OT: 18 June 1910 – Loch Sloy

The Oban Times 18 June, 1910

10 June, 1910

Sir,–Controversy dealing with the Piobaireachd Society’s music proceeds with unabated vigour. As a lover by heredity of piobaireachd, I must needs again crave space in your valuable columns.

Again, as formerly, I express my undisguised admiration of the Society. When the Piobaireachd Society, at great inconvenience and expense, take it upon themselves to compile and issue a book annually, accompanied by rules properly laid down by themselves, and endeavour in all sincerity to cherish our piobaireachd, we shower criticism of the Society’s good work, and not for instance, on say “The Piobaireachd As MacCrimmon Played It,” which is far from errorless?

Lovers of our music are much indebted for the valuable contributions given in your columns by “Mal Dhonn.” Certainly composers lay down the law, and do so still, and have the sole right of saying what is to be what regarding the form which the tune has to take. Yes, “Mal Dhonn,” there are lovers of “Ceol Mor” today you have composed piobaireachd at their own fireside, and nothing is being done to encourage the gift, not given to all pipers. Perhaps something might be done by way of competition.

May I state a case in point where splendid work has been done from the Society’s settings and where no “two ways” are [illegible]–namely at Bilbowie Cottage, Oban, the residence of Mr. John MacColl, where “Ceol Mor,” in 1904 was quietly taught, and continued so annually, and no doubt still continues.

Mr. MacLellan is to be admired for his perseverance in a forlorn hope: perseverance which has appeared with piston-like regularity since the commencement of the Society–forlorn because no proof has as yet been brought forward by him to prove that he is right, and everybody else wrong.

Mr. MacLennan makes a grave statement when he at least insinuates that pipers play their tunes under chains of gold. Several have expressed their regret to me at Mr. MacLennan’s remarks, which cast a shadow on all pipers.

In passing may I make a few remarks on canntaireachd? This piper’s language, or method of writing music, was not confined to the Skye School. The land of Lorn was the seat of canntaireachd teaching, and as far as can be remembered the Lorn words were not the same as those used by the Skye School. Gesto owned a sample of canntaireachd written by MacArthur, one of the family of the pipers to the Lords of the Isles. The words differed from those dictated by the MacCrimmons to Gesto. Consequently three different systems existed 80 years ago for writing one system of reciting music articulately, which was current orally two hundred years ago in the West of Scotland, and, nothing surer, is current there still used by pipers. The old system merits attention because it is a bit of nearly forgotten folklore. This pipers’ written language for recording musical sounds, however rude and imperfect it may be, has a bearing upon all growths which spring from mental culture. Like other mental growths, pipers’ canntaireachd had a beginning, and it is near its end.–I am, etc.,

Loch Sloy