OT: 27 February 1937 – Breabach “Angus MacKay and Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 27 February, 1937

Angus MacKay and Piobaireachd

 19 February, 1937

Sir,–I have been noting with interest the correspondence on the above between our friends, John Grant and Angus MacPherson, and while I have no intention of involving myself in their little altercations, I would like, with your permission, to present a few observations.

In the first instance I very much deplore the rather personal element which has crept into this discussion and which was originally quite foreign to it. It will be obvious to all that neither of the correspondenis are suffering from inferiority complex, but seeking to expand their great “egos”; the one expatiates on his having been piper to Abercairney, while the other speaks of his ancestors. Now, as readers of the Oban Times, we are not interested.

Angus MacKay gave his whole life in the piobaireachd cause, sojourning in the Highlands, collecting from time to time all he could lay hands on and rescuing many a good piobaireachd for posterity. He would be no piper who would seek to depreciate the magnitude of this great work or attempt to deprive MacKay of a single atom of credit for it, and I feel sure that our friend Angus MacPherson will not hesitate to endorse this. We must not lose consciousness of the fact that there were others too who preceded MacKay–Joseph MacDonald, who was the first to attempt to express pipe music in staff notation, and Donald MacDonald, who published the first book of piobaireachds.

But, why erect a memorial to MacKay? Would it not be doing a greater honour to MacKay, and a greater service to piping, if we reprinted MacKay’s book (which has been out of print now for some years) preferably in that short method adopted by the Piobaireachd Society? Rather that than spend money on a heap of stones erected on some isolated peak which few would be privileged to see.

In addition let our correspondents remember that comparisons of any kind are delicate matters and in particular any comparison between MacKay and MacCrimmon can never be any more than mere conjecture, without any foundation in fact and entirely incongruent with this discussion.

Finally, I would like our to correspondents to rid themselves of this Toarluath-Crunluath-redundant A complex and through the medium of this paper give us a discussion on some of the really vital aspects of piping, viz., the origin of ceol mhor (from internal evidence), the peculiar system of scales upon which the compositions are constructed, the presence of nine notes on the chanter scale (one more than the octave), etc., etc.

I am, etc.,