OT: 25 December 1926 – A.K. Cameron – [“Toarluath and Crunluath”]

The Oban Times, 25 December, 1926

[Toarluath and Crunluath]


Powderville, Montana, U.S.A., 7 November, 1926

Sir,–I wish to inform your correspondent, Mr. Malcolm MacInnes, that his statement that “the old way could easily result from a piper playing slowly to an expert musician who did the noting” is built on an extremely flimsy foundation. It is a well-known fact that Angus Mackay, D. MacDonald, and W. Ross (Queen’s Piper) wrote their own notation, and their work proves beyond question that they were capable of writing music exactly as they played it. Accordingly, the notes at issue in the old notation could not result, as Mr. MacInnes suggests, at least in the case of these players.

If David Glen play the Toarluath and Crunluath movements as Mr. MacInnes would have us believe, will he (Mr. MacInnes) explain why Glen’s instructions and the charts for fingering these movements on pages 4 and 5 of his “Piobaireachd Tutor” indicates clearly that each note in his notation for these movements are to be played?

It is hard to believe that Glen played less notes in these movements than his notation calls for on account of his charts, and it is unreasonable to assume that his notation was written for show, and that part of it is not supposed to be played because he knew perfectly well when he remodeled his Piobaireachd book that the Toarluath and Crunluath movements, as noted by him and played by others, were always a questionable affair amongst the piping fraternity. Knowing all this he surely would not leave the correct fingering of his notation in doubt. And he did not do so as is proved by his charts. If Glen played less notes than his notation indicates, why did he not write charts for fingering the new notation instead of for the old, when it is simpler, easier to play, and would cost less to publish?

Although your correspondent is in favour of adopting modern innovations in piping, because he thinks it would be a great improvement that does not prove that Angus Mackay’s notation is wrong, and this is what we would like him to prove.

Although MacDougall Gillies, and all the other eminent pipers, past and present, played, and play the movements alluded to like your correspondent, it would be extremely unreasonable to assume that any of these men, past or present, knew or know better than Mackay how these movements are to be played and noted or to assume that Mackay’s notation is wrong, because it does not correspond with their playing. No man can prove the Mackay’s notation is wrong.

In conclusion, I am unable to admire anyone who plays the Crunluath Breabach of “Mary MacLeod’s Lament” unless he plays all the notes that truly belong to it; any other way of playing it is not worth listening to. When this movement–Glen’s notation is rendered as a dreary sequence of notes, devoid of all rhythm, it is the fault of the performers, because the movement has the most beautiful combination of notes in pipe music.–I am, etc.,

A. K. Cameron