OT: 8 April 1911 – Piobare “Cumha Dhounachaidh Mhic Iain,” or Duncan MacRae of Kintail’s Lament

The Oban Times, 8 April, 1911

“Cumha Dhounachaidh Mhic Iain,” or Duncan MacRae of Kintail’s Lament

3 April, 1911

Sir,–It appears to me that “Christine” and some others of your correspondents are not conversant with the history of the above-named lament or of Kintail, is suggesting that it is not a MacRae tune. I submit that there is the strongest evidence to show that the piobaireachd is a Clan MacRae tune, but that it has no connection with the family of MacRae of Inverinate.

In the Ballindalloch Manuscript collection of piobaireachd, which is said to be [a part] of the Hamilton manuscript, which [consisted] of the collection of piobaireachd belonging to the Highland Society of London and which disappeared at the time of the fire in the Scottish Corporation Building, when so many of the archives of the Highland Society were destroyed, this piobaireachd, as given, and so far as is known in the first authentic record of this lament.

The next record we find of this tune is in Ross’s Collection of Pipe Music (published 1875) under the name of Cumha Chailain Mhic Rath Inbhearaibhnaid,” or “Colin MacRae of Inverinate’s Lament.” This setting is inferior and incomplete, and the name here given has no connection with the original title of the piobaireachd. Obviously in this case Ross altered the tune and its title, as he is known to have done in many other instances.

The next appearance of this piobaireachd is in General Thomason’s “Ceol Mor,” under the original name of “Cumha Donnachaidh MhicLain,” or “Duncan MacRae of Kintail’s Lament.”

The latest edition of this piobaireachd which has come under the writer’s observation, is a setting noted down by “Colin Cameron,” who was taught the tune by his father, Donald Cameron, ‘the King of Pipers,’ and “a worthy successor to the MacCrimmons.”

Here again the piobaireachd is filed by the original name, and he stated to have been composed by “Finlay dhu MacRae,” the celebrated Kintail piper, who also composed “the Earl of Seaforth’s Salute,” “the Duke of Perth,” etc., etc., which are too well-known to require comment.

From the foregoing it is clear that the original title of this beautiful piobaireachd was “Cumha Donnachaidh MhicLain,” or Duncan MacRae of Kintail’s lament, and that Ross changed the Gaelic and English title, and published a garbled version of the Lament itself.

The “Donnachaidh MhicLain” here referred to was undoubtedly an important man and distinguished warrior of that time, who was a member of “Torlishich” family, and was slain at Auldearn in 1645, and his son, Christopher, was Seaforth’s Chamberlain, or Chief-man, in Kintail.

On the other hand, there is nothing to show any connection whatever between the original title of the piobaireachd and Colin MacRae of Inverinate, or, in fact, any connection with the Inverinate family at all, as no one of that branch, of the name of “Donnachaidh MhicLain,” of any prominence, ever existed in the history of Kintail.

From the foregoing, no reasonable doubt can be passed upon the evidence that the piobaireachd is a Clan MacRae tune, and that it has nothing whatever to connect it with the MacDonalds of Glencoe, as has been suggested, but that it was composed by Finlay dhu MacRae to commemorate the deeds of “Donnachaidh MhicLain,” of the Torlishich Macraes of Kintail.–I am, etc.,

Piobaire [John Macrae-Gilstrap]