OT: 12 January 1935 – G.F. Ross “The MacCrimmon Genealogy”

The Oban Times, 12 January, 1935

The MacCrimmon Genealogy

 Hawksheid, Abbotswood, Guildford, Surrey, 29 December, 1934

Sir,–I have read with great interest the letter from your correspondent, Mr. Poulter. I should make it clear, in any case, that I am no genealogist, and my studies of the subject had been more with the view to date MacCrimmon tunes. However, we have more or less definite dates available to help untangle the web.

Iain Dubh was, admittedly, born in 1731.

Malcolm, his father, if, say, 40 at the time–as your correspondent thinks not unreasonable–would therefore have been born c. 1691.

Padruig Og, Malcolm’s father, if, say, 40 at the time of Malcolm’s birth, would have been born circa 1651. On this basis, he would have been, say, 83 at the time of the incident where Sir Alexander MacDonald try to deceive the Blind Piper, if the incident was in 1734. The history “Clan Donald” says Sir Alexander was sent to school at Leith in 1721 and to St. Andrews in 1726 for three years, and had Charles MacArthur with him. If, therefore, Charles MacArthur was apprenticed to Padruig Og after Sir Alexander left St. Andrews–which is far more likely, for he was a minor when he came to the title in 1720, and MacArthur served eleven years, as stated by Angus MacKay–is it must have been nearer 1740. On this basis, the Blind Piper was 84 at the time, and Padruig Og, it born, say, 1651, about 89 years of age! As to the date Padruig Og commenced to teach Iain Dall, your correspondent gives 1662 as the latest date. The Blind Piper, if he died in 1754 age 98, must therefore have been six years of age at the time! Surely he must have been at least 20 years of age when he commenced, if not older?

Padruig Mor, Padruig Og’s father, on the assumption that he was about 40 when the son was born, could be placed c. 1611 four date of birth. Is this reasonable? Does not the Wardlaw MS, after all, fixed the date of Iain Garve of Raasay’s drowning as “this April” 1671? If so, we are safe in assuming that Padruig Mor was gathered to his forebears by that time. If, therefore, he reached the age of 70, he could not have been born much before c. 1600. This would make him about 50 in his heyday–not unreasonable? I think, therefore, the date your correspondent suggests is rather early.

The Torwood incident in 1651, as described in the Wardlaw MS, describes the tune “A Kiss of the King’s Hand” to John Macgurmen or Mcgyurmen, “the Earle of Sutherland’s domestick.” In the first place, it is extremely unlikely the tune is an “extemporanian part” (? port), and it is by no means certain that John Macgurmen, the Earl of Sutherland’s piper, was Padruig Mor! If I remember rightly, certain correspondence in your journal not very many months ago suggested the name was a different one from MacCrimmon entirely. Rory Mor complained against McGrymens in 1599, and surely they were not his own clansmen?

However, if the Torwood piper was Padruig Mor, then the tune he played was not and “extemporanian port” but must have been his father’s, Donald Mor’s, composed perhaps on the occasion when Rory Mor went to London in 1613 and no doubt took Donald Mor with him. This tune is certainly not in the style of Padruig Mor, but is in the style of his father, unmistakably. Therefore, if we accept the piper as Padruig we must reject the “extemporanian” origin of the tune and realise he played his father’s tune on a similar occasion–the kissing of the King’s hand! What more natural? This suggestion would reconcile the two legends as to the origin of the tune, and, moreover, would overcome the musical difficulty in describing the tune to Patrick.

Donald Mor. In view of the foregoing, I should feel disposed to give a somewhat later date than 1560 as Donald’s birth, though admitting that date is perhaps not unreasonable.

Your correspondent asks me if I can produce evidence as to the MacCrimmon name before the time of Giuseppe Bruno. I certainly cannot, for I have no knowledge of Giuseppe Bruno and would much like to know who he was and what reliable information there is, if any, to connect him with the MacCrimmons. All I know, and I am no authority whatever on the origin of Highland names, is that much correspondence has appeared in your valued journal, leaving a layman like myself to the opinion that the name is an old one, perhaps coming originally from Ireland, as did the pipers, according to Flood.

It certainly is interesting that Cremona violins have been found in Skye, and such a fact may perhaps support other reliable facts supporting the Italian origin of the family. In the absence of some very substantial and reliable evidence, I think very few of your readers would be prepared to accept the theory of such origin. Your correspondent has no doubt noticed reference in your correspondence columns in a recent issue to the subject of the origin of the name.

Regarding Mr. Poulter’s closing paragraph, I should explain my meaning was that of recent years much has been put in print which previously was not available to the general public. I of course realise the actual documentary evidence is very scant, and we have little hope of more.

Your correspondent will, I feel certain, except my assurance that what I write is in no controversial spirit, but rather in the hope that we may be able to fix fairly accurately the times of the celebrated composers.

I am, etc.,

G. F. Ross

P.S.–Re: John MacCrimmon, piper to Seaforth, I can only refer to Angus MacKay’s book, where John is described as the son of Padruig Og by a second marriage and the brother of Donald Bane. Mackay, of course, maybe as an accurate in some of the sister of references as he is and some of his music.