OT: 7 August 1915 – John Grant

The Oban Times, 7 August, 1915

27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, 2 August, 1915

Sir,–In reply to your correspondent “Morar,” I have pleasure in giving such information as may be of some assistance, if not value, to him.

I am of the opinion that the story in reality is a myth, or fairy legend, although there may be truth in all the same, to some extent.

So far as I am led to believe, the cave is in the beautiful and far famed Island of Skye, near Dunvegan Castle, the seat of the MacLeod of MacLeod. The tune which the piper played was “The Cave of Gold,” not “MacCrimmon’s Lament.” There are several laments for MacCrimmons, and also a tune called “MacCrimmon Will Never Return” (commonly known as “MacCrimmon’s Lament.”)

The MacCrimmons were the fathers of piping, and the greatest and most ingenious race of pipers that have ever lived. They were the finest piobaireachd players that ever fingered the coveted instrument, and it was their superiority as performers that gave rise, or origin, and to this ancient legend.

It is said that one day when a young MacCrimmon was playing his enchanted pipe near the piper’s study, a hollow ledge of a precipice on the shores of Dunvegan, he met the “Fairy Queen,” who handed the youth a silver chanter, by which he could charm the otter from the sea, the deer from the hills, and the lark from the clouds. No pipe ever played with such fragrance, and never before or since has any chanter piped such powerful strains, for the rich grandeur of the theme of “The Cave of Gold” burst its beauteous chords asunder as this youthful minstrel entered the Cave of Gold. The fairy theme died away in faint and broken accent till the piper was heard no more. The price of this fatal pre-eminence was the hard condition that after a year and a day the young MacCrimmon should renounce his life on earth and enter the Fairy Kingdom through the Cave of Gold, from which he never returned.

This beautiful piobaireachd, which was composed to commemorate the event, has never been recorded; but as this legend lives and lingers by the peat fires of the imaginative West, so does the tune, for I have heard it chanted by an eminent son of the Isle of Skye, and hope someday to rescue it from oblivion.–I am, etc.,

John Grant