OT: 19 July 1924 – George G. Mackay “The Prince’s Salute”

The Oban Times, July 19, 1924

“The Prince’s Salute”

65 Harrison Road, Edinburgh. 10th July, 1924

Sir, in a previous letter I pointed out an error in this tune and outlined a simple method of beating it. That it has long evaded detection may be accounted for by the elusive and deceptive nature of the error, which takes the form of excessive notes in the Singling sections of the variations.

The correspondent signing himself “Crunluath” has inadvertently misquoted me. My contention is not that the “Princes Salute is wrong” but that it has “lost much of its attractiveness” which is rather different. There can be no doubt that it is wrong on the part referred to. It is quite a different matter in regard to the method of playing the “variations” following the “ground,” and also the proper phrasing of the “ground” itself.  These parts are certainly open to debate.

Your correspondent says he has tried the transposing of the notes in the “Toarluath ,” and that they “throw the whole tune out of gear.”  This is a somewhat startling result, as these “variations” are only the latter half of the “piece” ; it is also rather unfortunate in having precisely the opposite effect to that I had expected. Evidently I have not made myself sufficiently clear to “Crunluath” in my previous letter, and hearing that I have been equally obscure to others, I am allowing the tune to speak for itself.

Here is the first line in plain notes of the “Singling” of the “Toarluath” and also the corresponding line of the “Doubling,” the former being the part complained of as being out of order

AEDB GB  GD    AEDB  EB   AE   (Doubling)

It will be seen that they do not agree, and that the superfluous notes are the third in the second and fourth bars, G in the former and A in the latter.

Here are the same lines as, in both, the composer intended them to be played


The circles denote quavers; all the others are crotchets.

It will be seen that the lines agreed perfectly and the composer has put a fine distinction between the two by a simple reversal. The one section reverts to the other quite naturally. “The Prince’s Salute,” like its beautiful confrere “The Landing in Moidart,” is a simple melody the structure of which is eight notes to each phrase, all the others being merely detail. It follows therefore that if any of the sections have nine of those notes in every phrase, it is not surprising to find part of the tune “out of gear.”

The urgency of having this absurd “[illegible]” removed from the piece may be gathered from the fact that it adversely affects, directly and indirectly, the greater portion of a long tune which will be repeatedly played to large audiences at Oban and other important Gatherings, as it is one of the three tunes selected for competition by the Piobaireachd Society, and on this account and in the interest of the music generally it is desirable that publicity be given to the matter in the “Oban Times.”

“Crunluath” refers to my statements as “mere assertions” and nothing more weighty than that, and asks my authority for making them. My reply is that even authorities (sic) must recognise facts, and the foregoing, like many other things I have discovered in piobaireachd, is fact and not fiction. –I am, etc.,

George MacKay