OT: 4 April 1908 – Charles Bannatyne “Canntaireachd”

The Oban Times, 4 April, 1908


Salsburgh-by-Holytown, 30 March, 1908

Sir,–Mr. Fraser, who wrote from Australia to “The Oban Times” last week on this ancient system of pipe music, has sent to me the scale by which it can be read by anyone. I was able to read it by means of a key which I evolved some years ago, and details of which were published in your columns at that time.

Mr. Fraser informs me that his mother taught him the notation in the Australian bush in 1853, in that it had been handed down to her family for several generations, having been taught to his great-grandfather by Patrick Og MacCrimmon. Mr. Fraser was taught piping by Peter Bruce, who also knew the system. He is mentioned as a prizewinner by Angus Mackay at the Highland Society of London’s pibroch competition in 1838 he was a native of Glenelg.

The following is the scale, each note having a grace note. In addition I give a tune, “The Stuarts’ White Banner,” in the notation, both as given by Mr. Fraser and by Angus Mackay. I have parts of 60 tunes in Mackay’s canntaireachd, which are interesting because of the fact that in 1848 Mackay knew no MacCrimmon canntaireachd. Here is Fraser’s scale:–

hun hio ho hio ha he hi hu di

The tune given shows the vocables, and the grace notes and embellishments they signify.

“The Stuarts’ White Banner.”
cheo dra he re re, he re re he vo chio,
cheo dra he re re, chea varla cheo vindun,
cheo dra he re re, he re re he vo chio,
Chea hindun chea badio, chea hindio chea hundun
cheo dra he re re, chea varla cheo hindun,
cheo dra he re re, he re re he vo chin,
cheo dra hedrin veo, cheadrin vea cheo hindun,
heiririn heiririn.

The vowels in each vocable are pronounced separately.

The tune in Angus MacKay’s Canntaireachd:–

hio dalla hiridi, hiridi hio hin
hio dalla hiridi, hia radia hio hin hem,
hio dalla hiridi, hiridi hio hin,
hia hin hem hia o hia, hia radia hio hin hem,
hio dalla hiridi, hiridi hio hin,
hio dalla hiharin hio, hia harin hia hio hia hem,
hianana, hianana.

Both styles of this ancient piper’s notation are fine examples of onomatopeia, and are interesting as showing the similarity of impression made by the same sounds on different brains with a like training. Mr. Fraser, who sent me the scale he was taught, is in buisness in Victoria, and an Australian friend informs me that he is the foremost teacher and judge of piping in the Antipedes. –I am, etc.,

Charles Bannatyne, M.B., C.M.