OT: 23 October 1915 – Donald MacRae

The Oban Times, 23 October, 1915

Aberdeen, 16 October, 1915

Sir,–I have read with great interest the description of the Highland bagpipe scale given by your correspondent “J.P.M.,” and am of opinion that his is the correct interpretation of it. Mr. Grant and Mr. Sinclair both maintained that the bagpipe scale is the diatonic scale of A major, but that can scarcely be correct, as the high G of the chanter is certainly not G sharp. Moreover, a confirmation of “J.P.M’s” statement is to be found in the introduction to Mr. Scott Skinner’s collection of music “The Harp and Claymore,” where the bagpipe scale is described as follows:–” it consists of nine notes, and may be conveniently looked upon as a combination of the pentatonic scales of A and G.”

Mr. Grant thanks all bagpipe tunes are in the same key, and is surprised that a piper should say that they are not. Well, I am a piper, and I say emphatically that all bagpipe tunes are not in the same key. Does he mean to say that “Mackintosh’s Lament,” “Glengarry’s Lament,” and “The Camerons’ Gathering” are all in the same key? In my opinion “Mackintosh’s Lament” is in the key of D, “Glengarry’s Lament” in A, and “the Camerons’ Gathering” in G, and I define Mr. Grant to prove anything to the contrary. By the way, I may mention that I have seen a piobaireachd of Mr. Grant’s composition, “The Piobaireachd Society’s Salute” and, wonderful to relate, it is in the key of D. According to Mr. Grant’s own statement, however, it ought to be in the key of A. It would be interesting to know by what strange process of reasoning Mr. Grant arrived at the conclusion that all bagpipe tunes are in the same key. Mr. Grant must think the matter over again, and then perhaps he will change his mind.–I am, etc.,

Donald MacRae