OT: 6 February 1937 – John Grant “Angus MacKay and Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 6 February, 1937

Angus MacKay and Piobaireachd

 Lochnagar, Edinburgh, 23 January, 1937

Sir,–” Hebridean’s” letter in your issue of January 16 has done much to gild the pages of Angus MacKay’s great work and the collection and preservation of ancient piobaireachd.

John Ban Mackenzie was a bagpipe maker of no mean order, and it is to him that we owe the production of the finished pipe chanter in use to-day. I have heard that Donald MacKay was also a pipe maker.

I received my training entirely from Pipe-Major Ronald Mackenzie, nephew of the famous John Ban, and from Ronald I noted much of what I have preserved for future generations of pipers, of the history of John Ban, the Mackays’, and the MacCrimmons’.

I was piper to Abercairny for a number of years, thus following in the footsteps of the great family of the Mackays, for Donald MacKay who was piper to the Duke of Sussex was for a time also piper at Abercairny. I thank “Hebridean” for his able and unbiased letter in praise of Angus MacKay.

From Invershin we get “Angus MacKay dismantled” with all his greatness seemingly swept away. We have read Mr. MacPherson’s letters so often that we can almost tell what he is going to say before we look at them. The MacCrimmons and their capabilities are now common history and well known to all. John Dail MacKay was as great a performer as the MacCrimmons. That we know from the “Unfinished Piobaireachd” which rubbed some of the lustre off the Dunvegan masters. But John, to all, cannot be compared with Angus MacKay. We ought to give honour to whom honour is due and raised a memorial to the memory of the man who has preserved for us our inheritance in piobaireachd. He is the most ungrateful piper living who would not agree to that.

I shall now set all others in the piping world aside save Angus Mackay and Mr. A. MacPherson. I can tell Mr. MacPherson here and now that Angus MacKay wrote Toarluath and Crunluath exactly as he played them and as the MacCrimmons played them also.

If Mr. MacPherson thinks that there is a redundant A in the Toarluath and Crunluath in Angus MacKay’s work, then I can only place him in the ranks of the redundant pipers, as he does not understand those movements which are the crowning features of ancient piobaireachd.

I am, etc.,

John Grant