OT: 30 April 1910 – A. Mackay

The Oban Times, Saturday, 30 April, 1910

Piobaireachd Society’s Work

Johannesburg, South Africa,

2 April, 1910

Sir,–I noticed in your issues of the fifth and twelfth ult., that Messrs. MacLennan and Bannatyne are again trying to discredit the latest publication of the Piobaireachd Society. These two gentlemen have used the medium of your columns for years past to run down the successes publications of the society, and the question naturally arises in the mind of a stranger like myself, who has been a long time from home out of touch with things–Do these two excellent gentlemen consider themselves infallible, and arrogate to themselves all wisdom and knowledge with regard to piobaireachd?

Dr. Bannatyne’s objection that the tied grace notes are not written properly is all “piffle.” Every piobaireachd player knows how to play a certain movement in piobaireachd irrespective of grace notes–as, for instance in “Ceòl Mòr,” where the grace note is merely a sign; and his other objection, that certain tunes in the new issue are not the same as played by MacDonald of Morar, or not according to an MS. copy in the possession of John Mackay, and that consequently they must be wrong, is too childish for words.

In a subject like piobaireachd there is bound to be a divergence of opinion. The tunes have been handed down orally for generations, and each piper would alter the tune a little to suit his own taste, and there being no fixed standard of notation to refer to to keep them right, we have the different versions of today. We can, therefore, take it for granted that none of the tunes are as they were originally composed, but according to Messrs. MacLennan and Bannatyne there can be no divergence of opinion from what they respectively consider correct.

Now, sir, I hold no brief for the Piobaireachd Society, nor do I know any of the gentlemen composing it, but I do think that they are deserving of the thanks of all who take an interest in and love our old tunes, and are worthy of every support in their endeavours to foster a love of piobaireachd, and to get our pipers out of the rut of the half-dozen tunes which formed the repertoire for years.

No doubt they have faults like any other association of human beings, but none can say but that they are disinterested, and strive to do their best, and there is no doubt that they consult experts, and take what they consider the best advice on the style of the tunes before publishing them.–I am, etc.,

A. Mackay