to measure, and therefore if the Scottish Pipers’ Union was to appoint old pipers to judge the performances, they might have their own favourites, irrespective of good playing. The Scottish Pipers’ Union being composed of pipers, competitors might come to know before hand who was going to judge a certain gathering, and be an intimate friend of that judge, and thus influence him to favouritism.

In paragraph 4 your correspondent says: “for ‘Ceol Mor’ to assume that the object of the Scottish Pipers’ Union is to oppose the Piobaireachd Society implies that he knows all about the proposed Union, though I am not aware that his advice has been sought by those who are trying to form it.” To this I must serve your correspondent with a portion of the custard which he has cooked himself. This being a free country, I am quite free to think for myself. There was no stipulation in any of the recent letters or notices that the views of pipers or dancers would be refused or condemned; therefore I consider that I am quite at liberty to express my views, and I am convinced that it would be most interesting to see in the columns of this valuable paper the views of others interested in the subject. We want the unprejudiced and straightforward opinions of pipers and dancers much more than we have coming to light. It is upon this that rests the future success of piping and dancing.

In paragraph 5 your correspondent says:–” He (‘Ceol Mor’) states that he does not think that such a body as the Union is necessary. Who is he that he should so venture his single opinion in the face of hundreds of pipers, dancers, and others interested who think it is needed?”

“Ceol Mor” is the bold adventurer who has fearlessly set his foot upon a dark, lonely and perhaps perilous road, who, if the light should ever dawn upon his real name and worth, it will be seen more effectively that he may be considered not less illustrious in the most important art here concerned than his opponent, Dr. Bannatyne, who has written, said, and done so much for pipe music especially.

I wish to know the difference between a man who gets up a hue and cry for a Union and another who puts forward good reasons why there is no need for it? We are, meantime, equally divided–it is one man against another, and that only. According to what has appeared before the public, we have only one man’s word for the statement that hundreds of pipers and dancers think it is needed.

Paragraph 5 also reads as follows:–” If he (‘Ceol Mor’) and ‘Loch Sloy’ do not fear for the Piobaireachd Society, why do they go on the assumption that it is to be attacked, rush into print, and attempt to damn the formation of Union of whose objects they are so palpably ignorant?”

I did not rush into print; I wrote my letter quite calmly. And again, I must call your correspondent’s attention to the fact that here he contradicts himself again. He has told me already what the objects of the Union are to be: I cannot be ignorant in that. Then again, as regards piping and dancing, I know a good dancer when I see him. For piping and pipe music, in theory or practice, I am prepared to challenge Dr. Bannatyne in any branch.

Then, on the face of my challenge, who is he that would condemn a man or attempt to say that he is ignorant, but he does not know to whom he addresses his remarks?

As regards “Loch Sloy,” I leave him to answer for himself, and I am certain that according to his former letters, he is capable of defending his own interests.

Your correspondent attempts to make out that I have attacked another body. In my correspondence I have not attacked anybody as is fully explained herein. In conclusion, I hope to be at 200 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, on the 26th inst., when I shall endeavour to satisfy myself how many of the Societies which I have mentioned will be present or join the new Union.–I am, etc.,

Ceol Mor

P. S.–I am very sorry that I have used the same “nom de plume” as General Thomason had done at one time. I was quite unaware of this, otherwise I would have used another.