OT: 20 February 1926 – George S. McLennan [“Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd”]

The Oban Times, 20 February, 1926

[Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd]

Aberdeen, 6 February, 1926

Sir,–I have read with particular interest the correspondence which has been going on in the columns of your widely-read paper for some time. For a reason which will be quite obvious, I had no intention or desire to add my word. But in common justice to the memory of my father, I feel compelled to correct a misstatement by Mr. John Grant in your issue of to-day’s date. As part of his argument, Mr. Grant says:–

Angus Mackay was not the only man who wrote Toarluath and Crunluath, and I can give Mr. Gray the names of a few more who wrote it the same way–Donald MacDonald and MacPhee, of the old school. Of the modern man who wrote in like manner I can vouch for the late John MacDougall Gillies (I possess his writing of it in his own hand). Colin Cameron wrote it in the same way, and I possess his writing. The late Major-General C. G. Thomason wrote the same thing, and the late Lieutenant John McClellan also.

With what the others wrote, I am not greatly concerned. I have personal knowledge of how four of them play the notes. What I am concerned about is, that Mr. Grant states that the late Lieut. John McLennan wrote in this way also. I can assure Mr. Grant that he never did. He always wrote Toarluath and Crunluath as they are played by all properly-taught pipers. Evidently, I must remind Mr. Grant that it was my father who first introduced this method, now under discussion, of writing these and other grace notes. If Mr. Grant requires further proof of this, I must refer him to the two books by my father. The first was published in the summer of 1907, and there he will find the notes so written, for the first time, as stated.

The subsequent adoption of his method of writing these notes by so many responsible and discriminating writers is, I think, very good proof of the soundness and utility of the same. Previously Toarluath and Crunluath, like many other notes of pipe music, were written as they were not played. Taught pipers, however, knew what was intended, and the thing passed at that. I know many pipers to-day who, from sheer force of habit, still write the redundant low A, although they never play it. Apart from all this, I am perfectly certain that there is no piper with an ear who will not readily admit that the Toarluath and Crunluath movements played as written by Lieut. John McLennan, Pipe-Major Wm. Gray, The Piobaireachd Society and Pipe-Majors Wm. Ross and James Robertson are more solid and much better piping that when played with the redundant low A. The former is deep and solid, while the latter is shallow and insipid.–I am, etc.,

Geo. S. McLennan