OT: 24 May 1913 – John Grant

The Oban Times, 24 May, 1913

Edinburgh, 19 May, 1913

Sir,–”It is not my business (says Dr. K. N. Macdonald) to prove him (Mr. Grant) ignorant” of the MacCrimmons’ music. This is the meagre answer which your correspondent gives to my question on Gesto’s book. It is true that it is not Dr. MacDonald’s business to prove me ignorant, or he would have given me at least some satisfaction. I challenge your correspondent to prove my lack of knowledge on the subject.

Like Duncan Ross, Dr. Bannatyne, and Simon Fraser, I can play from the Gesto book also, and when I do play from it the tunes have variations that are most irregular in erroneous.

Dr. Bannatyne and Mr. Fraser probably can play canntaireachd and translated best when they are in their own room, with the door closed. We have no proof that they can master it, or prevent to be a scientific method of noting piobaireachd. This pamphlet of 1828 is one Gesto thought was canntaireachd as the MacCrimmons played and taught it, but not being a piper or a master of piobaireachd, Gesto was writing down most in perfect settings.

Dr. MacDonald says that there are no hard and fast rules in the construction of piobaireachd, and that “the MacCrimmons varied in their arrangements.” Dr. MacDonald give me the name of a single tune composed by a MacCrimmon with a plain crunluath, finishing with a crunluath breabach? This happens in Gesto’s book, but your correspondent cannot see it. He should get as many of the MacCrimmon piobaireachd as he can lay his hands on, and study them. Then Dr. MacDonald may see the glaring inaccuracies that lie in the leaflet of 1828.

The late J. F. Campbell of Islay, in his book on Canntaireachd specimens by Gesto says: “My interpreter (Duncan Ross) could read the whole book, but he could not explain a line of it. It was like asking a thrush to explain the songs which mother nature had taught him.” On the strength of this, what authority was Ross on Gesto’s booklet? In J. F. Campbell’s book we also read: “That’s ‘hiririn,’ said the piper, and played three notes deftly. ‘Is hiririn the name of the finger or the note?’ (said the enquirer) ‘or what else is it?’ ‘No,’ said the master, that’s ‘hiririn’.” At the end of Campbell’s book we find that the syllable “hin’ represents E, G, and A, and “do” G, A and B. Let a scholar of a public school, high school, Oxford, Cambridge, or Eaton study this, and what will his conclusion be?–Perfect rubbish!–I am, etc.,

John Grant