OT: 6 November 1915 – John Grant “The Bagpipe Chanter Scale”

The Oban Times, 6 November, 1915

The Bagpipe Chanter Scale

27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, 1 November, 1915

Sir,–in reply to your correspondence Mr. J.P. MacLeod, Tain, I may say that I am extremely surprised at his remarks on the above subject. He says:–” Mr. Sinclair has got a good ear,” further that he has got “a bad chanter and a badly fitted reed.” Your correspondent contradicts himself. Isn’t it surprising that Mr. Sinclair gets good results from his chanter as it is? Then how could Mr. Sinclair have a good ear when he cannot find out the defects of his instrument and its reed? In other words, Mr. Sinclair having a good ear he could not but find out any discrepancy caused by a bad chanter or a defective reed. May I ask Mr. MacLeod how he finds the results he boasts of? It is not by natural means, therefore it must be supernatural, yea imaginary. I am certain that he did not get his cue from his teacher on the pipes. I say it is presumption on the part of Mr. MacLeod to ask Mr. Sinclair to get “a good piper to fit a new reed for him,” or “play Patrick Og MacCrimmon’s Lament” either. Is Mr. MacLeod to be the “Art Master” himself and come with healing in his wings to aid Mr. Sinclair? No Sir! I say he can never hope to attain that high and glorious position. I have not seen Mr. Sinclair, but from what he writes I will back him 10 to 1 in theory against his accuser, and in practice perhaps Mr. MacLeod would not be hard to beat or at least equal.

I gather from Mr. MacLeod’s further remarks that he puts the cart in the horse’s way. Mr. MacLeod says:–” the modern super-musician thinks that the piper is a super-idiot.” This should read as follows, viz.:–The up-to-date piper fully versed and qualified in theory and practice knows that modern musicians on other instruments and music are “super-idiots!” if that is to be your correspondent’s interpretation of word, and the actual results.

In conclusion, as a friend, and to one whom I have no reason to quarrel with, I would like to tell Mr. MacLeod frankly that like many more he has no idea of what the Highland bagpipe chanter really is in mechanism, or what its real scale is. He will find this out, and when he does so no one will be more surprised at what he has written himself.–I am, etc.,

John Grant