OT: 5 February 1927 – “Author’s Lament” “Toarluath and Crunluath”

The Oban Times, 5 February, 1927

Toarluath and Crunluath

 18 January, 1927

Sir,–From Piper Angus McPherson’s statement in the issue of the “Oban Times” dated 15th January we are led to believe now at the late Angus Mackay did not play the notes mentioned as he wrote them in his music book. Then why have they been written with the extra (low a) when not required.

This reminds me of a story I heard in my youth relating to John Bain Mackenzie, when piper to Mr. Mackenzie of Allangrange about the year 1820. As Mr. Mackenzie anticipated a visit from friends of noble rank at a certain time of the season he wished his piper to play a certain piobaireachd relating to his visitor’s Clan.

So he asked John one day–” Can you play such a piobaireachd, John?” John’s reply was–”I am sorry, Sir, the correct copy of that piobaireachd can only be found in Islay.”

“Oh! John, do you mean to tell me that the only place to get piobaireachd played correctly is in Islay?”

“Yes, Sir, I mean that Angus Mackay, piper to Shawfield Campbell of Islay, has in his possession copies of all piobaireachd and salutes which are worth noting, and I would like to learn it from a Mackay’s setting of it.”

So John got leave to visit Angus Mackay at Islay House to find from him what he wanted. And as John was returning home all the school pipers taught by Angus accompanied him to Portaskaig, where he had to wait overnight in the Inn. The Islay men had a farewell night with John, and he, being an excellent player of piobaireachd, was kept busy playing different pieces which they were keen to hear.

Then one of Angus’s pupils said to John–”I have heard you doing a movement in the last piobaireachd you played in the toarluath, and Angus did not show it to us that way.”

“Oh,” said John, “that is the way the MacCrimmons played it, but I prefer the way the Mackays do it. Therefore I only did it to see if your ears could detect it.” So if the toarluath and crunluath have been noted down to Angus as in his book therefore we have it as the MacCrimmons played it, but there is no question about how Angus taught it, and that is without the second (low a), as the Mackays were masters of the situation as far as piobaireachd playing and also composing were concerned.–I am, etc.,

“Author’ s Lament”