OT: 15 September 1923 – J.C. “Canntaireachd”

The Oban Times, 15 September, 1923


4 September, 2013

Sir,–Being interested in the above, I corresponded from Grantham Camp in 1917 with Mr. Simon Fraser, the Piobaireachd authority, in Australia. I had a reply from him with a short pamphlet in which it was stated, as far as I can remember, that Capt.MacLeod of Gesto published a “true” work which was afterwards withdrawn and destroyed and a “fake” work constructed for the mystification of the public. I enclosed Mr. Fraser the price of the outline the “system,” but possibly the mail was torpedoed for I never heard more about it.

Mr. Fraser stated that Dr. Bannatyne, another authority, had the “system” from him and was able to play Pibrochs properly from it. Can Dr. Bannatyne or other authority kindly say if this is so and if there is a likelihood of its being published, and if there is anything in it?

Messrs. J. & R. Glen, the old bagpipe firm, High Street, Edinburgh, have, or had, a number of years ago, a small pamphlet with the “Gesto” system–possibly the “Fake.” I tried it carefully, comparing it with the ordinary notation, but can faithfully say that it was unsatisfactory and not consistent in its syllabic notation. Anyone can try it for himself and form his own ideas on it.

As there are only nine notes on the chanter and the same phrases constantly recur, any simple system of syllabic chanting could be readily constructed, and I fancy that there would be various local systems used in the old days.

MacDonald’s original book published by J. & R. Glen as above, of which I have an autographed copy, has musical mistakes, and is unsatisfactory for modern learners. It appears to be the source of all later publications.

I doubt if “Piob Mhor” will be able to find any “Gesto” manuscripts other than Mr. Simon Fraser’s. Mr. Fraser told me in the correspondence of 1917 that he was to publish his papers “after the War,” but would not trust his manuscript overseas until then. Has there been any publication of them and can any reader throw any light on the matter? –I am, etc.,

J. C.