The Oban Times, 28 June, 1930
The Peers Among Pipers
Is there a funeral march which touches the feelings as deeply as MacCrimmon’s Lament? Who has not been thrilled by the sound of the pipes sighing and weeping the refrain–
Cha till, cha till, cha till, sinn tuilleadh.
That was the swan-song of the MacCrimmons. Donald Ban MacCrimmon, the composer, never returned from the expedition in 1745 which ended in the Rout at Moy, and the famous family then practically faded into obscurity. The Dirge (An Tuireadh), which is said to have been the response of MacCrimmon’s sweetheart to the Lament (Cumha) is equally pathetic–
Cha till, cha till, cha till MacCriomthainn,
An cogadh, no ‘n sith, cha rill e tuilleadh;
Le h’airgeid no ni cha till MacCriomthainn,
Cha till e gu brath gu là na cruinne.
No more, no more, no more forever,
In war or peace shall return MacCrimmon;
no more, no more, no more forever
Shall love or gold bring back MacCrimmon!
But the MacCrimmon music is immortal; it will not die. The MacCrimmons have honoured the Highland people; it is for them in turn to do honour to the MacCrimmons.
One day a foreign ship dropped anchor in Loch Dunvegan. She had a deadly fever aboard of her and spread it far and wide over MacLeod’s country. Padruig Mòr lost all his sons but one of this fever, and, under the stress of deep emotion, composed his lament for his loved family.
The calamity rouse Padruig to give the masterpiece, “Cumha na Chloinne” (Lament for the Children).
A MacCrimmon on one occasion accompanied his master to England, and, being at Court, played before the king, Charles II. His Majesty was so pleased with his playing that he allow the piper to kiss his hand, and this act inspired the piper to compose the stately “Salute” known as Thug mi pog do làmh an Righ. The Gaelic words associated with this tune are–
Thug mi pòg, is pòg, is pòg,
Thug mi pog do lamh an righ;
Cha do chuir gaoth an craichonn caorach,
Fear a fhuair an fhaoilt’ ach mi.
And in English, literally–
I gave a kiss, a kiss, a kiss,
I gave a kiss to the Kings hand;
he ne’er blew wind into a sheep’s skin
That got the honour, save myself.
The College at Borreraig
These are but mentions of some of the MacCrimmon compositions. The main impress of the MacCrimmons on pipe music, however, comes from there teaching. This family of wonderful musical genius established and carried on a college for instruction in pipe music, to which young pipers came from all parts of Scotland and some from Ireland for instruction. The training was severe. Each pupil, it is said, had to memorise one hundred and ninety-five testing compositions and had to be proficient in theory and capable of composition before he was granted the “diploma” of Borreraig College. There is still preserved examples of the peculiar notation used by these famous pipers in MacLeod’s of Gesto Collection. It was orally or musically taught. The site of the college is still seen. The green sward where the pupils had to march while receiving instruction can be traced, and the “Pipers’Cave,” to which they went in wet and stormy weather, is pointed out at Borreraig on the south-west shore of Loch Dunvegan. Both mark the home and cradle of the pipe music of the Gael. It is fitting, therefore, that the Memorial Committee propose to set their memorials on the side of the old college and in the old church of Kilmuir. Sir Reginald, Chief of the MacLeods; Sir John Lorne MacLeod, LL.D., and others are on the Committee, and the hon. secretary and treasurer is Mr. Fred T. MacLeod, solicitor, 10 George Street, Edinburgh, whose energy and devotion to the interests of the Clan MacLeod are guaranteed of success will attend the admirable object of raising a memorial to the MacCrimmons.