OT: 21 May 1930 – A.K. Cameron “Piobaireachd – Bells of Perth”

The Oban Times, 21 May, 1930

” Bells of Perth”

Broadus, Montana, 25 April, 1930

Sir,–Your correspondent, Mr. Somerled MacDonald, is of the opinion that a different form of the Taorluadh movement was used by the old pipers in the variations of the tunes, i.e., a mutilated form of the GDG grip, but there is no MacCrimmon Sheantaireachd extant to support his contention. GD, instead of the pure GDG grip, was never used by the MacCrimmons. The only exception was and is in Ho-drun-un: BGG, when low G of the theme is taken in in the runnings. This form of Taorluadh is due to the limitations of the chanter, and, also for this reason, a similar note occurs in Leumluadh and Crunluadh. There were no other half grips in MacCrimmon music.

In a previous article I stated that the bell-notes in the “Bells of Perth” tune could not be rendered upon the bagpipe unless the full Taorluadh was used, and if Mr. MacDonald will turn to page 106-7-8 of Angus Mackay’s Piobaireachd book you will find proof of this. The bell tones are in groups of three repeated and groups of four repeated, and Mr. MacDonald will find these groups in the variations of the “Bells of Perth” tune in Angus MacKay’s book. When a bell-ringer pulls the bell-cord we hear one accented tone and two rebound tones, i.e., Tong-dong-ong. These tones in MacCrimmon’s notation are Hin-drin-in, and this is in staff notation is A-A-A, including the GDG grip. This is the pure Taorluadh, and when played in 6-8 time it gives us the bell-tones and their rhythm to a hair. See the fourth bar of the third variation of “Bells of Perth.”

The Tones of the Bell

When the bell-cord is pulled with greater force so as to get the bell going full swing we hear one accented tone and three rebounds tones, i.e., Tong-dong-ong-tong, and these tones in MacCrimmon notation are Hin-drin-in-hin, and this in staff notation is A-A-A-A. This includes the GDG grip, and this along with the four A’s is the Taorluadh-Breabach, as in the fourth bar of the second variation of the tune alluded to in A. MacKay’s book, proving that his notation is correct, and also proving that the modern form of the Taorluadh and Taorluadh-Breabach is wrong. See Lieutenant MacLennan’s and the Piobaireachd Society’s notations for these movements.

Any piper in the Highlands of Scotland or elsewhere who is within ear-shot of a church bell can prove that MacKay’s notation is correct, but if not satisfied he can erect a bell and satisfy his curiosity until no doubt remains. But the first thing he must learn is how to ring it, the art of which requires experience and practice.

The key-notes to this argument are GAA, BGG and BDD. No piper can get around these Taorluadh notes, and no Pibroch can be properly performed or rendered until the rhythm of all the Taorluadh notes is consistent with the rhythm of the three groups given here, and GGG in the Urlars.–I am, etc.,

A. K. Cameron

P. S.–Patrick Mór MacCrimmon vocables are used, and each “i” vowel represents a plain A note, and each “dr” represents the full GDG grip.–A. K. C.