OT: 3 October 1903 – Oilthigh [“The Passing of the Piobaireachd”]

The Oban Times, 3 October, 1903

[The Passing of the Piobaireachd]

28 September, 1903

Sir,–Having read “H.L.I.’s” letter, kindly allow me to say a few words, through your valuable paper, on one or two points. He mentions that if the MacCrimmons were to rise out of their graves they would be surprised to hear in the improvement made in their own composition of the piobaireachd. What I would like to know is where the improvement comes in.

When a piobaireachd is composed it is utterly impossible to alter it to any degree; and surely anyone who composes a tune ought to know how it should be played. The only improvement I am aware of is the superiority of the instrument both in tone and make. When compared with the old make of the pipes are now [sic] vastly superior indeed, but only in the rendering the sound more pleasant to the ear. The fingering, if not worse than it formerly was, it certainly no better.

“H.L.I.” is quite right when he says that nobody in this generation ever heard a MacCrimmon play. But the MacCrimmons have left behind them pipers who can play and teach, as, for instance, the Camerons, who undoubtedly can trace their teaching back to MacCrimmon’s time. If “H.L.I.” is a Highlander, I am very much surprised to hear him giving a march preference to a piobaireachd. In my own opinion it is impossible for anyone to appreciate a piobaireachd who has no Highland blood in him.

I suppose “H.L.I.” would consider a piper insane if he played more than two piobaireachds in one evening. Perhaps that accounts for some of the judging at games being unfair, when the judges have to listen to about a dozen pipers playing piobaireachds. After hearing the first two they begin to get sick of listening to the rest.–I am, etc.,