melody, can convey no such sensation. Nor can
Speaking at Rockhampton on June 3, 1896, where
he was the guest of the Scotsmen of that town, â no
distinction here between Highland Scot and Low-
land Scot, although there was a Mac in the chair !
â men grow wider in their views by travel, â Lord
Lamington, the newly - appointed Governor of
Queensland, and a man who cannot be accused of
being either a Highlander or prejudiced, said, " I
rejoiced on landing here to see well-known Scottish
dresses, and also to hear the sound of the Pipes.
(Applause.) Yesterday morning, I think it was, or
the day before, I had occasion to thank those who
gave that pleasantest of music to my ears from the
balcony of this hotel. Some rather irreverent person
in the street made a jeering remark. I do not
know what it is to most people, but I know
this â / -would rather hear the Pipes than any other
instrument. Many a time, when in London, have I
dashed down one street and up another to cut off
perhaps some regiment marching to the sound of
the Pipes. . . . Whilst others may prefer such
airs as those to be heard at the opera, I can only
say, in my opinion, that in everything the beautiful
is strictly allied with the useful. And I maintain
that the Pipes have done more strictly useful work
in this world than any other instrument. (Applause.)
AND THE BAGPIPE. 1 19
Where the Highland bonnets have gone forward â
whether at Alma, whether in India, â if there has
been a pause in the rush, it has been the piobrach
which has rallied these Highland regiments, and
enabled them to distinguish themselves in the
fierce onslaught on the enemy. (Applause.) Why,
there is hardly a war, however small, in which you
will not see the name of some well-known Highland
or Scottish regiment. The Bagpipe is always to
the front. Therefore I maintain â as we all of us
do, I believe â that we should cherish our national
instrument, which has played a great part in the
history of our country." (Applause.)
Those who differ from us on this point have their
work cut out for them, and should lose no time in
taking their coats off if they are in earnest, and
mean to try and explode "the generally accepted
notion that the Bagpipe is the National Instrument
It is assuredly the only distinctive musical instru-
ment which we possess, and at the present time, it
deposed from its proud position, there is none other
to take its place.
THE SCOTTISH BAGPIPE.
VI TE have tried to prove in the preceding chapter
â not unsuccessfully, we hope â that the Bag-
pipe is the only distinctive musical instrument which
Do other nations recognise the Pioh Mhor as
distinctively Scottish, and not as merely Highland?
This is the second test, and is also a very im-
At a time when England and Scotland were still
separate nationalities, although under one crown,
Otway, the English poet, who wrote his first play
in 1674, said on one occasion, " A Scotch song ! I
hate it worse than a Scotch Bagpipe."
The Bagpipe was at the zenith of its fame in the
Highlands, and â with the exception of the bellows
pipe â had largely died out in the Lowlands, when
Otway made this spiteful remark. It was the golden
age of the Piper in Skye. Many of our best
Piobaireachd first saw the light there, while every-
where in the Highlands at this time similar music
was being written. We can compose no such fine
The Autlior looks upon this Pipe as the most vahiable in his collection. It
was bought for him hy Mr W. S. Macdonald, of Glasgow, and has a very sweet
" A Kklic of Waterloo "
Inscribed upon the silver plate is the following : â
" Prize given by the Highland Society of Londcm to John Buchanan, Pipe-
Major to the 42nd or Rl. Highland Regl. â .4djudged to him by tlie Highland
Society of Scotland at Edinburgh, 2olh July, 1802.
AND THE BAGPIPE. 121
music for the Bagpipe to-day as the old pipers
composed in those days, without any seeming effort.
The name of MacCrimmon was familiar as a house-
hold word wherever the soft Gaelic tongue was
spoken, when of Lowland Pipers of fame there were
none, and yet Otway writes of the Bagpipe in his
day as Scotch.
At the battle of Quatre Bras, when the Seventy-
Ninth Highlanders had formed up to receive a
charge of French cavalry, Piper McKay stepped
proudly out of the newly-formed square, and, plant-
ing himself on a hillock, where he could be seen
and heard of all, played that well-known pibroch â
grandest of war pieces â " Cogadh Na Shie," as
unconcernedly as if on parade, with shot and shell
flying all around him. A similar example of piper's
bravery was given at Waterloo, under the eye of
Napoleon himself, who might in all truth have said,
"Ah! brave Highlanders!" instead of "Ah! brave
Scots ! " when he heard the war-pipe sound, and
saw the tartan wave, and witnessed with amazement
his best troops dash themselves in vain against
those thin walls of Highland steel ; but there was
none of that hair-splitting, pettifogging spirit about
this greatest of great soldiers, which some modern
critics display ; those critics who would divide us
into Highland Scot and Lowland Scot, and who
unblushingly assert â or at least insinuate â that the
Lowlander is unwilling to accept any gift which
comes to him with the Highland taint upon it.
To the French Emperor the Bagpipe and the kilt
122 SOME REMINISCENCES
â characteristically Highland both â represented Scot-
land and Scotland alone.
Once again, when Mendelssohn, the great com-
poser, came over to Scotland that he might study
on the spot the native music, he spent three whole
days passing out and in of the old Theatre Royal in
Edinburgh, during a competition that happened to be
going on there, listening to the Bagpipe, because to
him it was the instrument par excellence of Scot-
land ; it was here first, and afterwards in a visit to
the Highlands where he again studied the Bagpipe
amidst its proper surroundings, that he caught the
inspiration for his 'â 'â Hebrides'''' overture and for his
Now as with the English, and the French, and
the German, so with other nations. I have myself
visited many foreign countries, and met with many
different peoples, and the invariable exclamation of
the intelligent foreigner, on seeing or hearing the
Highland Pipe, was ''Ah! Scotch!"
To the educated foreigner, indeed, who often takes
a broader view of our country than we ourselves do,
Highland and Lowland are unknown. There is but
one nation, Scotland; and but one people, the Scottish;
and but one national instrument, the Bagpipe.
We will now glance shortly at the other conditions
laid down before proceeding to the subject proper.
The Bagpipe is the only one of the three instruments
mentioned which was not borrowed from Roman,
Teuton, Angle or Dane, but which has sprung from
the people, and grown with the growth of the nation.
AND THE BAGPIPE. 1 23
The fiddle, as we have said before, â a statement
which we cannot reiterate too often, â was the inven-
tion of an Englishman, a Churchman, who, after a
time, made his home in France, where he ultimately
died, and it is an Anglo-Saxon instrument. It is
only of comparatively recent introduction in the High-
lands, and it never attained any great popularity there.
The harp, also an Anglo-Saxon weapon, was the
one favourite instrument of the minstrel class : a
class far removed from the common crowd. At one
time, indeed, a most exclusive class, proud, haughty,
and reserved : holding itself always in touch with
royalty and aloof from the commonality. It never
was in universal use in Scotland, although for a
short time it may have been fairly common among
the upper classes, especially in the West Highlands.
On the other hand, the Bagpipe is Celtic, like the
people who in Caesar's day inhabited the island from
Land's End to John o' Groats. The little pastoral
pipe of the Celt, made of " ane reid and ane bleddir,"
was in universal use in the Lowlands as well as in
the Highlands at the beginning of the fifteenth
century, as history informs us. The fiddle was only
coming into use at this time in the Lowlands, and
was not much thought of, and in the Highlands it was
Now, this fact that the Bagpipe was in early use
in the Lowlands, and a favourite with the common
people, is fatal to Mr Murray's argument. "In the
Lowlands," he says, " it never had a footing " â he has
evidently not read "The Complaynt of Scotland," or
124 SOME REMINISCENCES
Studied the old exchequer rolls. He agrees with
Mr McBain of Inverness, who blindly follows
Sir A. C. McKenzie, in the opinion that it came from
England into the Highlands, but evidently thinks
â in opposition to McBain â that // skipped the
Lowlands on its way thither. Mr McBain tells us,
indeed, that it came into the Highlands directly from
the Lowlands^ where it had been in use for a hundred
years and more, before the Highlanders knew
anything about it. Who are we to believe ? The
simplest way to get over the difficulty is to believe
neither party, as both are hopelessly at sea on this
question. The Pipe did not come from England into
Scotland ; it was the common property of the Celt in
England, and in Ireland, and in Scotland, in the
early centuries, and did not require to be borrowed
by the one from the other.
In " The Complaynt of Scotland," a book written
in the southern Lowland dialect in 1548 or early in
1549, the names of the musical instruments and of the
dances then in vogue are given, and the two first
instruments on the list are two Bagpipes of different
species. This alone, without any further proof, marks
its popularity in the Lowlands. The fiddle, which
Sir A. C. McKenzie would force upon us as a national
instrument, is mentioned only seventh on the list, and
the poor harp, which Mr Murray gives precedence
to over the Bagpipe, is not recognised at all.
We have historical proof that the Bagpipe was
well known in Scotland while the twelfth century
was still young, and if we cannot give written proof
AND THE BAGPIPE. 1 25
of a Still earlier use, it is because there is no earlier
history of Scotland written. Where history fails
common-sense steps in, and tells us that it must
have taken centuries to evolve out of the simple
Pipe of '* ane reid and ane bleddir " the rich full-
toned Pipe that played at the Court of King David,
and delighted the ear of many an old warrior, grim
and stern, who had won his spurs on the field of
Bannockburn, and that it was also first known in
its simpler form to the humble shepherd â the only
solace, indeed, of his lonely vigils â centuries before
the first Scottish historian was born.
This little pastoral Pipe, however ; this little Pipe
of one reed, had become as early as the reign of
King David â and probably much earlier â the Great
Pipe, worthy of the historian's notice : the now
famous War-Pipe of the Highlander, and was then
â and then only â able to voice the feelings of a
warlike race. It is in truth the greatest war instru-
ment which the world has ever seen. To-day it
stands pre-eminent on the battlefield, where it first
became famous, and there such feeble-voiced instru-
ments as the fiddle and the harp â its two great
rivals â cannot be compared with it for one moment.
But, lastly, the Bagpipe has assisted largely in
forming the distinctive music of the country â
Scotland's national music. Without the Bagpipe
what would Highland music be? As other music.
And without Highland music what would there be
to distinguish Scottish music from English, or
French, or German? The ''characteristic Lowland
126 SOME REMINISCENCES
Scotch music " would still be Lowland Scotch no
doubt, but without the characteristic.
Mr Murray says, " My principal object in writing
was to protest against the generally accepted view
that the Bagpipe is the national instrument. Whilst
the Highlander adopted it and made much of it, in the
Lowlands it never had a footing ^ We have already
shown that the Highlander did not adopt it, and
that it had more than a footing in the Lowlands â
where it was, indeed, the principal or favourite
musical instrument with the peasantry for hundreds
of years â even as early as the fourteenth century.
" Our wealth of Scottish folk-music," he continues,
" has no affinity with the Bagpipes (sic), and very
many of these old airs were sung in our Scottish
homes, long before the Bagpipe found its way from
England to the Highland hills and glens, ^^
Again the same false assumption, for which there
is not one jot or tittle of proof, that the Bag-pipe
came from England. The Bagpipe did not come
from England ; and Scotch folk-music has many
affinities with Pipe music. Will Mr Murray give to
the world the name of a single tune from his
"Wealth of Scottish Folk -Song" that can be
traced as far back as, say 1365, when the Pipe was
already fashionable at the Scottish Court, and the
Piper ranked high among the members of the
king's household? "Hey Tutti Tuiti," said by
tradition to have been Bruce's march at the
Battle of Bannockburn, is undoubtedly an ancient
tune, and I believe it to be as old as tradition says,
AND THE BAGPIPE. I27
but then it is a Bagpipe tune. The oldest part-song
in the world also is formed on the same model, and
has a drone bass in imitation of the Bagpipe. It is
an English song, and is called " Sumer is icumen
in," and dates from about 1250. What Scottish
folk-song can be traced as far back as 1250?
That the oldest songs in both countries should be
so largely influenced by the Bagpipe is not to be
wondered at, when we remember that the Pipe was
a general favourite in England as well as in Scot-
land at a time when song-making was in its infancy.
It is well to remember here that musical instruments
have always led the human voice, not vice versa,
but while leading they have also from inherent
imperfections and peculiarities of scale, etc., imposed
limits, thus giving a distinctive character to the
songs of the people. This is most marked in
countries like Scotland, where in the early days but
one instrument predominated. Its influence can be
traced most clearly in Highland song, where the
singer, like the piper, skips or slurs certain notes
in the scale, irrespective of the character of the
theme. It is the same,
"In solemn dirg-e, or dance tune gay,
In sad lament, or joyous roundelay,"
and it is difficult to understand on what grounds
Mr Murray denies its influence in Scottish music.
** In point of fact," he says with an air of authority,
"but very few of the airs of even the Gaelic songs
can be played on the Pipes. . . . The timbre
of the Pipe makes the instrument impossible as an
128 SOME REMINISCENCES
accompaniment to the voice, and its use all through
has been unconnected with vocal music." Now,
while the Great Highland Bagpipe is the proper
accompaniment on the battlefield to the noise and
din of warfare, it was never intended to be an
accompaniment of song, and no sane writer has ever
said so ; but it is only one of many Pipes, and of
these others several go well to the human voice.
At a lecture given by me this winter I had a choir
boy â with a rare gift of voice â who sang that
beautiful Christmas hymn, " Hark, the Herald
Angels Sing," to the accompaniment of the
Northumbrian Bagpipe, and the timbre of the Pipe
and the timbre of the little singer's voice were in
perfect unison. The French Mussette is another
Bagpipe which goes well with the human voice ; so
that it is not correct to say that "its use all through
has been unconnected with vocal music." Hundreds,
nay ! thousands of French Bagpipe songs were in
existence once, and may be yet for all I know.
And as to the bold statement that "but very few of
the airs of even the Gaelic songs can be played on
the Pipes," the exact opposite is the truth. Very
many of the old Gaelic songs go excellently well
upon the Pipes in the disguise of march, reel, and
strathspey, while practically all Piobaireachd â the
real music of the Pipe â is vocal.
But as this subject â the influence of the Bagpipe on
Highland music â is a large and an interesting one,
it will require a chapter to itself.
BAGPIPE INFLUENCES AT WORK.
TN 1819, Dr. MacCulloch published his book called
'â ' "A Description of the Western Islands of
Scotland." That he was prejudiced against the
Highlands and things Highland, is to be seen on
many a page of his book. When therefore he
speaks favourably â which he seldom does â of such
matters as Highland music and the Bagpipe, his
opinions can be accepted unreservedly.
At one time, he tells us, that according to report
St. Kilda was famous for its music. The learned
doctor found nothing to justify this reputation when
he paid a visit to the island, there being neither
Bagpipe nor violin in the place. His search here
and elsewhere, however, led him into a learned dis-
sertation on Scottish music, which is becoming to
our argument at this stage.
" The airs which are recorded as originating in
this place," he says, "are of a plaintive character;
but they differ in no respect from the innumerable
ancient compositions of this class which abound in
the Highlands." These are interesting, ^^ as they
130 SOME REMINISCENCES
appear to he the true origin of that peculiar style of
melody for which Scotland is celebrated.'''' The
" Highland airs of acknowledged antiquity " he
divides into two classes. " Pibroch, a distinctive
class by itself, similar to nothing in any other
country ; and airs of a plaintive nature often in a
minor key. The more ancient appear to have con-
sisted of one strain only : the second strain so often
found attached to them at present is generally a
recent addition ; wandering commonly through a
greater extent of the scale, and not often a very
felicitous extension of the same idea. In some cases
these airs appear to be purely instrumental ; in
others they are attached to poetry and song by the
milkmaid at her summer sheiling, or the cowherd
on the green bank. One peculiar circumstance
attends nearly the whole, namely, that they equally
admit of being played in quick time. Thus they are
often also the dancing tunes of the country." In
another place he says, " In Scotland the Bagpipe
must be considered as the national instrument. By
this instrument the characters of these melodies seem
to have been regulated, as they appear to have been
composed on it. In examining all the most ancient
and most simple they will be found limited to its
powers, and rigidly confined to its scale. The
pathetic and the lively, the pastoral airs of the
Tweed, and even the melodies of the Border, thus
equally appear to have been founded upon the
'' It will often, indeed, be found that the same
AND THE BAGPIPE. I3I
air which is now known as a Lowland pathetic
composition is also a Highland dancing tune."
" To the peculiar limited powers of the Bagpipe
therefore must probably be referred the singularities
which characterise the national melodies of the
Highlands. On that instrument they appear to
have been first composed, and by that has been
formed the peculiar style which the voice has
imitated. In no instance, indeed, has the human
voice appeared to lead the way in uttering a melody
or the ear in conceiving one. They follow at a
distance that which was originally dictated by the
mechanical powers and construction of the instru-
ments which have been successively invented."
These are the opinions of an acute and accurate
observer, formed on the spot, and at a time when
the materials out of which to form a correct judg-
ment were more plentiful.
I have not yet ventured to quote any expert's
opinion on the Bagpipe as a musical instrument,
which may seem strange. But, as a matter of fact,
the average trained musician knows as much or as
little about the "Pipes" as the man in the street.
This is not his fault, indeed, as I mentioned before,
but is due to the fact that the Pipe is seldom, if
ever, mentioned in lectures on music, and is almost
entirely ignored in musical text-books.
When, however, it comes to the question of what
influencies were at work in the formation of our
national music, then is an expert's opinion of the
greatest of value.
132 SOME REMINISCENCES
Now, Mr Hamish M'Cunn, than who no better
judge of Scottish music exists at the present day,
working along the same lines as Dr. MacCulloch
â who you will see I am not putting forward as an
expert â comes to much the same conclusion as
the learned doctor. He acknowledges the large
influence which the Bagpipe wielded over High-
land music, and the preponderating influence
which the latter exerted in the formation of our
national music : with which conclusions I also am
in agreement, but would substitute " Bagpipe
music" for "Highland music," as it is surely
unwise to ignore the influence of the Bagpipe on
the Lowlander during the long centuries when it
was with him too, the favourite musical instrument.
Years of piping in the Lowlands must at least have
prepared the soil for the Highland seed that was
one day to fall there, and root, and flourish, and
blossom into the glorious harvest of national song.
The influence of the Bagpipe in the Highlands
in days of old is undoubted : pibroch is its real
business, as MacCulloch says, and all ancient
pibroch is vocal as well as instrumental. " Pibroch
of Donald Dhu," "Macintosh's Lament," " Mac-
leod of Macleod's Lament," " I got a kiss of the
King's hand," " My King has landed in Moidart,"
'' Bodach Nam Brigais," " Patrick Og M'Crimmon's
Lament," " Cha till MacCruimein," "The Piper's
Warning to his Master," are all well-known songs,
and the very flower of pibroch. The influence of
the pibroch was so great indeed in early times that
AND THE BAGPIPE. I33
the poet wrote his sonnet to its changing measures.
'' Ben Dorain," a Gaelic poem written by Duncan
Ban M'Intyre in the eighteenth century, is one of
the last and one of the best examples of this style
of Highland composition. One of the earliest is
the *' Lay of Arran " by Cailte, the Ossianic bard.
The ancient Erse composition known as " Chredhe's
Lament," is, I believe, another, from which I take
the liberty of quoting a few lines.
The haven roars, and O !
The haven roars,
Over the rushing race of Rinn-da-bharc !
Drowned is the warrior of Loch-da-chonn.
His death the wave mourns on the strand.
Melodious is the crane, and O !
Melodious is the crane,
In the marshlands of Druin-da-thren ! 'tis she
That may not save her brood alive: the gaunt wolf grey.
Upon her nestlings, is intent,
A woeful note, and O !
A note of woe,
Is that with which the thrush fills Drumqueens vale !
But not more cheerful is the piping wail !
The blackbird makes in Letterlee,
A woeful sound, and O !
A sound of woe,
Rises from Drumdaleish, where deer stand moaning low!
In Druim Silenn, dead lies the soft-eyed doe:
The mighty stag bells after her.
This lament, which I have arranged in metre
form, as it falls naturally into it, is to be found in
the "Book of Lismore."
134 SOME REMINISCENCES
It is a lament for Gael, Crimthan's son, who was
overtaken one day by the quick-rising storm, and
sucked under by the swirling seas.
To the writer's Celtic imagination, the mournful
booming of the surf on the shore is but the wave's
solemn requiem over the white body which lies
entangled in the wrack beneath, tossing idly to-
and-fro, with the swing of the restless waters.
This is the whole story : a lover overtaken by
the fate that ever follows closely on the heels of all
such as ''go down to the sea in ships," and the
tumultuous sea â the instrument of a cruel fate â
mourning over its own handiwork.
And this story or theme, told in a few simple
words, is repeated, like the 'â ^ iirlar''' or groundwork
of a pibroch, at least twice in the middle of the
poem, and once again before the lament comes to
And here, too, as in pibroch, there are no pre-
liminary trivialities : the teller puts his whole story
into a nutshell, so to speak. True, there are em-
bellishments â the variations of the pibroch â but
these follow after and are rounded up, once and
again with the one essential : the sea mourning
over its dead. There also runs through this tale of
woe, like a golden thread, the sympathy of nature
for man in distress. The story opens abruptly to