OT: 18 September 1915 – Alexander MacDonald “The MacCrimmon Music”

The Oban Times, 18 September, 1915

The MacCrimmon Music

Alexandra Avenue, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, 23 July, 1915

Sir,–As a constant reader of “The Oban Times,” I am much interested in the many subjects discussed in its highly entertaining and instructive columns. Among the many subjects arresting attention may be included the controversy upon the genuineness or otherwise of the Canntaireachd of the MacCrimmons. In order to test the worth of any evidence, all personal elements must be totally eliminated, and the question judged purely on the weight and the value of the statements tendered by the contestants. All who are desirous of preserving the works and name of the greatest exponents of pipe music of whom we have any knowledge would like to see this question brought to a satisfactory finality. Our only means of valuing Mr. Grant claim to be an authority on the question in dispute is gathered from his letters that have appeared in your columns. In reading Mr. Grant contributions one is forced, reluctantly, to conclude that if he would assert less, and prove more he would be more effective in argument.

Mr. Fraser’s conduct in this connection is prompted by the purest motives. He is, and has been all his life, an ardent student of pipe music; he has already explained, through your columns, how he acquired this knowledge, the source from which he drew his information. In this he was supported by the late Dr. Keith Norman MacDonald, who stood pre-eminent as an authority upon all questions pertaining to Highland music and Highland history, and the fact that he was a composer and a player himself added much value to any opinions he chose to offer.

Again, Mr. Bruce bares out fully all that Mr. Fraser and Dr. McDonald had to say anent the genuineness of the “Gesto Collection of Canntaireachd.” Mr. Fraser’s whole object in this matter is to secure the co-operation of pipers and admirers of pipe music to put the MacCrimmon Notation to a test, side-by-side with the staff method. There is no other way of settling this question. Simon Fraser is the only man living who can interpret the MacCrimmon Notation. He cannot only thoroughly explain the meaning of the Notation by word-of-mouth, but he can play all the beats in such a clear and artistic manner as would convince the most skeptical that what he contends he is capable of proving by invincible evidence.

Mr. Fraser’s eldest son, John, one of the best pipers that Australia has produced, was a piobaireachd player of the first order, and specialized in the MacCrimmon Notation as a result of his father’s teaching. I heard him play, according to the staff and the MacCrimmon Notations, “The Lament for the Big Music,” “MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart,” and “Lament for the Children.” Unless dead to all powers of discernment and taste in music, the verdict to the MacCrimmon Notation would be immediate and unanimous.

To my mind, Mr. Fraser has suggested an excellent method of testing the authenticity or otherwise of the MacCrimmon notation, viz., let Mr. Grant nominate any piper or pipers of note whom he may know in Australia, to call upon Mr. Fraser, so that a thorough and searching test and an examination of the Notation may eventuate. I feel sure that all who have a keen and genuine desire to preserve the master work of the MacCrimmons will welcome a satisfactory settlement of this much discussed question knowing Mr. Fraser so well, there is nothing that would give him greater pleasure than to be subjected to the most searching inquiry on the matter. He is a man endowed with the most amiable disposition; nothing will ruffle his temper, and he is most generous and considerate in dealing with those who may differ from.

Mr. Fraser is a most versatile man. He is an exquisite performer on the violin; he is the best strathspey player I have ever heard, and furthermore, he makes his own violins. As a whip maker he has no equal in the Commonwealth of Australia. When the present King George V. and the Queen were out here some years ago, they were presented with a stock-whip made by Mr. Fraser, and so also was the late Sir Hector MacDonald. In his younger days Simon Fraser was one of the most fearless and capable steeplechase riders in the State.–I am, etc.,

Archibald MacDonald