brain. The latter is, in my opinion, the more likely
hypothesis of the two.
Mr Storer's reasoning, however, is no sounder than
his ** fact," when we come to examine it, and summed
up in a nutshell it amounts to this : ā
Dr Johnson had no ear for music.
( Dr Johnson loved the Bagpipe.
All who love the Bagpipe have no ear for music.
Or, again ā
The Bagpipe is an " instrument of torture ; "
No one with an ear for music loves it ;
A great many people love it ;
A great many people have no ear for music.
48 SOME REMINISCENCES
Now, as a matter of fact, within most people's
knowledge the Bagpipe is not an " instrument of
torture " when well played any more than is the fife,
or flute, or fiddle, or organ ! And it is simply not
true to say that only " persons with little or no ear"
enjoy its music.
We have a good example in the " Unspeakable
Scot," of how a whole nation may be traduced by a
writer who snaps his fingers at truth, and makes
facts to suit himself.
In the same way to ridicule any musical instrument
is an easy matter.
Take for example that prince of instruments, the
fiddle. We all know what a delight it is in the hands
of a Sarasate playing on a peerless Stradivarius.
But Sarasates are as rare as great pipers, and a
*' Strad " is not in every fiddler's hand : so if we
are to judge the violin fairly, some allowance must
be made for the indifferent player, and the cheap
The caterwaulings of the budding violiniit, or the
unmusical scrapings on the catgut of the drunken
street fiddler are no doubt disagreeable, and lend
themselves to the ridiculous.
The fiddle in such hands may be even more
painful to the ''cultivated ear" than Mr Storer's
London Bagpipes ; but no fair-minded critic would
on this account call the fiddle "an instrument of
It seems, however, impossible for a certain class of
critics to review the Bagpipe in an impartial spirit.
Tuning up the Northumbrian Small Pipe of Six Reeds.
AND THE BAGPIPE. 49
Even Mr W. Chappell in that otherwise delight-
ful book of his, " Popular Music of the Olden
Times," cannot resist having a quiet fling at it in
"Formerly," he says, "the Bagpipe was in use
among all the lower classes in England, although
nov) happily confined to the Northy From which
remark we may infer that Mr Chappell, the Eng-
lishman, would willingly see it consigned not only
to the North, but to the back of the North Pole as
well, or, in fact, kicked over the edge of the world
into everlasting perdition, if that were possible.
" Take heed of critics," said Dekker, " they bite,
like fish, at anything." And so it is with musical
critics, W'hen they get on this subject ; they both
bark and bite at the Bagpipe. The above statement
by Mr Chappell might well lead the incautious
reader to think that the Bagpipe was confined to
the lower orders in England.
This is not the case, however. It was patronised
by Royalty from remotest times. The early kings of
England kept Pipers, and on one occasion at least,
the King ā as the exchequer rolls show ā paid for
his Piper's musical training, and sent him, at his
own expense, to visit the famous Continental schools.
It was also a general favourite at one time with the
upper classes, as well as with the common people.
But it has been so long silent in the South that
there is some excuse for the Englishman who, after
listening to and enjoying a Highland pibroch, asked
the piper to play it over again in English. There
50 SOME REMINISCENCES
is no excuse, however, for the learned ignorance
which some musicians display when writing on this
Dr. vStorer and Mr Chappell are both Englishmen,
I presume, and are probably, on this account, un-
acquainted with the peculiar and old-fashioned scale
of the chanter which the piper has to contend with.
They cannot surely have heard any of the great
At all events they seem to have taken their ideas
of pipe music from the incoherent ramblings of the
London street piper, the Whitechapel Highlander?
a creature with nothing Highland in him, unless it
be the whisky that is oozing out of every pore of
his dirty body ? ā a huge sham of a Highlander who
takes the ill-tuned, ill-made affair, called by courtesy
a Bagpipe, out of the pawnshop, along with his
kilt, every Monday morning, and with hideous
noises, kills the quiet places, which are already all
too fev*^ in our great cities. I readily acknowledge
that this class of piper is beyond the pale, and is a
fit subject for ridicule, if any critic care to stoop so
A ROYAL INSTRUMENT.
T^HE Bagpipe is an instrument of great antiquity.
ā ^ All authorities are agreed upon this.
The great Highland Bagpipe, which is the perfected
pipe, is also a handsome instrument when decorated
with silk tassel and fluttering ribbon, and bright
tartan cover. And the piper, with shoulders well
back and head erect, is a pleasing sight as he
marches backwards and forwards to the rhythm of
There is an old proverb that says, " Handsome is
as handsome does," and here the Bagpipe takes
precedence of such puny competitors as harp or
fiddle ; for of all Scotland's instruments, what other
can compare with it for usefulness? For centuries it
has done the nation's turn handsomely.
It has always been where war's alarms were
thickest, from the day when it led the clansmen at
the bloody battle of Harlaw, or piped reveille in
Priiice Charles Edward Stuart's camp, or carried a
message of hope to the beleaguered garrison of
Lucknow ; to but yesterday, when it cheered on the
52 SOME REMINISCENCES
sons of the empire at Elandslaaghte, and stayed
the rout on that disastrous day at Maagersfontein.
But again ! What other instrument in times of
peace has entered so closely into the daily life of
the old Scottish Celt? Sweetening the toils of his
labours with its old-world songs ; enlivening his
hours of recreation with its merry strathspeys and
reels ; soothing the burden of his sorrows with its
At once the saddest and the liveliest of instru-
ments, this '* antique " appeals from a past that is
gone for ever, and ā cla^ in all its old-world panoply
of neuter-third scale v\ath droning bass ā challenges
attention, and claims a hearing, and will not be
At one time the welcome inmate of the palace,
the companion of kings and princes ; at another
time a dweller in the slums, the associate of
wandering minstrels and beggars.
At one moment the darling of the upper classes,
made of costly woods inlaid with precious stones,
or fashioned with beautiful ivory, with silver keys
attached, and clothed in purple velvet rich with the
embroidery of fair hands. Anon ! The herdboy's
plaything, made of " ane reid and ane bleddir,"
deposed from its high position, and driven out of
society as " a rude and barbarous instrument."
When fallen upon evil days, the piper of yore,
shouldering his " pipes," and shaking the dust of
the city from off his feet, retired to the old home
among the mountains, where he was sure of a wel-
AND THE BAGPIPE. 53
come from the lonely goatherd, whose favourite
instrument it was from the earliest of ages ; whose
invention it was ; and where he could bide his time
waiting for better days. The Bagpipe has in this
way survived the royal displeasure, the neglect of
the great and wealthy, the denunciation of bard and
minstrel, and the criticism of hostile musicians ; and
it is still a living force in the world.
A Jew, who once visited Strathglass in the High-
lands, nearly a hundred years ago, was much struck
with the power which this rude instrument wielded
over the Highlander.
Now this Jew hated Bagpipe music as he hated
the Evil One. When his Highland host, profuse in
hospitality to the last, sent a piper to play him
some miles on his way at leaving, he returned his
hospitality by saying ungraciously ā only after he
left the Highlands well behind him, you may be
sure ā " My young Highlander played me on the
road five miles, and I would gladly have sunk the
portable screech-ov/1 appendage."
He hated the very name of Bagpipe. To him in
his ignorance this love of the Highlander for the
Pipe was incomprehensible. He felt himself com-
pletely out of touch with a people who could
appreciate such music. It annoyed him ; and in
his wrath he cried aloud, "To think that this
squeeling pig in a poke should be the great lever
of a people's passion."
We want no better testimony than this of the Jew
ā prejudiced as he was ā to the influence and power
54 SOME REMINISCENCES
of the Bagpipe in olden times. '* The great lever
of a people's passion " it was in all verity.
And should this not be so?
Its history is one of which every Scotsman should
Its power over the Highlanders in Strathglass
and elsewhere was not a mere flash in the pan.
More than once, as history tells us, the soldier
refused to advance in battle except to its music ;
and under its influence the dying man has often
cut his moorings, and drifted out into the unknown
sea with a smile on his face.
Its influence over men's passions goes back to
early times as well.
Nor has this power been exerted upon only one
race, nor confined to only one age. Centuries ago
civilised Europe adopted it as the instrument of
instruments. All sorts and conditions of men :
Greek, Latin, Roumanian, Bulgarian, Austrian,
Hungarian, German, Frenchman, Spaniard, fell
under the influence of its sway, and sang or danced
to its pipings.
And centuries before this, while history still
"lisped in numbers," the Bagpipe was held in high
repute. For are we not told of kingly feet dancing
to its music as early as the second century before
Christ, and of royal hands fingering the chanter
in the first century of the present era? It is of this
instrument then that I would speak..
A handsome instrument withal.
One of the oldest musical instruments in the world,
AND THE BAGPIPE. 55
but to all seeming blessed with perpetual youth. It is
fresh and vigorous to-day as when it sounded in
the ears of Rome's Imperial master, or when, still
earlier, Antiochus, the proud Syrian monarch, danced
to its measures. Nor would our late noble Queen,
Victoria the Great, have kept a piper if she did not
delight in its strange quaint music, so different
indeed in character, and in its effect upon the
listener, from the cultivated melodies of to-day.
The Highland Bagpipe is as old as the High-
lander himself, in spite of what the modern critic
says, and notwithstanding the silence of the
The Celt took it with him to the Highlands when
he migrated there, along with his household gods,
and many another thing not mentioned in history,
and not yet labelled in the collections of the
THE WHY AND THE WHEREFORE.
" To mind the inside of a book is to entertain one's self
with the forced products of another man's brain. Now, I
think a man of quality and breeding maj' be much amused
with the natural sprouts of his own."
Lord Foppington in The Relapse.
r^ENTLE READER, if 3^ou wish to know the
^^ why and the wherefore of this little book,
written in our so-enlightened twentieth century, upon
so archaic a subject as the Bagpipe, these are to be
found ā if I have made myself at all intelligible ā in
the introductory chapters.
As, however, you may not care to wade through
what are, after all, little better than half-forgotten
reminiscences, loosely strung together, and probably
interesting only to the writer of them, I will here
state shortly the reasons which have induced me to
take up the pen ā an instrument which I most
thoroughly detest ! ā and appear before the world as
an author at a time of life Avhen most men seek
seclusion and ease.
The first reason then is this. In my youth
everything Highland was discouraged and held up
An African Bagpipe :
The bag made from the whole skin of a small doe or g^azelle. The blow-pipe,
whicli is carved, is the leg-bone of a flamingo or other bird. The horns are used
as terminals to the double reed of the chanter.
AND THE BAGPIPE. 57
to ridicule. The old language, the old dress, and
the old music shared a common fate. The Highland
sentiments which found untrammelled expression in
private when we boys were alone of an evening,
telling stories round the garret fire, and which should
have been treasured and guarded as a something
*' better than rubies," were ruthlessly stamped out.
The Highland instincts with which I was born, and
which should have been zealously fostered and nursed
into full growth by my parents, were severely
And this book is the outcome of the reaction which
set in after mature years.
It is my protest against a treatment which might
have destroyed ā but which, luckily for me, did not do
so ā all those Highland tendencies and aspirations of
my youth, to which I still cling as to something that
is dearer than life, and which makes it possible for m.e
to-day ā for me, who, perforce, have lived the better
part of my life among the cities of the plain ā to
" turn mine eyes to the hills," when in travail, as
did of old the sweet Singer of Israel, and to say
in all sincerity and love, " My heart's in the
My next reason is this !
Scotsmen ā not to say Highlanders ā have shewn
themselves, by their writings and otherwise,
wondrously ignorant of the main subject of this
book ā the Bagpipe and Bagpipe music.
Take for example these common words ā slogan,
coronach, and pibroch.
58 SOME REMINISCENCES
Slogan, I need hardly say, is the Avar-cry or
gathering word of the clan. And yet in the latest
and only book on the Bagpipe, Mr Manson (p. 133)
gravely tells us that the piper " began to play the
slogan of the clan."
I hold in my hand at this moment a piece of
music sent to me from Aberdeen, and set to the
''pipes," entitled "General Hector MacDonald's
Coronach, or cronach, is a crying or shouting
together ; from comh (together) and ranach (an out-
cry). It is the wailing and clapping of hands by
the old women gathered round the bier. It is the
kreen or keen of the Irish, and is still practised in
Ireland. It has nothing to do with pipe music and
never had ; and yet a gentleman who, if not a
Highlander, appears constantly in the Highland
dress, and is looked upon by many as one of the
leading exponents of Highland music, writes a piece
of Bagpipe music, and calls it " General Hector
MacDonald's Coronach." How this mistake in the
meaning of the word coronach arose, or when, I do
not know, but it was some time after the '45. The
earliest example known to me occurs in a book
written in 1783 by one W. F. Martyn, where he
says " The Highland funerals were generally pre-
ceded by Bagpipes, which played certain dirges
Now the dirge on the Bagpipe is a lament
(Gaelic, ciimlia) and not a coronach.
But even Logan in "The Scottish Gael," 1831,
AND THE BAGPIPE. 59
mixes up the ciimha or lament of the "pipes" with
the coronach or lament of the old women. In
vol. ii.. pp. 284-5, he says, "The piobrachd, as its
name implies, is properly a pipe tune, and is
usually the crunneachadh or gathering, but also
includes a cumha^ coronach or lament, and a failte,
salute or welcome.
And to make sure that his meaning shall not be
mistaken, he adds, "Their characters are much
alike, with the exception of the coronach^ which is
of course particularly slow, plaintive, and expres-
John Hill Burton, the historian, makes a double
blunder in the use of this word. He talks of a war
coronach. In his " Life of Simon, Lord Lovat,"
published in 1847, we read, " Before these out-
rages " ā perpetrated by Simon ā "the Frasers seem
to have been enjoying a degree of repose and
tranquility, which in their hot mountain blood must
have been felt as an unwholesome stagnation. It
would be to the delight of their fierce natures that
one morning the war coronach was heard along
Stratheric and Strathglass, and the crossterie or
fiery cross passed on. It may be said that the
"war coronach" here means war pipe, and not a
pipe tune at all ; the word, of course, has no such
Fifty years later. Dr. Walter C. Smith, writing
in " Kildrostan," says " Eachain Macrimmon is
playing a coronach^ as it were for a chief."
No wonder that with such authorities before them^
6o SOME REMINISCENCES
smaller writers are busy to-day perpetuating a
blunder, that an acquaintance with the great writers
of the past should have prevented them from ever
Simon, Lord Lovat, in a letter to President
Forbes, date 1745, writes, " If I am killed here it
is not far from my burial place ; and I will have,
after I am dead, what I always wished, the cronach
of all the women in tny country to convey my body
to the grave ; and that has been my ambition when
I was in my happiest situation in the world." This
wonderful man, whose whole career was full of
strange happenings, and of whom it might be said
with truth, that " Men's bad deeds are writ in brass,
their good deeds writ in water," had the unique
experience of hearing his own coronach. Knowing
that their captured Chief was already as good as
dead ; knowing full well that they would never see
his face again, now that a cruel government had got
hold of him, the wail of the old women, singing
his coronach, followed the litter on which lay Morar
Shime ā long a helpless cripple from gout ā as he was
being carried through his own beloved country of
Stratheric on his way to London and the scaffold.
In "Humphrey Clinker," published about 1771,
Smollet says : " attended by the coronach of a multi-
tude of old hags who tore their hair."
And, again, Pennant, who published his book in
1774, mentions " the coronach or singing at funerals."
While Sir Walter Scott, in 1814, writes, "Their wives
and daughters came clapping their hands, and crying
AND THE BAGPIPE. 6l
their coronach, and shreiking." These three things
together ā the shreiking, and crying, and clapping
of hands ā constituted the coronach.
The third word, pibroch (Gaelic, piohrachd or
piobaireachd), is also being constantly misapplied for
Bagpipe and march.
I am often asked, " How is the piobrach getting
on?" meaning how is the Bagpipe getting on ; and
a few weeks ago I took the following quotation
from a daily newspaper :ā
" Ichabod is the watchword for the Highlands
and Islands, and the piobrach may skirl the lament,"
Writers constantly talk of marching to piobrachs,
which is a little absurd, when we remember that
the piobrach is a piece of classical music, in which
the time is constantly varying from the largo or
andante of the air (Gaelic, urlar) to the allegro of
the closing movement, the crnnluadh, and cannot
therefore be marched to.
In poetry this use of the word piobrach is perhaps
" Sound the piobrach loud and high,
Frae John-o-Groats to Isle of Skye ! "
As this old song has it, it is at least poetical, although
it is really the Pipe which is sounded.
In Lord Byron we read, " For when the piobrach
bids the battle rage ; " an expression that oft^nds
neither eye nor ear, although not correct, strictly
And Miss Mary Campbell, in "The March of the
62 SOME REMINISCENCES
Cameron Men," that proudest and most patriotic
of Highland songs, makes the chorus repeat again
and again : ā
" I hear the piohrach sounding, sounding,
Deep o'er the mountain and glen.
While light-springing footsteps are trampling the heath,
'Tis the march of the Cameron men."
One poet, in that well-known song, "The
Hundred Pipers, and a', and a'," even goes the
the length of making the soldiers, after they had
crossed a swollen river, dance themselves dry to
the piobrach's sound. Now pioh is the pipe, piohair
the piper, and piohaireachd the piper's special
music, and the one should never be substituted for
A third reason for taking up the pen is this.
I have got together a collection of Bagpipes be-
longing to various peoples and countries, which
will, in all probability, one day get scattered. It is
the fate of most collections of curios ; and I wish
to perpetuate by means of photo-illustrations in this
book not only the pipes, which are interesting in
themselves, but the many lessons to be learned from
a study of them.
And my last reason for venturing upon the
troublous sea of authorship, at this time, must also
be my justification.
I have got a message to deliver to my brother
When Mr Carnegie of Skibo Castle was address-
ing the students of St. Andrews University as their
AND THE BAGPIPE. 6,
recently appointed Lord Rector, he spoke with the
light of the flaring torches reflected from a hundred
opposing windows, bringing into relief, out of the
darkness, the faces of the great crowd that surged in
the street below. And he finished up a happy speech
with words to this effect^ ā 'Let your motto be, 'I
will carry the torch of truth into the dark places of
the world.' " These words, spoken under such cir-
cumstances, had an added significance that must
have impressed itself upon the receptive youths
around. Now the history of the Bagpipe needs
illuminating badly. It is one of the dark places of
the world, so to speak. I believe that I can throw
some light upon it. My torch may be only a rush-
light, but if it brings into viev/ a single hidden
truth, however small, I have no right to hide it
under a bushel. ''Let your light so shine, that
it may be seen of all men," is the command of the
It is enough for me then, that I think I have
some truth to unfold, something new to say, or
something to say in a new way, and this must
be, after all, my sole justification for troubling an
already book-ridden world with one more volume.
WANTED ā A BOOK ON THE BAGPIPE.
" To travel hopefully is better than to arrive, and the
true success is in labour,"
Robert Louis Stevenson.
OOME time in 1901 there was issued from
^-^ the well-known publishing firm of Alexander
Gardner, Paisley, a rather voluminous work, entitled
" The Highland Bagpipe, " by W. L. Manson.
This v^olume, containing so much interesting and
varied information, must have cost Mr Manson an
infinite amount of trouble, and every true Highlander
will readily acknowledge his indebtedness to him for
the interest he has displayed in, and the learning he
has expended upon, the unravelling of the tangled
skein of Bagpipe history.
It is so far the only work wholly devoted ā as its
title indicates ā to the '* History and Literature and
Music of the Pipe."
It is indeed the only work of the kind in this or in
any other language, so far as I know, if we are to
except a small French book written by Mersenne
of a small wooden piper playing on a one-drone Pipe. Found at Dinon, in France.
Supposed to be taken from an old church when it was being dismantled.
Presented by Miss Ella Risk of Bankier.
AND THE BAGPIPE. 65
With Mr Manson's goodly-sized volume before us,
then, is there any need for another book on a subject
interesting only to the few, and about which so little
is known ?
I think there is.
Is there a demand for a new work?
I believe so. And having the courage of my
opinion, I mean at any rate to put it to the test, and if
the world proves me in the wrong, by leaving my
book to dissolve itself away in the butter shop ā Well !
better books have gone there ere now, and ' ' to travel
hopefully is better than to arrive, and the true success
is in labour." My reason, however, for so thinking
is this : Mr Manson's book has itself created the
demand for further information.
His praise like his blame is ill-balanced and
He blows hot and cold by turns, and never seems
long in the same mood. And it is the unexpected
that you meet with more frequently than not on
turning over the page.
He says too much or too little. He leaves many
interesting questions unanswered, after just whetting
our curiosity ; and our hopes of arriving at some safe
conclusion are raised at one moment, only to be
dashed to the ground at the next.
In short, his opinions, . to which one looks for
guidance, are too often only half formed, and, like
all things in the process of formation, are nebulous
and want crystalising.
On this account the reader generally rises from a
66 SOME REMINISCENCES