OT: 22 June 1929 – Scal-Piob. “Concerning Piobaireachd Playing and Chanter Making”

The Oban Times, 22 June, 1929

Concerning Piobaireachd Playing and Chanter Making

Sir,–Your correspondent A. K. Cameron, Montana, U.S.A., makes a slight mistake in his Letter in “Oban Times” of 18th May. Donald Cameron, the great Piobaireachd players first tutor was big Donald MacLennan, of Moy, and his second tutor was Angus Mackay. His last tutor was John Bain Mackenzie, better known as “An Piobair Bhan,” who was partly taught as a boy by John Dubh MacCrimmon. John Bhan Mackenzie was considered a handsome piper, and as regards knowledge was declared to be a king among pipers.

I have also noted that Mr. Cameron refers to Angus MacPherson, Portree. Angus MacPherson was a well taught piper and the beautiful piobaireachd player. At the age seventy-six he competed at Portree Games, among all the notable pipers of whom there were many. He was awarded first prize, which speaks for itself as to the piper’s ability. He was taught by a MacDonald, who received tuition from John Mackay.

Malcolm MacPherson, piper to Cluny, better known as Calum Dubh, was a famous player of Piobaireachd, and his beautiful rendering and graceful time could not be surpassed. I heard Calum at a large gathering in Edinburgh, where he met a number of Cameron’s pupils and all the notable pipers of Scotland. On that day Calum was awarded first prize for Piobaireachd playing, which he well deserved.

Another great player, Ronald McKenzie, who was taught by John Bain Mackenzie, won the gold medal at the Northern Meeting in 1863, and again in 1873 was declared champion of pipers at the Northern Meeting.

Now we come to the chanter making; we know that John Bain Mackenzie at one time a chanters. But now, like the Black Chanter of the Clan Chattan, they have gone to rest, as the secret of making chanters has come to light, and we have from the present pipers a much louder instrument of better tone and surer note, which easily excels the chanters made eighty years ago.

Hark the Piobaireachd summons so war-like, wild and shrill,
Like the flashes from the fiery cross, that leaps from hill to hill;
Hark to the Piobaireachd summons, the echoing rocks repeat
Like the tempest, mighty screaming, when a thousand Eagles meet.
–Lays of the Highlands.

–I am, etc.,