OT: 1 November 1938 – A.K. Cameron “The MacCrimmons of Borreraig”

The Oban Times, 1 November, 1938

The MacCrimmons of Borreraig

Crow Rock, Montana, U.S.A., 24 August, 1938

Sir,–Petrus, the son of a clergyman, is the oldest of the MacCrimmons on record. He was born about 1475 and went to Ulster, in Ireland, in 1510.

His sons: John (Iain Odhar), and Padruig were excellent pipers. John married a Miss MacKinnon from Skye whom he met in Ulster.

John (Iain Odhar), and his son Donald (Donald Mòr), went over to Dunvegan, Skye, with one of the MacLeods in 1548. Donald, sometime afterwards returned to Ulster to finish his studies under his uncle, Padruig, who had a college for piping there.

Therefore: Iain Odhar, Donald Mòr, Padruig Mòr, Padruig Og, (Malcolme, and Donald Bane), and Iain Dubh, were the Hereditary pipers at Borreraig. Seven pipers, but only six generations.

Therefore: ten, twelve and fourteen generations is absolutely wrong, and counting brothers and strangers as generations of MacCrimmons is misleading. In fact, “Finlay of the White Plade,” was not a MacCrimmon at all, he was Finlay Dubh McRae instead, and the composer of the “Earl of Seaforth’s Salute.”

MacCrimmon of Struan

Only five of Padruig Og’s children came to maturity: i.e., Malcome, and a daughter, by first wife, and John, Donald Bane, and Farquhar, by second wife.

Malcome succeeded his father as piper at Borreraig. Therefore, how could Peter MacCrimmon of Struan be a brother of Malcome, the hereditary piper?

Donald Donn Branch: Angus MacKay failed to put Donald Bane on record as a married man, therefore, it would be interesting to know where the Donald Donn branch of the MacCrimmons sprung from.

Borerraig Musical System

Although Mr. Poulter assumes that Captain Neil MacLeod of Gesto, and also the Frasers, obtained their knowledge of this system from the Donald Donn branch of the MacCrimmons, I cannot agree, because Captain MacLeod’s introduction to his book of verbal notation, 1828 edition, is:–

“A Collection, Piobaireachd or Pipe tunes, as verbally taught by the MacCrimmon Pipers in the Isle of Skye to their apprentices. Now published as taken from John MacCrimmon, piper to the Old Laird of MacLeod, and his grandson, the late General MacLeod of MacLeod. [“]

Iain Dubh is the Captain’s Authority and also his authority for their history: 1826.

The late Simon Fraser, Australia, in many letters to me gave Iain Dubh as his father’s authority. Iain Dubh and his father were great friends and Simon’s father often wrote tunes for Iain Dubh.

Simon’s own authorities were:–his father, Peter Bruce; and his mother: who was a daughter of Charles MacArthur.

Iain Dubh MacCrimmon was the last of the Great Hereditary pipers and the twenty tunes in “Gesto,” as he played them, proves beyond question that this is a fact, and also proves that he was greater than the MacArthurs, the Mackays, or any piper living to-day. Why? Because there is not a trace of Iain Dubh’s intricate playing in MacArthur’s or Mackay’s work, and our champions have not the slightest idea of how to start fingering a “Ho-dra-ta-ta-te-ri-ri.”

And yet it is a piobaireachd beat taken from Iain Dubh’s fingers.

I am, etc.,

A. K. Cameron

(The letter of Mr. G. C. B. Poulter, F. S. A. (Scot.), Hon. Secretary of the Clan MacCrimmon Society, appeared in the Oban Times on July 23 last).