OT: 20 February 1926 – Practical “Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 20 February, 1926

Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd

12 February, 1926

Sir,–I have read with pleasure the letter of Mr. Gray on the above subject, and he evidently knows what he is writing about. Mr. Grant, on the other hand, is very evidently not a piobaireachd player, and his assertions simply prove his lack of knowledge.

I will now take some of his assertions, and see what they are worth. He says:–”Take the Toarluath and Crunluath in ‘Macintosh’s Lament’ in Angus Mackay’s Book of Piobaireachd. Every note he writes is required. His noting is in accordance with the system of the great Skye Masters, the MacCrimmons, and can easily be played in tune.” That statement is entirely wrong. Every note is not required, and every note cannot be played in time. There would be a complete lack of rhythm. Neither is the noting in accordance with the great Skye Masters, the MacCrimmons.

Malcolm Macpherson, Sandy Cameron and John MacDougall Gillies all claimed to play piobaireachd in the same manner as the MacCrimmons, and they made the Toarluath and Crunluath notes the same way as Mr. Gray makes them. The proudest boast of these men was that they could play piobaireachd, and their statements carry weight.

Again, Mr. Grant says:–” I was taught to play Toarluath and Crunluath by a man who could play it, and I can play it as Mackay writes it.” Who is the man who taught him? Again–”I was taught traditionally and correctly, too, and will stand up against any piper in Christendom and prove, if necessary, that I can put into practice what I put forth in theory.” The only way he can prove his assertion is to play piobaireachd in the hearing of sound judges.

There is no use in talking about playing Toarluath and Crunluath notes apart from playing them in piobaireachd, as some pipers can make notes separately, but cannot put them into the tunes for which they are intended. So that if Mr. Grant has the ability he claims to have, he will play piobaireachd, and have no more quibbling about it. Such quibbling is unworthy of a straightforward man.

Mr. Seton Gordon has asked Mr. Grant to give the name of any well-known piper of this or last generation who plays according to Mackay’s notation. Mr. Grant, as yet, has named no one.

Mr. Grant mentions Donald MacPhee’s noting of the Toarluath and Crunluath movements. It was a fact well known to pipers who were contemporary with MacPhee that he could not play the Crunluath note (although he would have given a great deal to have been able to do so). In its place he played the Toarluath (as Mr. Grant makes it), and finished up the movement by making a grip from low G to E, or whatever note the Crunluath note finished on. So much for MacPhee’s notation, and so much for his playing of it. Two very different things.–I am, etc.,