OT: 14 November 1931 – Seton Gordon “Cha Till MacCriomainn”

 The Oban Times, 14 November, 1931

The MacCrimmons for at least Three Hundred
Years were the Hereditary Pipers to Successive
Chiefs of MacLeod at their Castle in Dunvegan,
Isle of Skye




 The MacCrimmon Piping College was at Borreraig across the loch from the Castle and there is now little of the ruin to be seen. One of the photographs shows a group of persons standing on the side of the old College and holding up some of the stones of which it was built. There is a tradition at Borreraig that on one occasion 180 pipers were present at the college. The MacCrimmons, being persons of distinction, held the lands of the place rent free. It can be gathered that their farm steading was large. An old wall surrounds this. 

Clach Mhor Mhic Cruimein 

Close to the ruins of the college is to be seen Clach Mhor Mhic Cruimein (the Great Stone of MacCrimmon). The tradition is that Padruig Mòr MacCrimmon’s horse was always pulling out the tether pin, and so Padruig Mòr rolled the great stone (which no man now can lift) onto the tether pin. But the horse got even with him by breaking the rope, and more than two hundred years after, the pin was found below the stone, and was until recently in the possession of a neighbouring crofter. 

Slochd Nam Piobairean 

A few hundred yards from the ruins of the MacCrimmon college is a high Seacliff. On this Seacliff was Slochd Nam Piobairean (The Pipers’ Hollow). Slochd Nam Piobairean was a ledge on the sheer rock. Here MacCrimmon;s pipers had to play their last tune before leaving the college, and the feat must have been a testing one, for the head if not for the fingers, for the waves break angrily on the rocks a full two hundred feet below, and a false step would have sent the piper with his pipes hurtling to the abyss. Surely this was a curious place for a piper to play, but we are told that the fairy–perhaps she who gave MacCrimmon the silver chanter of miraculous properties–pointed out to the great piper the exact spot where his pipers should play their last tune! 

A comparatively recent fall of rock (where it fell away is plainly visible) has carried with it most of the Slochd Nam Piobairean, and now it would be impossible for the most daring piper to obtain a footing there. 

The Coolins 

No musicians have ever composed their masterpieces in surroundings more inspiring. On the South horizon rise the Cuillin, beautiful and distinctive always, whether deep blue before a coming storm or clear and smiling beneath a summer sun. North, across the Minch, are the Harris hills, rising from a land that was formerly MacLeod territory. The northerly swell, sweeping down the Minch from the Faerdes and from Ireland, thunders about the rocks where, in Uaimh nam Piobairean, the great MacCrimmon composers sought inspiration at midnight from the spirits of the air and sea. Solans wheel and plunge beneath the green waters, and that bird of wisdom, the raven, soars in the teeth of the breeze along the cliffs. 

A Cairn of Remembrance 

No longer, alas, will MacCrimmon’s pipe be heard here, and it is in memory of his line, illustrious as pipers, that a Cairn of Remembrance is to be raised beside the old college, so that in future years those who journey hither may know something of a family who among pipers were peerless, and among men were known for their loyalty and courage. 

Seton Gordon