OT: 28 October 1911 – Charles Bannatyne “Canntaireachd”

The Oban Times, 28 October, 1911


Salsburgh, by Holytown,

23 October, 1911

Sir,–Mr. Grant is still attempting to force down my throat a claim I never made. I have nothing to do with what Mr. Grant thinks or Mr. Simon Fraser says. Mr. Fraser can speak for himself on canntaireachd.

Regarding Mr. William McLean, whose name I used without his permission, I may say he was taught piobaireachd in Skye by means of vocables, and these resembled Captain MacLeod’s collected vocables so closely that Mr. MacLean had no difficulty in reading the latter in half an hour.

Mr. Grant goes on to say:

Dr. Bannatyne has MacLeod’s book of sol-fa notation, and when he places it against the staff notation this is a guide for him, as he says, with years of careful study. But put him or Mr. Fraser to a perfect test outside MacLeod’s book, and both are lost in the wilderness of the mysterious system of notation.

Regarding the first part of the statement, I can only say it is nonsense. I never did anything so fatuous as to place MacLeod’s sol-fa against the staff. I saw to MacLeod’s Collection in an hour or so, but it has taken me several years to see through the variety of sounds such as “in,” “an,” “un,” “en,” which do not differ very much in meaning.

If Mr. Grant wishes to realize the utter futility of “placing MacLeod sol-fa against the staff,” let him study MacIntyre-North’s article on the subject in “The Book of the Club of True Highlanders.” He will there see how signally North failed to understand the MacCrimmon notation. I read it by a vowel scale, by sound, and by a few simple rules. It is not possible to read tunes like No. 5, 10, 7, 4, unknown tunes by name, but which when translated proved to be “Dungallon’s Salute,” “McDonald of Duntroon’s salute,” “Earl of Ross’s March,” “Gordon’s Salute.” You see, Sir, one must know the tune first before he can “place MacLeod’s sol-fa against the staff,” as Mr. Grant alleges to do.

I published in your columns a few years ago an exhaustive analysis of the vocables, and that still holds good, except one small error.

Regarding the second assertion made by Mr. Grant, previously quoted, I can only say that I have never been put to any test by anyone at any time by which my ability to read canntaireachd could be proved or disproved, I assevervate I can read any canntaireachd in existence today, and am willing to demonstrate my power to do so if given an opportunity. If Mr. Grant cares to test my knowledge of canntaireachd through your columns by setting [sic] me a tune to translate, I shall be glad to indicate the melody in my reply, or shall send the translation to Mr. Grant.–I am, etc.,

Charles Bannatyne, M.B., C.M.