OT: 25 December 1926 – Malcolm MacInnes “Toarluath and Crunluath”

The Oban Times, 25 December, 1926

 Toarluath and Crunluath

Drumfearn, Skye, 3 December, 1926

Sir,–The position of Mr. John Grant is not clear. In one place he says that the question is whether these movements can be played as noted in the book supposed to have been written by Angus Mackay. No one disputes that, or that they can be played by Mr. Grant himself. He further states that the question is not how they ought to be played. But surely this is not how Mr. Grant has been hitherto understood. Did he not maintain that the recent writers were wrong in their method of writing these movements, because it differs from Mackay, and though it represents the way they are played by the pipers? And does he not even yet practically adhere to this position, when he asserts that Mackay wrote what he played? For no one would deny that what was played by Mackay was what ought to be played.

The issue, therefore, appears to be unchanged. It is whether the old style has an A too many. Mr. Grant says it has not; but his sole evidence is that it was so written. He makes the additional assertion that Mackay played as is written in his book; but clearly neither Mr. Grant nor anyone now living is in a position to say whether he did or did not. Clearly also the question cannot be settled by proof; but the actual facts also just that the movements were never played as written by Mackay.

Some of these facts are that no school of pipers, and no piper, plays thus to-day, or is known to have done so in the past; that the poems of the bards do not suit the old style, while they do suit the new style–the style played by the pipers; that the chanting syllables are in the same position; that the difference between the two styles is so marked that the bards and singers could not all have composed and sung syllables for the style of the pipers only; that in movements containing so many notes, a mistake in noting could have been made very easily; then many are known to have followed the old way of noting though they played according to the new way; that some books actually write things one way explained that they are to be played in another; that the noting of pibroch is not perfect even yet; and that there are other mistakes in Mackay.

I would like to point out that the spelling “toarluath” and “crunluath” is indubitably wrong. The second syllable is not “luath” (fast), for it is inflected (e.g., “buille crunlaidh”) in a way inconsistent with that.–I am, etc.,

Malcolm MacInnes