OT: 5 July 1930 – John Grant “The MacCrimmons and a Monument”

 The Oban Times, 5 July, 1930

The MacCrimmons and a Monument

Edinburgh, 27 June, 1930 [sic– probably 28 June, 1930]

Sir,–I am very loth to raise my voice or lift my pen against the fulfilment of any worthy object, and more specially against anything that would keep alive the genuine spirit of the MacCrimmons.

In this week’s Oban Times there appears and article upon the great Boreraig masters, to the effect that “each pupil had to memorise one hundred and ninety-five tunes before he was granted the ‘diploma’ of the Boreraig college.” The Boreraig masters were very conservative in what they taught, and I am quite sure that they did not know one hundred and ninety-five tunes.

The MacCrimmons never thought of a “diploma,” and they certainly never issued such a document. The only diploma that MacCrimmon gave or was responsible for was what his pupils could actually play, and on more than one occasion the master accompanied the pupil to the Highland chieftain’s residence and remained there until his pupil proved his ability by playing in the presence of the chieftain who had sent him and MacCrimmon himself. When the young pupil had in this manner proved himself a piper, MacCrimmon returned to Boreraig, after he had received his fee, which was invariably accompanied by a good “Highland dram.”

Let us just realize what 195 piobaireachd means:To memorise and play 195 tunes would amount to at least a minimum of 600 pages of music, 7200 staves, 28,800 bars, and 491,200 notes. This carries the ridiculous to the extreme. One might endeavour to raise a memorial for a MacCrimmon who taught each pupil to play at most forty to fifty tunes, but the MacCrimmon who taught his pupils 195 tunes each never lived.

This memorial, from what I gather, is to comprise three items: (1) to raise a cairn at Boreraig; (2) to put a tablet on the wall of the church in Kilmuir, Skye and: (3) and lastly, if funds permit, to collect and publish the MacCrimmon piobaireachd. The first two things, I understand, are to be carried out, but the most important of all is in danger of being shelled, i.e., the publication of the masters’ music. I would take this opportunity of warning my good friend Mr. F. T. MacLeod that unless the twenty-five MacCrimmon piobaireachd which we have preserved our published exactly as MacCrimmon play them, they will be no memorial to MacCrimmon, but will die a natural death, and the old women will have to croon the sad coronach, and I shall pipe bemoaningly, Cha till MhicCruimein.–I am, etc.,

John Grant