OT: 13 March 1915 – L. Bruce “Gesto and the MacCrimmon Notation”

The Oban Times, 13 March, 1915

Gesto and the MacCrimmon Notation

Achnahanaid, Braes, Isle of Skye, 3 March, 1915

Sir,–I observed that Mr. John Grant still persists that Gesto was not a piper, and that he was incapable of writing down piobaireachd in the MacCrimmon sol-fa notation.

Gesto taught Alexander Bruce to play piobaireachd, and he himself and John Dubh MacCrimmon played at Kyleakin along with others, and Alexander Bruce gained first prize. Now anyone would think that it was the same notation both pipers played at that time. No one will doubt it was the MacCrimmon notation that John Dubh played. Alexander Bruce carried all before him in his day. It is said he was the best piper that ever Gesto taught. Peter Bruce was taught partly by his father and Gesto, and we are told that he carried all before him in Australia.

Now if Gesto was entirely ignorant of what he wrote down, as Mr. Grant says, how could his pupils be such able pipers? We are also told that Peter Bruce taught Simon Fraser to play the pipes, and any sensible man would believe he would teach Simon Fraser what he was taught himself. We must conclude that Mr. Fraser is one of the few that can play the MacCrimmon sol-fa notation.

Mr. Mackenzie, the clan historian, tells us that Gesto was an authority on piobaireachd, and if we do not believe an authority on any subject, what are we to believe?

We observe from Mr. Grant’s letters that he knows nothing about the MacCrimmon notation. He says it is only a relic now; and I don’t know how he can judge a thing he does not know about. He also asserts that any man who says that Gesto play the pipes is a stranger to the truth–a very hard sentence. We are told by the descendents of those well acquainted with Gesto that he was a good piper, and Mr. Simon Fraser tells us that his own father heard him playing the pipes, and we have no reason to disbelieve either them or Mr. Fraser. If this correspondence was going on thirty or forty years ago, it would be quite easy to prove that Gesto could play the pipes.–I am, etc.,

L. Bruce