OT: 28 June 1924 – Crunluath “Piobaireachd Playing”

The Oban Times, June 28, 1924

Piobaireachd Playing

Johannesburg, 28th May, 1924

Sir, The “Oban Times” is a weekly source of pleasure to me, more especially when, as is frequently the case, it contains articles and letters on Piobaireachd.

I was greatly interested in reading a contribution from Mr. George MacKay in a recent issue, the subject being “The Prince’s Salute.” I do not know just what Mr. MacKay means, but he says the “Prince’s Salute” as generally played nowadays is wrong. Living so far away from the hub of Piobaireachd I do not often have opportunities of hearing first-class players and do not know if the style complained of is that given in “Glens Ancient Piobaireachd.” I have tried the transposition of the notes as suggested, but to my mind the change seems to put the whole tune out of gear.

Mr. MacKay writes in what one might term a fairly authoritative vein. Might I ask what his authority is for the statements he makes, and what means he has of knowing how the “Prince’s Salute” was played in 1745. There has been a great deal of controversy over Piobaireachd, and many claimants to the mantle of MacCrimmon have come and gone; surely it’s not too too [sic] much to ask for something more weighty than the bare assertion of even the best of them. Amidst all this, however, it is refreshing to read of the great revival of Piping and of the work of the various bodies that do so much to encourage young players.

I have had for several years past the annual book of original compositions published by the Cowal Society, whose yearly competition for the best original tunes is responsible for creating so much interest. Might I offer the suggestion that only the prize-winning tunes be published. I have often felt sorry for the judges in their task in having to wade through so much absolute rubbish as most of the tunes are; in fact I cannot help thinking that the mathematical possibilities have been almost exhausted, and that there cannot be many more remaining ways in which the notes can be arranged.

Another matter that I think calls for comment is the light-hearted way in which some of the fine old tunes are mutilated. It seems to be a point of honour with almost every piper to have his own set of most of the good old tunes until the ordinary piper literally does not know where he is. I recently had one of the latest publication sent me and in going through it was dumbfounded to see that the third part of “McAllister’s Dirk” had been cut out and a part from another tune substituted almost note for note. Can effrontery go further? It is surely time that standard settings were adopted and prizes only be awarded to competitors playing such.

Apologising for taking up so much of your space, –I am, etc.,