OT: 14 December 1918 – M. “Ancient Pibroch Music”

The Oban Times, 14 December 1918
Ancient Pibroch Music

9 December, 1918

Sir,–The suggestion was made some time ago that by publishing the words associated with certain pibrochs you would be doing all lovers of our ancient pipe music a real service.

To know the history of a tune–the circumstances in which it was composed, and to have in one’s mind the words which have accompanied it across the centuries–helps greatly towards a better appreciation of the music. These facts are known–so far as they can be known–to the player of pibrochs, and the knowledge enables him to enter more fully into the spirit of the composer. But if this class of music is to regain the place it once occupied in the life of the Highlands, it is necessary that this knowledge should not be confined to the comparatively small circle of experts, but should extend and be within the reach of all who take an interest in the traditions of their native land.

An audience listening to a sympathetic rendering of MacLeod of MacLeod’s Lament, and although knowing nothing about the tune, not even its name, will nevertheless realise that it is a lament, and a very solemn lament for somebody. But it would add to the effect if, before the player begins, the audience is informed that it is a lament for Ruairidh Mor composed by the MacCrimmon who was piper at Dunvegan at the time, and who was so overcome by the death of his master and friend that he could no longer stay in the castle, but left for his own home, and as he went played this mournful tune. It will further add to the effect on the audience is in addition to these facts it is stated that the following words are linked with the tune:–

Tog orm mo phiob ‘as theid mi dhachaidh
‘S duilich leam fhein, mo leir mar thachair
Tog orm mo phiob ‘us mi air mo chradh
Mu Ruairidh Mòr, –Mu Ruairidh Mòr.

Tog orm mo phiob–tha mi sgith,
‘S mur faigh mi i–theid mi dhachaidh,
Tog orm mo phiob–tha mi sgith,
‘S mi air mo Chràdh mu Ruairidh Mòr .

Tog orm mo phiob–tha mi sgith,
‘S mur faigh mi i–theid mi dhachaidh
Clarsach no piob cha tog mo chridh
Cha bheo fear mo ghraidh, Ruairidh Mòr.

There are other tunes, again, where the need of words is not so much felt. No Gaelic-speaking person, for example, should have any difficulty in catching the outstanding fact so insistently reiterated in “Cha till Mac Cruimein.”

During the winter months many opportunities should present themselves for experimenting along these lines. If at our Highland gatherings in the cities one or more capable exponents of modern pibroch playing were to play during the usually dreary interval between the opening of the doors and the arrival of the platform party, when the audience would welcome anything that would relieve the tedium, it might be found that the innovation was entirely justified.

Whatever may be the individual opinion regarding bagpipe music in general and pibrochs in particular, and whatever effect they may have on a modern audience, it must be remembered that they were the means of rousing the feeling or healing the broken hearts of long ago.–I am, etc.,