Coat of Arms of the Earl of Antrim
Click "Play" below to hear "Lament for the Earl of Antrim" performed by William Barrie.
Note: Stop the player at the top of the page before playing this tune.
Track available on "Ancient Piobaireachd, Volume III." CDs of this beautiful music are available by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: The Piping Times
Who Was The Earl of Antrim?
A Discussion: On the Possible
Influence of Scottish and Irish
Ceol Mor on Each Other
By Frank Timoney
Whenever I would ask this question of any of the playing greats, I seemed always to get the same reply that he was a Scottish MacDonald and that the piece was of course
written for him by a MacCrimmon. Various references to the piece in piping publications claim a link to Rory Mor Macleod, (1) Chief of the Macleod's of Dunvegan. It has been
said that this great Piobaireachd contains virtually everything to inspire the player to master its lovely melody, which is carried through from Ground to Crunluath.
Research into this subject has led me to feel that this Piobaireachd may have been transposed from an early Irish harp tradition.
The Earldom was created in 1620 by King James I (of England) and VI (of Scotland), upon Irish born Ranald MacSorley MacDonnell, who was
descended from two famous families, one a Scottish Highland and the other an Irish Gaelic family. The Earls however became naturally more involved with Irish matters, as
their involvement in Scottish Highland affairs become less successful with each generation.
The Earl's father, one Somhairle Buidhe MacDonald (Sorley Boy) came to Ireland and later on, found quite a lucrative trade in the braining
of Spaniards who survived various shipwrecks off the Antrim coast. This was the time of the Spanish Armada and although those who made it to Scotland found a more friendly
refuge, Sorley developed quite a taste for Spanish silken shirts and gold. (The Irish today love to explain shipwrecked Spaniards as having been the cause of dark complexioned
people among them, but the Irish of the time and their uninvited Highland friends put paid to that tale, long before it began. They made short shrift of any Spanish survivors.)
In Ireland, Somhairle Buidhe prospered.
It was not that he came penniless to Antrim. He came with the best credentials. His father, Alasdair MacIain MacDonald was chief of the
MacDonald's of Colonsay. Sorley had married the unfortunate Mary O'Neill, daughter of old Conn Bacach O'Neill, First Earl of Tyrone. His brother James (Seumas
Colla Nan Capull MacDonald) married Agnes Campbell, daughter of the Third Earl of Argyll. Things went well until Mary's psychotic brother, the famous Shane O'Neill,
("friend to The Queen of England and cousin to St. Patrick") put Sorley Boy in prison for quite some time. James came to Ireland to break Sorley out and Shane killed him
and his brother Angus. James' younger brother, Alexander, came over and literally cut Shane into pieces and sprung his brother Sorley.
Mary and Sorley's son Raonull MacSomhairle was created The First Earl of Antrim probably because King James felt
the need of a strong Scottish Gaelic presence in Ireland. The MacDonnell's of Antrim were not part of Elizabeth's "planters," King James was himself Scottish. Raonull died
in 1636, having held the Earldom some thirteen years. He was related to the Great Hugh O'Neill and was first cousin of Donald MacGilleasbuig MacDonald (James's son) back
James's widow, Agnes Campbell, had by now married Shane O'Neill's successor, Turlough Luineach O'Neill. These O'Neill's had something. Having become a strong link in the
family of the Lord's of the Isles, the First Earl of Antrim had married into them as well, having wed Alice, daughter of Hugh O'Neill.
The Second Earl of Antrim, Raonull Arainneach MacDonnell (Ranald of Arran) became
the First Marquis of Antrim in 1645 and died in 1682. He was the second native-born Irishman to hold the Earldom. His second cousin Colla Ciotach
MacDonald, James' grandson, was driven from Colonsay in 1639 by his uncle, Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll, and went to Ireland
to live with Ranald who himself had married into the O'Neill's.
The Third Earl was Alasdair or Alexander, Ranald's brother, who died in 1696 without attaining the title of
Marquis, was very active in Irish nationalism and commanded a regiment in the army of Owen Roe O'Neill at Benburb in 1646. His very famous cousin was the legendary
Alasdair MacCholla MacDonald, James's great grandson, who had come to Ireland with his father in 1639. MacCholla went to Scotland with Irish
regiments raised on the Antrim estates to serve under Montrose.
All of which brings us to our first flaw in the story. Rory Mor MacLeod went to Ireland in 1595 (and gave us our first clear reference to the belted plaid being worn by
Highlanders), possibly with a train of MacCrimmon pipers who must have had nothing to do, because the Earldom of Antrim was not created until 1620! Dead in 1636,
there was no one to write for until another forty-one years had passed! We must imagine that if Rory went to Antrim, he went under heavy guard because
we all know how the MacDonald's and the Macleod's were bitter enemies. Antrim was thick with MacDonnell's and their kinsmen the O'Neill's and the O'Neill's kinsmen, the O'Donnell's.
The life of a MacLeod or a MacCrimmon must have been very precarious to say the least, what MacLeod would ever have a Piobaireachd written after a MacDonald or a MacDonnell
or an O'Neill? Moreover, here were these MacDonnell's already adopting the O'Neill insignia, "Lam Derig Abu" and all that. What MacCrimmon would ever compose it? Perhaps
Rory Mor went home leaving his MacCrimmon pipers alone in Ireland. If they composed for the First or Second Earl, they could have only done so between 1636 and 1645 when
the Second Earl became the First Marquis. Perhaps the MacCrimmon's stayed in Ireland for a hundred years and composed a piece for The Third Earl in 1696.
This would be impossible because modern day authors remind us that they were back in Skye busily composing. Could the Irish have composed the piece? It is obvious that
the earls were as much O'Neill's as anything else.
The Fourth Earl of Antrim was Randal, the son of Alexander who became Earl in 1696, the
Fifth Earl, Alexander, was the son of Randal, and he became Earl in 1721.
If the piece was written in Ireland after 1636, it was written for the harp because as we have seen, the loud mouth blown pipe had gone out of style in that country just
as the sixteenth century ended. It was unlikely to have been written for the soft, mouth blown English pastoral pipe (later to become bellows fed) that was now being introduced
in its stead. Could there be a piece of harp music extant that is similar to the Lament for the Earl of Antrim? Harpers of the Earls of Antrim were
in great demand in Scotland. The old order was collapsing there and harpers were becoming scarce in the Highlands. MacKenzie of Applecross was especially praised by one of
them as having a most generous hand, because he filled the one hand of the harper of the Earl of Antrim on a visit to Scotland, with gold and the
other hand with silver. Perhaps the grateful harper left Applecross with a gift in kind, a Lament! Irish harpers were especially known for their laments, some of which were
said to be possessed of magical qualities. In certain Irish families, the profession of harper was hereditary. Many of these harper's had descended from important literary
families and were drawn from the stratum of Gaelic society that provided literate professionals. This was in direct contrast to the family pipers of Scotland, with the one
possible exception of Clann An Sgeulaiche, the MacGregors of Ruaro in Glen Lyon, Perthshire.
It is difficult therefore to understand why Piobaireachd is not found in Ireland today. Certainly all the conditions were right for it. Until sometime in the early seventeenth
century, both Irish music and Highland music were one and the same. The mystery is that in Scotland, Piobaireachd is found in its completed form. There is no missing link
to indicate that the music emanated from a more simple or experimental art form. We have seen that Irish culture, poetry, music, language, dance, etc.
was devastated by change after 1600.
Take for instance dancing and an account by one Fynes Morison ca 1598. He had seen Irish soldiers dancing around a fire in the middle of a room to the strains of a mouth
blown bagpipe. "They dance the MATACHINE DANCE with naked swords which they make to meet in divers comely postures." This certainly does not resemble the stiff like Irish
dancing we see today (the product of Rome and London) with hands held rigidly by the sides. We have also seen that poetry declined after 1607 with the loss of syllabic Gaelic
In 1185 we are given a startling look at Irish harp music by Gerald of Wales in this abridged account. "The melody is always begun in a
soft and delicate manner and ended the same. They enter on and again leave their modulations
with so much articulation and brilliancy, faultless throughout the most complicated modulation, the most intricate of notes, by a velocity so pleasing, rapid and articulate."
Gerald went on to say that the Scots and Welsh played the same stuff, the Scots the better all around! If this is not a Ceol Mor format, it is difficult to know what is!
However, it is certainly a far cry from the songs and melodies that sprung up in the early eighteenth century which are today looked upon as being "authentic" Irish music.
And what of the strange testimony of Dennis Hempson?
In 1792, the Belfast city fathers finally realised, in probable grateful relief, that the ancient tradition of Irish harp playing was about to disappear forever. It was
decided to hold a harp festival for three days and a young music student, Edward Bunting was appointed to transcribe harp music to printed staff. Apparently Irish harp music
was taught in much the same manner as Piobaireachd, by oral vocables. Around ten harpers played and in one of them, Edward Bunting became absolutely transfixed. A ninety-seven
year old blind and physically deformed harper, one Dennis Hempson, played a strange type of music to the assemblage. So strange to the ears of the audience and other harpers,
that they began to ignore his playing. Here was old Dennis Hempson playing his heart out with an ancient Ceol Mor tradition and all these people laughing and talking
while he played. Bunting realised in it, the aboriginal music of ancient Ireland and arranged a private recital. The old man was reluctant to perform exclaiming, "What's
the use of doing so, no one can understand it now, not even any of the harpers now living." Hempson played in the ancient manner with his fingernails on wire strings. He
was finally convinced to play, but gave Bunting only a fragment of one of his tuning phrases. Hempson had seen the style and repertoire of the Irish harp change radically,
a change he continually deplored to Bunting.
Hempson was a professional Harper for some eighty years, and began training at the age of twelve in 1707. Obviously, his instruction was from seventeenth century harpers,
men who had experienced the drastic change in the old Irish Gaelic music. He was highly sensitive about the strange pieces in his repertoire and much to his credit; Dennis
Hempson clung faithfully to the seventeenth century training and teachers of his youth.
Modern Scottish authors, in accessing Hempson, feel he was mourning for the lost art of playing with the fingernails on wire strings! Modern Irish authors, who overall
have no idea as to what Piobaireachd is, feel he was mourning for the loss of tuning preludes, which preceded the famed laments. It seems as if the penny has not dropped
yet for either camp, because Hempson specifically complains of the celebrated O'Carolan's music, which, he said, was not of the
ancient Gaelic style, but more of the then modern Italian school of music. One aside is for certain however, wire strings,
like the rod tension side drum, really would permit all kinds of grace notes, and intricate finger movements. All of the material that Hempson provided Bunting with, still
lies dormant in Bunting's original manuscript. I believe this is to be located in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and high time that the Piobaireachd Society had a thorough
look at it.
I can think of some questions I would like answered. Take for instance, the adding of double beats on low A, or birls at the ends of some Piobaireachd phrases. It is felt
that a four times repeated ending flourish is common to early Irish and Highland music. Indeed Joseph MacDonald (2) in his 1760 treatise on Piobaireachd confirms these ending
flourishes. Examples are to be found in "The Lament for Duncan MacRae of Kintail" and "The King of Leix's March".
Does Hempson show any of these? Does his work show a regular stressed phrase construction, or is it asymmetrical? Are there second strains with bars longer than the first?
Is there irregularity in its cadences?
Could there be any truth in the undocumented story that Donald Mor MacCrimmon (3) came to Ireland for piping tuition? Or did he really come to study the ancient format
of harp music? Did he and others later introduce it into a new type of vehicle?
Another Scottish mystery is the fact that the ancient harp music of that country has also disappeared. In 1784, Patrick MacDonald (4) or whoever did his historical notes,
reminds us that the harp had ceased to be the favoured instrument, its interest having been transferred to the bagpipe.
Thankfully, we have a few actual samples of Highland harp music reconstructed for the piano in the partially published Angus Fraser (5) ms. Angus was the son of Simon
Fraser (6), who in 1816 published Airs and Melodies Peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland. Simon Fraser had collected these pieces from
his father and grandfathers and they spanned the period from roughly 1715 until 1760. Persons who remembered them as they were played on the harp supplied these examples
to Simon's relatives. The first interesting sample is called "The Royal Lament" (ca 1649), showing a ground and two variations very much in the
manner of Piobaireachd, the variations in more simple form. The second sample is an even more interesting setting of "The Lament for the Harp Tree",
that when played on the piano, sounds very much like the Piobaireachd that we have today!
One of the things that mystifies on the Irish scene is for instance the Piobaireachd "Frenzy of Meeting". Gesto (7) called this "Tumilin
O'Counichan an Irish Tune." Presumably, Gesto knew what he was about because he claimed his Canntaireachd was as the MacCrimmons played it. So here we have Iain Dubh
MacCrimmon (8) saying yes, there was an Irish Ceol Mor tradition. The Nether Lorn Canntaireachd (9) calls the same piece "Brian O'Duff's Lament".
Angus MacKay and Thomason's Ceol Mor (10) each give the two titles: "The Frenzy of Meeting" or "Lament for Brian O'Duff."
Simon Fraser of Australia (11) called it "A Lament for King Brian of Old" and maintained that one Petrus Bruno in Ireland composed it! Over all,
there is clearly a message here. The startling thing is that after playing all these settings, one unconsciously conjures up an image of the old Finton Lalor band back in
the 1930s playing at the games in Scotland because one suddenly realises all these settings are actually none other then Brian Boru's March! The Irish have always maintained
this to be their oldest march tradition and this was long before the mouth blown bagpipe was re-introduced earlier this century to Ireland. Archie Kenneth (12) had it right
when he said all this was "too strikingly similar for coincidence." Another thing is for certain, there was a great "frenzy of meeting" on
that April day in 1014.
What of the piece "Lochnell's Lament" or "Scarce of Fishing"...? This is supposedly known as O'Kelly's Lament and according to the Piping Times,
might have been of Irish origin. However, the Times gave no source for this claim. Incidentally, Spiocaireachd Iasgaich is really Spearhead Fishing not Scarce of Fishing.
There is supposedly a missing Irish "Piobaireachd" called "MacAlistrum's March". It was said to have been written for the cousin of the Second and Third Earls, one Alasdair
MacCholla, James' great grandson.
In 1785 at the Highland Society of London's (13) competition in Edinburgh, John MacPherson played the "Piobrachd Ereanach an Irish Pibrach."
This is right in the time frame of the last two MacCrimmons. So here, we have a VERIFICATION OF AN IRISH CEOL MOR TRADITION BY THE HIGHLAND SOCIETY OF LONDON, AND ONE WHICH
WAS RECOGNISED BY THE COMPETING SCOTTISH PIPERS OF THE PERIOD!
So, what happened to it? Did the Highland pipers take it as part of their own tradition as they appear to have done with their own harp music? It is a curious fact that
in Buntings published book of 1796, A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, there is a listing or table of the movements
that were used in Irish harp music. A number of Piobaireachd terms are included in that list including a reference to an Irish melody known as "A Ghlas Mheur" or the "Finger
Lock" and Bunting does stipulate that his is Irish Material.
To which of the Earls would you give the piece? Two things are for certain. He had nothing to do with Rory Mor MacLeod or the MacCrimmons and he was
not a Scot.
Published: The Piping Times 1998
In response to readers' questions regarding
"Who Was The Earl of Antrim?"
By Frank Timoney
Further to my article on the Earl of Antrim (P.T. November and December, 1997), I was stunned when I found an actual example of Irish Ceol Mor. I say stunned because it
was in the 1992 Proceedings of the Piobaireachd Society Conference and I note that many of those who attended that conference are current readers
and subscribers to the Piping Times. One would have thought that one of those worthies would at least have put pen to paper and added to the general knowledge of all.
There is no known Irish classical pipe music in existence. We have no knowledge of what was played on the Irish mouth blown pipe until the ca. 1900 reintroduction of the
instrument in Ireland. It is generally felt that it was never a very strong tradition because of the speed with which the Irish gave it up.
I wish to thank Roderick Cannon for his letter in the September issue of the Times and for his answers to some of my questions. Somehow however, I fear Roderick has run
away with my theme.
May I ask him to read my article "Who was the Earl of Antrim" several issues back. There is much evidence in it and "food for thought". However, I never used the term
"Irish Pipers" in my article. In fact, I rather bluntly hinted that it was Irish harp music that was adapted to and became part of the corpus of Piobaireachd. There was never
any great piping tradition in Ireland on the mouth blown instrument. Irish pipers are not known to have added anything to anyone's musical tradition. It was the
Nether Lorne MS. of the late 18th century that first ties in a possible tradition of Irish Ceol Mor having been adapted to the Great Highland
Bagpipe. We know that English and Swiss folk tunes were adapted into the corpus of Piobaireachd. Why does Roderick question the Irish possibility?
At any rate, the conference reported on the piece; "The Bard's Lament" and went on to point out that it is listed in the
Campbell Canntaireachd, where it is referred to as "one of the Irish Piobaireachd!" Apparently, the Campbell family knew of other Irish pieces.
APPARENTLY THERE WAS A WHOLE GENRE OF IRISH CEOL MOR MUSIC THAT WAS ADAPTED TO AND BECAME PART OF THE CORPUS OF THE CLASSICAL MUSIC OF THE GREAT HIGHLAND BAGPIPE AND WAS
RECOGNISED AS SUCH AT LEAST UNTIL THE BEGINNING OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. The piece has a unique variation where the three themal notes are joined by Lemluath movements.
It is also found in the MacArthur MS ca. 1830, and in Angus MacKay's MS ca. 1848. The Canntaireachd setting
differs from MacArthur and both settings are irregular and do not follow the urlar exactly. The MacArthur and MacKay MSs both call the piece "Cumma a'Chleirich," or "The
Another candidate for Irish "Piobaireachd" is a piece known in Scotland as "Frenzy of Meeting". This piece is also found in the Campbell Canntaireachd (the Nether Lorn
MS) where it is called "Brian O'Duff's Lament". In Captain MacLeod of Gesto's Book of Canntaireachd ca. 1828, it is called "Tumilin O'Counichan,
an Irish Tune". The Angus MacKay MS Volume One, ca. 1848, calls the piece "Taom-Boileinn na Coinneamh" (very similar to Gesto), "The Frenzy
of the Meeting" and "Brian O'Duff's Lament". This piece is thought to be very old from its mode of ABCDE. This construction appears to be of earlier composition than that
usually found in Piobaireachd. STRANGE HOWEVER IS THE FACT THAT EACH OF THE ABOVE SETTINGS BEARS A STRIKING RESEMBLANCE TO BRIAN BOROU'S MARCH. There certainly was great
Frenzy of Meeting on that April day in 1014. The Irish have long claimed this to be one of their earliest tunes.
An even further example of Irish "Piobaireachd" is to be found in the piece "Duncan MacRae of Kintail," also known as "Colin MacRae of Inverinate's Lament". The piece
is in the Piobaireachd Society's Book 4, and in William Ross' collection. Ross gives several variations, the
Piobaireachd Society only one. Both are essentially the same in the Ground. The Angus MacKay MS gives the name as "Cumha Dhonncha Mhic Iain." However, there is an earlier
setting of the piece in Francis Bunting's publication of 1809, "A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland."
He gives the title "Ruairidhe Va Mordha - Rory O Moor, King of Leix's March." The piece now becomes a tune, but Bunting leaves out the second
strain. Joseph MacDonald quoted only the first two bars as an unnamed example of a slow "Siciliana" tempo in his "Compleat
Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe" ca. 1760. An even older version of the tune is to be found in the 1657 edition of
John Playford's "English Dancing Master", where it is called "Washington's March." Here the tune is complete,
including the missing second strain of Bunting's setting. A number of details in Playford's tune are so similar to the "King of Laois March", that it seems Playford's setting
was modeled upon an older and complete version of the Irish tune. However, the Irish tune possesses unique patterns in its composition that prove it to be older then Playford's
setting. This is the flourish on low A, at the end of each movement. Each is repeated four times, very similar to the hi harin movement in Piobaireachd. In fact, this quadruple
repetition is also found in Piobaireachd. Playford reduced the number of flourishes by half in his setting. Because of this, Playford's setting of 1657 cannot be regarded
as the origin of the Irish tune. Evan Angus MacKay reduced these repeated birls. This establishes an early date for the Irish setting. Bunting used many harp settings in
his publication. Joseph MacDonald's example of 1760 is given in 6/8 time, Playford's in 6/4 time, or slow 6/8. A number of tunes collected and published by
Dr. G. Petrie in 1855, The Petrie Collection of Ancient Music of Ireland, were in 6/8 time also and were collected
from Irish Uilleann pipers. Could Playford have taken his setting also from a piper?
In 1785, at the Highland Society of London's contest, John MacPherson from Badenoch played "Piobrachd Ereanach, An Irish Pibrach". The melody of this piece has never been
Finally, there is an Irish tradition that there is a missing Piobaireachd, "MacAlistrum's March," that has never been found or identified.
Clearly, a link exists between Irish harp Ceol Mor and Highland Piobaireachd, but we will not find it until piping missionaries are sent to Ireland with the one true faith
of Piobaireachd. Only then will the Irish be able to reconstruct their shattered and lost Gaelic music and regain for us their lost art of Ceol Mor composition.
Joseph MacDonald (self-portrait,
(1) Ruairidh (Rory) or Roderick Mor MacLeod (1562-1626) 15th chief of the MacLeod's of Dunvegan. Signatory to the Statutes
of Iona, knighted by James the 6th of Scotland in 1613. Married to Isabel MacDonald, daughter of Donald of Lagan. His sister Margaret married Donald Gorm Mor MacDonald of
Sleat. Two of his daughters were married to Donald MacSwan of Roag and John Garve MacLeod 6th of Rassay, all of whom had Piobaireachd compositions written for them. It is
thought, "MacLeod of MacLeod's Lament" was written for Rory.
(2) Joseph MacDonald (1739-1824) Author of the ms. "The Complete Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe" ca.1760;
this is the earliest and most informative study of Piobaireachd. Joseph was the first to present this in staff notation and the first ever to undertake a serious piece of
writing on the subject. It represents the foundations of Highland bagpipe music before the 1745 rebellion, and succeeds in bringing together, for the use of other players,
all the constituents and technicalities in the art of Scots piping. An edited version of the ms. was published in 1803 by someone who changed the original ms. it is positively
misleading and contains many mistakes.
(3) Donald Mor MacCrimmon (-?-) Members of this family were supposedly "hereditary" pipers to the MacLeod's of Dunvegan
and Donald Mor was supposedly piper to Rory Mor MacLeod. However, the family is not in the Dunvegan or MacLeod records for this period. When explaining Donald Mor's
role on the Dunvegan estate, Scottish historians use the term "it is said", "said to have been", "who is said" which has now become "fact" in Scotland. Donald Mor is shrouded
in obscurity and wild conjectures based on nineteenth century and early twentieth century speculations and legends, none of which is supported by any documentary evidence.
(4) Reverend Patrick MacDonald (1729-1824) Brother of Joseph MacDonald, in 1784 he published "A Collection of Highland
Vocal Airs". The bulk of the collection was taken from his brother's ms. collection of vocal and song airs.
(5) Angus Fraser Edited for intended publication, his father's ms. for an intended second volume to the father's published book of 1815.Only
discovered in the 1950's,it has become known as the Angus Fraser Ms. in which Angus set many of his father's tunes for the piano. It contains
the only authentic Scottish harp music ever to be recovered and is the most important collection of Scottish airs to be discovered in the past hundred
(6) Captain Simon Fraser of Knockie Published in 1816, "The Airs And Melodies Peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland."
Knockie came from an illustrious family of Highland music collectors. Both his grandfathers traveled the Highlands and were amateur musician/collectors. They covered the
period between 1715 to 1745 and lived in the time of the harpers. His father, an officer in the early Black Watch, served in Canada with Wolfe during the seven-year's war.
He collected many songs and tunes from fellow Highland soldiers. Knockie inherited all this musical wealth.
Captain Macleod of Gesto
(7) Captain Neil MacLeod of Gesto (1766-1836) Our first piobaireachdologist of record (one who does not play but
knows the music, is obsessed with what the ancients played (who can never be equaled) and the correct setting and fingering of pieces), published a collection of Piobaireachd
in its Canntaireachd form (vocables), in 1828. "Piobaireachd Or Pipe Tunes, Verbally Taught By The M'Crummen Pipers In The Isle, Of Skye To Their
Apprentices, Now Published, As Taken From John M'Crummen, Piper To The Old Laird Of Macleod And His Grandson" etc etc ! It is full of inconsistencies and
errors, much mutilated and of little or no value in disclosing any system. The Highland Society of London sponsored the book at a time when they began to foster a devotion
to the MacCrimmon pipers and the histories of various Piobaireachd pieces. Gesto lived on the MacLeod estate and was somewhat an eccentric. In his book of twenty pieces,
which he dedicated to the H S L, possibly because of the H S L patronage, he stated his music was taken from John or Iain MacCrimmon. He also wrote a ms. of historical notes
regarding these twenty pieces that was discovered and printed in 1883, which he claimed to be based on information from the same Iain MacCrimmon. He gave an authorship of
one fifth of his pieces to the MacCrimmons. The book seems to be a record of what was actually sung to him but has a resemblance to the MacArthur style of playing. He retained
as personal piper, one Alexander Bruce who was a favourite pupil of Iain MacCrimmon's brother, Donald ruadh who was very likely his actual source. After all is said and done
however, the "MacCrimmon system" of playing seems to be nothing more than a MacArthur style! It further seems that Gesto did not have the necessary knowledge or skill to
reproduce accurately what he heard from anyone.
(8) Iain Dubh MacCrimmon (1772?-1822) A son of the famous Malcolm MacCrimmon, Iain lived on the MacLeod estate at Dunvegan and was a sometime
piper to Norman MacLeod 23rd chief. In 1793, he advised the Highland Society of London that he was established at Dunvegan and prepared to take on pupils. The H S L was at
this time hotly engaged in what was called the "Glenelg Experiment". The idea was that men recruited in the Highlands could be taught piping at the barracks in Glenelg. Nothing
came of Iain's offer, nor the later offers of others. The whole project was totally unsuccessful.
(9) The Nether Lorn ms. of Canntaireachd, Compiled by Colin Campbell of Nether Lorn over a period of some thirty years, commencing perhaps as
early as 1765. It is evident that Colin was not just a player, but also a collector so familiar with the form of Canntaireachd, that he could note a piece as it was being
played. The 168 pieces are grouped according to their ground formulae, melody notes represented by vowels and diphthongs, grace notes and movements by consonants. There are
no indicators of time, tempo, or phrasing. Sixty pieces are not recorded elsewhere. So precise is the ms. that the author can be seen to change his style under constant revision
so that pieces can be translated even when they are not known from any other source. It is a written code, one of the greatest finds in Piobaireachd music, certainly the
most advanced graphic form of Canntaireachd that we have.
In 1816 it was shown to the Anglo Scottish judges of the Highland Society of Scotland and these "experts and preservers", in an incredible demonstration of their self-proclaimed
"knowledge", demonstrated H S S ignorance by rejecting it as being "utterly unintelligible"! (This was Scotland, where an ignorance of pipe music was to predominate the judging
scene for over the next one hundred years!) This musical treasure was rescued in the early twentieth century.
(10) General Charles Simeon Thomason (1833-1911) A man ahead of his time, an engineer officer and avid piper, in 1900, he published over 270
pieces in his book "A Collection Of Piobaireachd As Played On The Great Highland Bagpipes. Ceol Mor". His book inspired a new era in the revival
and appreciation of Piobaireachd. Offering special prices to professional and army players it was the first book to put Piobaireachd playing within reach of every player.
He was the first to classify pieces into different metrical forms influencing every subsequent Piobaireachd publication. Within a generation, the book inspired the use of
staff notation by most pipers.
As the first president of the Piobaireachd Society, he was the first to insist that judging should be in the hands of the pipers, and not in the hands of local gentry
or amateurs. He was much concerned over the ever-sharpening pitch of the chanter scale (due to the increased interest in light (non-Piobaireachd) music, especially the note
high g, so essential in Piobaireachd playing. However, he was much thwarted by the peasant type of minds of those he tried to help! Nevertheless, this was Scotland.
His book-condensed notation by codifying all gracing movements into symbols so that it was possible to lay out an entire piece on a single page, so intent was he in the
pursuit of a fixed pitch that he became the first to encourage the development of synthetic materials to replace cane reeds.
(11) Simon Fraser of Australia (1845-1934). A certified nut case from Melbourne, who during the early twentieth century, filled the Oban
Times with letters claiming that he possessed the Mac- Crimmon "secrets," which he said, used Canntaireachd for religious purposes and secret messages and that he was the
only person alive who knew their system of Canntaireachd! It is not known how he arrived at this conclusion, since we have no record of actual MacCrimmon Canntaireachd. It
is presumed he was influenced by the Gesto collection of 1828. However, Fraser's settings and Canntaireachd do not correspond to Gesto's, and are of little or no value in
disclosing any system or secrets.
Amazingly, in a sort of fantasy that closely parallels an emperor's new clothes scenario, he found adherents to his myth in Scotland! Some wrote the Oban Times that they
agreed with Simon Fraser! He in turn blessed them as disciples and they proclaimed his sainthood!
Fraser's father Hugh, 1796-1893, had known both Captain Neil MacLeod of Gesto and Iain Dubh MacCrimmon before immigrating to Australia. Simon had lessons in Australia,
from Peter Bruce, who had emigrated there also. Peter was the son of Donald Ruadh MacCrimmon's favourite pupil, Alexander Bruce (see footnote #7).
In 1979, Dr. Barrie Orme published in Australia, twenty of Fraser's settings, "The Piobaireachd of Simon Fraser with Canntaireachd". These are very musical pieces and
seem to portray a MacArthur style! Sadly, the bizarre claims of Simon Fraser continue to captivate some.
(12) Archie G Kenneth (-?-) A Piobaireachdologist who for many years contributed interesting articles to the Piping Times, his main field of
study seems to have been in the Nether Lorn Ms.
(13) The Highland Society of London Founded in 1778, a club of Anglicised Scottish gentlemen, the higher echelons of Scottish Society, obsessed
with the false idea that Piobaireachd was dying, it set itself up as the saviour of same! In an effort to present the music of Piobaireachd to the outside world, they encouraged
its music to be written in staff notation for the playing of orchestral instruments, perhaps to prove to their English overlords that the newly formed Scotland was not such
a savage place after all. In 1781, the society established the first piping competitions in an effort to set up a standard way of playing and is responsible for the rigidity
in Scottish piping today. They further became obsessed with the idea of fixed settings for the benefit of teaching army pipers, fostering on dead accuracy and less expression.
Their claim that without their intervention, Piobaireachd would have been lost (in twenty years, they spent £18 on prize money, less than £1 a year),
is not supported by evidence! Some hold the view that the H S L ruined Scottish piping.