OT: 20 June 1925 – John Grant “The Highland Bagpipe”

The Oban Times, 20 June, 1925

The Highland Bagpipe

27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, 6 June, 1925

Sir,–It is gratifying to find that there are still some of the original inhabitants of ancient Caledonia, even from a far-off country, awakening to both facts and fancies regarding the subject of this letter.

I congratulate Mr. Robertson of New Zealand, for his love of the “pipe” but I cannot do so for his loyalty to an instrument in which he claims to have so much delight. Mr. Robertson says that–

It is a widely recognised fact, generally admitted and well-founded, that the present Highland bagpipe was originally, and is still, an Eastern instrument.

That may all be very well from Mr. Robertson’s way of thinking, but that is no proof. The “pipe” is an Eastern instrument. No one would ask for proof of that–but the Highland bagpipe is an instrument by itself. If Mr. Robertson can show me, or tell me, where I can find an Eastern pipe like the Highland bagpipe, with music like our Highland bagpipe music, I shall then have heard of and perhaps may see something of which I am meantime ignorant, but until then I must say, “wha daur meddle wi’ the Highland bagpipe,” or claim it to be an inheritance except he be a Scotsman, and qualified by the word “Highlander.”

The bagpipe is an instrument common in all countries and the inhabitants of each country constructed their own pipe. The pipe in early times was a very simple instrument to construct, and surely Mr. Robertson does not place much credit to the account of the early inhabitants of Scotland if they were unable to make a pipe for themselves. I have read and re-read many books referring to the Highland bagpipe, although the details given are scattered and scant. I have had many valuable books on the subject given me by friends, and have examined every available set of pipes of all nations now preserved. These are all different from the Highland bagpipe. Anyone who has studied the pipe in general and knows anything about such instruments of its kind, can see without any doubt that Scotland has its own pipe, which was constructed by its own people, and this king of the bagpipe (so to speak) all the world over.

Many things come from the East, but not the Highlander and his own native pipe. They are both hardy annuals which have grown at regular periods to a great state of perfection. The Highlanders are a particular people living in a particular country, who wear a particular dress, speak a particular language, play a particular Instrument, which has a very much more particular music.

I must not take up more space in your valuable paper, but I would ask for some more light on the subject of clear proof that our Highland bagpipe came from the far east? We found it in Scotland, and our father’s fathers, and their father’s fathers from time immemorial. No other race in the world can play the Highland bagpipe like the Scottish Highlander, and no other country possesses such music as piobaireachd, which is Greek to everyone except its possessors. The pipe is certainly mentioned in the Bible, but not the Highland bagpipe.–I am, etc.,

J. Grant