OT: 30 November 1912 – John Grant “Canntaireachd”

The Oban Times, 30 November, 1912


42 Elmfield Avenue, Aberdeen, 25 November, 1912

Sir,–in your issue of last week I see a copy of a letter from Mr. Simon Fraser, Australia, in which he makes reference to my method of argument.

As far as I am aware, I understand that the correspondence columns of your valuable paper are set aside for the discussion on important subjects, not for argument.

Mr. Fraser says that he has an excellent copy of Burns’ works, and that he believes Burns wrote the poems, but he (Mr. Fraser) did not see him write them. We have Capt. Neil MacLeod’s book of (supposed) specimens of the MacCrimmon sol-fa notation of piobaireachd. I believe that Captain MacLeod prepared and published the small book, but I did not see him write it anymore then Mr. Fraser saw the Scottish Bard right his poetical work.

But what follows? Burns’ works are now handed down to us by the publishers, not from his own hand, and we are satisfied that they are in perfect poetical form. About Burns’ work it will be admitted by all your readers that there is no room or reason for dispute.

Take now the MacCrimmon sol-fa notation of piobaireachd. It has not been handed down to us in any form, in print or MS. In the Gesto book of 1828 Captain MacLeod has given us what you’re numerous correspondents try to make out a perfect specimen of the real MacCrimmon sol-fa notation. The Gesto book of 1828 is irregular in form. The tunes are not properly noted. So that when we put Burns’ work against Gesto’s incorrect specimens of the notation of the great music, there is a mighty difference between the two. In fact as far as accuracy is concerned, there is no comparison.

Piobaireachd in a syllabic notation is as follows:–

Urlar, or Theme, from which come:–
Siubhal, or First Variation–a two-syllabled movement.
Doubling of Siubhal–a two-syllabled movement.
Leumluath–a three syllabled movement.
Doubling of Leumluath–Do. do.
Toarluath–a three syllabled movement.
Doubling of Toarluath–Do. do.
Toarluath A Mach–Do. do.
Toarluath Fosgailte–a four syllabled movement.
Doubling of Toarluath Fosgailte–Do. do.
Toarluath Breabach–a four syllabled movement.
Doubling of Toarluath Breabach–Do. do.
Crunluath–a five syllabled movement.
Doubling of crunluath–Do. do.
Crunluath a Mach–Do. do.
Crunluath Fosgailte–Do. do.
Doubling of Crunluath Fosgailte–Do. do.
Crunluath Breabach–a seven syllabled movement.
Doubling of crunluath Breabach–Do. do.

Is this system or rules to be found in Gesto’s book? As my first two questions that I put to your correspondence still remain to be answered, the above is another which I shall be glad if they can answer or solve.

Your correspondent “Fionn’s” letter of July 22 proves beyond doubt that Gesto could not play the pipes. What purpose am I to serve in saying that the late Rev. Alex. MacGregor told a lie about Gesto as a piper, and believe what Mr. Simon Fraser now says? What is the use of giving the urlar of a piobaireachd; why not give us it all? I am looking forward to getting a copy of Mr. Fraser’s book of sol-fa notation alongside of the staff notation. That will perhaps be the best way of proving his accuracy and abilities in canntaireachd.–I am, etc.,

John Grant