OT: 13 May 1911 – Sassenach [“The Great Highland Bagpipe and Its Music”]

The Oban Times, 13 May, 1911

8 May, 1911

Sir,–I have read with some amusement the letter of your correspondent “Morag,” on the subject, and the way in which he advances his own “ipse dixit” as conclusive would almost make one laugh, if it were not too serious for a joke. Our friend seems to think that a piece of music written regarding a battle is a sufficient proof that the music existed prior to, or contemporaneously with, the battle. We might assert it this way, did we not know to the contrary, that “Scots wha ha’e” was written prior to, or contemporaneously with, the Battle at Bannockburn. He mistakes assertion for proof, and evidently expects that we shall at once throw over Dr. Bannatyne, and that the latter will repent in sackcloth and ashes at the bidding of an anonymous newspaper correspondent.

But this is not what moves me to write to you. My object is to place before your readers some information, which I do not think is at present public property. The following was copied from a pamphlet now in the East India Museum, South Kensington, London, by Pipe-Major W. Murdoch Mckenzie, 122 Hornby Boulevard, Bootle, who possesses one of the largest collections of unpublished piobaireachd in the world:–

The bagpipe was almost universal throughout Asia, though at present it is not as much in use as in former ages. The earliest information which we have of its existence in Asia is a representation dating before the Christian era. This curious relic . . . . was found in the ruins of Tarsus, Cilicia. A Hindoo bagpipe called Tity, brought from Coimtatoor [i.e. Coimbatore], is now in The E.F. Museum. A drawing of a similar instrument is given in Sinnerat’s ‘Voyage aux Indes Orientale,’ where it was called Tourni. Mr. Hill found the bagpipes in the hands of the Chinese musicians at Maingheinn, the famous trading place on the borders of Mongolia. Sir William Ousley found the pipes in use in Persia, where it is called “Neq Ambana” (from “noi,” it reed of pipe, and “ambanah,” a bag), and where it appears to have been in more general use in former ages than at present. The same may be also said of the Egyptian bagpipe, Zouqqarah, which is now rarely in use.

In a bas relief of the 6th century (Christian era), representing a Persian concert, one of the musicians is playing a bagpipe. We know that the Romans were acquainted with the instrument, and most likely the Greeks. There may be some reason for supposing that the instrument was known to the Assyrians, if we remember that most commentators on Hebrew music are of opinion that it was one of the Hebrew wind instruments mentioned in the Bible. But among the ancient Egyptian instruments it has not yet appear to exist.

Such as the quotation, and I do not think that there exists any document to prove that it was a Scottish instrument originally, or any record to show that as an instrument such as we know it now it appeared in Scotland more than 110 or 120 years ago. –I am, etc.,