the accompaniment of the noisy sea, calling aloud
in anguished voice at the catastrophe which has
"The haven roars, and O! the haven roars,"
AND THE BAGPIPE. I35
and it is with the sound of angry waters in our
ears, as the foaming waves plunge along the
weather-beaten shore, that we reach the end of the
tale, and rising, close the book, with a sigh for
Credhe the Desolate.
A woeful melody, and O !
A melody of woe
Is that the surges make on Tullacleish's shore
For me, hard-hit, prosperity exists no more,
Now Crimthan's son is drowned.
In this very old and beautiful lament the writer
in her sorrow turns to nature for consolation.
She suffers! but she is not alone in this. Nature
gives her a peep behind the veil, and shews her at
every turning, sorrow keen as her own.
Do not the very waves that have swallowed up
the drowned man mourn his cruel death ? True,
the crane watching over her little brood nestling in
the lonely marshlands makes melody just now, but
her singing will soon be turned into mourning ; for
is not *'the wild dog of two colours intent upon
Even the merry thrush in Drumqueen woods is sad
as she finds her nest harried ; the tuneful blackbird
wails in Letterlee ; and the hills give back a
thousand echoes to the mournful belling of the stag
bereft of his doe.
There is a great deal of repetition in these old
laments, and alliteration often — I might almost say
always — takes the place of rhyme. Sorrow — the
burden of the story — begins and ends the strain ;
136 SOME REMINISCENCES
and the first line, sometimes even the first word, is
also the last.
This constant repetition, varied only slightly,
gives a length and an apparent sameness in struc-
ture to such pieces, which make them distasteful or
wearisome to the modern reader.
But to the lover of pibroch there can not be too
much variation on one theme : no length is too
great ; and there is a certain charm in what may
be called the recurring sameness of the music, that
has to be felt to be understood.
If any one doubt this, let him make a study of
pibroch for himself, then attend a few of the leading
Highland gatherings : listen to the champions play-
ing some old tune, such as " MacLeod of MacLeod's
Lament" or "The Earl of Antrim's Lament," and
if he does not fall under the spell of pibroch music,
then is there something awanting in him.
Now, if I am correct in thinking that " Credhe's
Lament," like " Ben Doran " and many another of
these old-world poems, is pibroch made vocal, then
at least was this form of music familiar to the Celt
long before the oldest written pibroch of authenti-
cated date which we possess.
And this would explain to some extent the
wonderful completeness of the oldest known pibroch.
There is no hesitancy, no doubt, no amateurishness
about these old pieces, such as one would expect to
meet with in a first attempt, but a roundness, and a
finish, and a perfection of workmanship that is truly
AND THE BAGPIPE. 137
If the Bagpipe, as some say, was introduced into
the Highlands about the fifteenth or sixteenth
century, how are we to account for the early
appearance of pibroch music there? The Macintosh's
Lament was written, it is said, in the sixteenth
century ; M'Leod of M'Leod's was certainly written
in the middle of the seventeenth century, and these
are not the oldest pibroch by any means which we
possess to-day. If the Bagpipe was only introduced
into the Highlands in the end of the fifteenth or
the beginning of the sixteenth century, pibroch,
with its scientific completeness, its complicated
fingering, and its beautiful method of variations —
these variations growing naturally the one out of
the other, the simpler passing by gradation into the
more complex — must in that case have " growed "
with Topsy, and not have been born ; but this is
absurd on the face of it.
It is entirely against the theory of evolution in
things great or small that such marvellous music as
this, so classical in form, so advanced when we
first meet with it, could have sprung to full stature
in one day, or at the bidding of one man.
Pibroch must of necessity have been of slow
growth : the work of plodding musicians for cen-
turies and centuries, as Mons. Guilmant said.
Other countries practising the Bagpipe, yea !
even for thousands of years, have failed to produce
anything like it, or anything worthy of the name of
But when once the foundation had been fairly
138 SOME REMINISCENCES
laid by the continuous efforts of many generations
of Highland Celts, then a creative genius like
M'Crimmon built upon this foundation, and gave
to the world some of the most beautiful and
original pieces of music, with a profusion and a
celerity that seem to us, even to-day, little short of
Now, to-day, although there are more pipers in
Scotland than at any time since the '45, there is no
writer of pibroch among them with whom I am
Nor do I know of a single pibroch written in the
present generation that is worth the playing, or
whose fame will survive the death of its author.
From the middle of the sixteenth to the middle
of the eighteenth century was the golden age of
pibroch. Of what went before we know little ; of
what came after but little need be known.
This gift of the old masters might well, indeed,
be called "the vanishing gift."
GAELIC SONG AND THE BAGPIPE.
"XTOW pibroch music, or as the Highlanders call
•'■^ it, " Ceol Mor,'' is essentially Highland.
There is nothing like it in any other country in
Whatever merits, therefore, it possesses must be
claimed for the Highlander. Under the fierce light
of modern criticism — so called — the Highlander has
had a poor time of it lately.
The kilt has been taken from him, and the tartan
proclaimed a modern fraud, and the Bagpipe has
been held by the same authority to be but a
borrowed instrument — borrowed from England too,
of all places — with nothing Highland about it except
the third or large drone.
But the most rabid hater of the Sons of the Mist
cannot deny their claim to pibroch music.
He may sneer at it, as he has done at everything
else Highland, but he cannot, with all his perverted
ingenuity, father it upon any other race. The
genuine Celtic Highlander alone appreciates it at
its true value, because he alone understands it. It
140 SOME REMINISCENCES
was written for him, and by him, and has always
had for him a powerful fascination. Many of the
tunes are rhymeful and haunting. They get into
the crevices of the brain, and will not be dislodged
nor are they easily forgotten, in after years — you
have got to learn them, once having heard them,
whether you will or not : they dominate the musical
faculty for the time being just as the latest popular
song controls the street boy's whistle, nor do they
ever grow stale.
In the old days there were schools or colleges
throughout the Highlands where piping was taught.
To these resorts, the chief generally, or one of the
leading gentlemen of the clan, sent those youths
who showed a decided talent for the *' Pipes." Here
they were taught all the intricacies of pibroch dur-
ing a course of lessons extending over many years,
by one of the great masters of the art, — by a
M'Crimmon, or a MacKay, or a MacKenzie, or
a MacArthur, as the case might be, — and you may
be sure that after so long an absence from home
their return was looked forward to eagerly by one
and all, from the chief in his castle to the poor
squatter on the black hill.
These young men left their native villages with
perhaps a gift of fingering inherited from a race of
pipers, and able to play tolerably well the simple
airs known in their respective districts, but without
any knowledge whatever of music in general, or of
" Ceol Mor " in particular.
Now, after seven or eight, or even ten of the
AND THE BAGPIPE. I4I
best years of their life had been devoted to the
study of their favourite instrument, they returned
home fully trained musicians, and frequently with a
reputation which had preceded them. They brought
back with them, too, the finest of tunes learned at
first hand from the composers themselves, and
played them in the finest of styles — and how excel-
lent that style was, is known only to a few players
The skill acquired at these colleges — as the train-
ing schools were called — and the superior knowledge
of music gained during these years of hard study,
gave the young piper a standing in the clan of
which he was justly proud, and which he seldom
abused. He was looked up to by his neighbours,
and treated by all as a gentleman of parts ; and he
never forgot that he was a musician.
So that it was in no mere idle spirit of boasting,
or in ignorant pride — as the narrator of the story
imagined — that the piper of a regiment at Stirling
once referred to himself, when there was a dispute
as to whether the drummer boy should precede the
piper on the march or not. "What!" he said, "is
that little fellow who beats upon a sheepskin to go
before me, who am a musician ? "
We can understand then how these young pipers,
trained in the best schools, and filled with the
enthusiasm and inspiration of their teachers, exerted
so powerful an influence upon the musical taste of
the people among whom they settled down on their
142 SOME REMINISCENCES
Their piping would be a revelation to the local
players, who would be thus stimulated to further
and better efforts. It would also be a never-failing
source of delight to the listeners at the ceilidh or
The bard, too, would find in the many new and
beautiful airs fresh inspirations for his muse, and in
this way all the old pibroch tunes also became
And if this is true of the ''Great Music" of the
Bagpipe, or Ceol Mor, it is also, but even in a
greater degree, true of the " Little Music," or Ceol
Nearly all the lesser Pipe tunes, whether marches,
reels, or strathspeys, were sung in the old days to
To give a complete list of such would be to fill
pages of this book needlessly.
The names of a few of the better-known songs
composed to Bagpipe airs will not, however, be
out of place. "Tullochgorum," "Highland Kitty,"
" Hech ! How! Johnnie, Lad," "Roderick of the
Glen," "There Grows a Bonnie Briar Bush,"
"Cabar Feidh," " Blyth, Blyth and Merry was
She," "Bonnie Strathmore," "There came a Young
Man," "A Man's a Man for all that," "Scots
Wha Hae " — these last two in spite of Mr Murray's
criticism — " Lochiel's Awa' to France," "Highland
Harry's Back Again," " Kate Dalrymple."
The last three tunes, and indeed nearly all the
others, are to be found in MacDonald's collection
AND THE BAGPIPE. I43
of " Quicksteps, Strathspeys, Reels, and Jigs,"
published about 1806.
It is one of the earliest, if not the very earliest
book of the kind published in Scotland, and I have
taken the tunes from this old book to avoid spurious
or modern imitations.
I happened to play "Roderick of the Glen" — a
tune not often heard now-a-days — on board the
steamer Glencoe when crossing over from Islay last
The captain, who was a fine old Highlander,
and — as I soon found out — passionately fond of the
" Pipes," came strolling up, as if by accident, to
where I was playing, and listened gravely. The
tune had an extraordinary effect upon him ; the
tears came unbidden to the old man's eyes, and
turning to me when I had finished, he said quietly,
" Man ! I haven't heard that song since I was a
laddie at my mother's knee : she used to sing me
to sleep with it."
This was good news to me, as letters were
appearing at the time in the Glasgow Herald
denying that Gaelic songs were sung to Bagpipe
tunes, or could be put on the Pipe. I did not
know until then that it was an old lullaby song.
There is nothing in the name to suggest such, and
it is given in the book as a quickstep. True, I
had often played it at social meetings to slow time,
and not as a march, but I had nothing to guide
me in this beyond instinct : and here was Captain
Campbell confirming my intuition.
144 SOME REMINISCENCES
"Did your mother just croon it over to you?"
I said to him.
" Oh I no," he replied. " She sang it to words ;
I can give you some verses of it now, if you would
like to hear them : your playing has recalled them
to my mind."
And he was as good as his word. He sang to
me, as we two stood close together under the storm
deck, the wind the while whistling its accompani-
ment outside, half-a-dozen verses in the dear old
tongue, soft and mellifluous as the tune itself. He
also sang me a beautiful old Gaelic pibroch called
" Ciimha Fear Aros,'^ a lament for the laird of
Aros : a very different tune from the one given in
Caintairacht by MacLeod of Gesto ; resembling
somewhat the Macintosh's Lament, but yet quite
distinct from it.
Let me close this short list of Pipe tunes that are
also songs, with the names of two of the most truly
beautiful and purely Gaelic songs known; two songs
that "are also Pipe tunes." These are ^^Ho! Ro!
Mo Nighean Donn Boidheach'" and '''■Mo Dileas
So much for Mr Murray's dictum that "very few
of the airs of even the Gaelic songs can be played
on the Pipes."
No one would for a moment dispute his assertion
that the Bagpipe is unfitted as an accompaniment
to the human voice if he means by Bagpipe, the
Great Highland Bagpipe. But there are other
Bagpipes besides it, several of which 1 have in my
The Cuisleagh Cuil of Ireland.
Bought through the late Mr Henderson, Bagpipe Maker. Glasgow.
Inside the green baize cover was found the following unstamped receipt : —
Glasgow, May 23rd, 1843.
" .\rchd. Wilson Bought oft (sic) .Arthur Finnigan, Broker, N i
" Bridge Gate, a Pair Union Pipes Silver Mounted at £;i o o
" Arthur Finnigan. "
AND THE BAGPIPE. I45
collection, and which make very good accompany ists
to the human voice.
The Great War Pipe of the Highlander on the
other hand, as I have said more than once, makes
a good accompaniment to the roar of battle — for
which it was intended — when bullets are flying and
men's patriotism burns brightly : or to the voice of
nature in her wilder moods as heard in the storm
on the mountain side, or in the booming of the
surf by the lone sea shore, or in the roar of the
torrent thundering down the glen.
It is only in a drawing-room instrument, like the
belloivs pipe of England and of La Belle France,
that you can look for and expect to find in the
Bagpipe a fitting accompaniment to the humati voice.
THE GLAMOUR OF THE HIGHLANDS.
TN the preceding chapters we have tried to prove that
the "generally accepted view that the Bagpipe
is our National Instrument " is based upon good
sound reasoning and solid fact, and not a mere
fanciful notion to be lightly exploded. We have also
tried to show that the Bagpipe had a large — a
determining — influence upon the character and style
of Highland music. We also gave it as our belief,
that centuries of piping in the South were not thrown
away upon the Lowland Scot, and that to this
influence almost as much as to the Highland airs
finding their way to the Lowlands, was due those
Lowland airs of markedly national character which
so much resemble the Highland ones, that Dr.
MacCulloch and many others supposed them to be
nothing- more nor less than Gaelic airs altered to suit
the southern ear, and not always improved by the
tinkering to which they were subjected. We also
tried to prove — and we hope not altogether in vain —
that pipe-tune and Gaelic song were inextricably
mixed together, the one indeed often passing into the
AND THE BAGPIPE. I47
Other : that the two forms of music were in reality-
interchangeable, so that whether at feast or merry-
making, if by any chance the Piper failed to turn up,
there were always plenty of lads and lassies to sing to
the dancers the live-long night all the well-known
strathspeys and reels, as songs with words.
That, in short, the ''''Port Phiob^'" or Pipe tune,
became the '■'■ Port na Beul,'^ or mouth tune, and
this is the reason why the Free Church, although it
exterminated pretty thoroughly the Bagpipe itself
(let this be written to its discredit), failed altogether
to put down Pipe music ; and why it must fail (if
it is determined to pursue the same evil policy in
the future as it has done in the past), unless it is
prepared also in addition to burning the Pipe and
the fiddle, to cut the throat of every Highland lad
and lassie who can sing the old songs.
For this reason then, — in contradistinction to the
views above quoted, — Gaelic songs, the music of
which was written for the Pipe, and many of which
have not yet reached the Lowlands, are to be heard
here and there throughout the Highlands to-day ;
the one thing left, in a priest-ridden country, to
these simple folks of much that was bright, helpful,
and innocent in the past ; the one thing preserved
to them in this strange way from the tyranny of the
Protestant priest. It is — to our shame be it said —
in the Catholic districts that the old music, and
the old dance, and the old traditions are best pre-
Now the Bagpipe is not the only good thing pre-
148 SOME REMINISCENCES
served from the old days which the Highlander has
presented to his country.
Scotland owes much to its Highlands, and to the
primitive people who live there. It may be honest
ignorance that makes an occasional Lowlander
unwilling to recognise the Highland Bagpipe as
our national instrument ; but there are gifts from
the same source which he cannot avoid accepting,
and for which he should write himself down " Your
most obedient, humble servant," whenever he sees
a Highland face, or hears the Highland accent, or
listens to the tuneful roar of the Great War Pipe.
But for the Highlander the old picturesque dress
would ere now be a thing of the past, and the
Scottish tartan would no longer wave.
The old Aryan speech, too, would have long since
died out — a language which some scholars are now
inclined to think may have been the original Aryan
But for the Highlander there would be no national
dance. The reel, or strathspey, is to-day the only
characteristic dance of Scotland.
True, in Shakespeare's time there was a Scotch jig.
He compares " a wooing, wedding, and repenting "
to "a Scotch jig, a measure and a cinque-pace. The
first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and
full as fantastical." But the Scot has long ago for-
gotten all about his own dance, and now he falls
back upon the Highland fling when he wishes to
show something distinctively Scottish to the inquisi-
AND THE BAGPIPE, I49
Again, visitors from all parts of the world who
come to see Scotland naturally bend their steps to
the Highlands. They, of course, spend some days
in Edinburgh, as being perhaps the most beautiful
city in the world ; and they give the Clyde a
passing visit, not for its generous odours, which it
gives off with too prodigal a hand, but for the
sake of the wonderful industries along its banks ;
and then it is "Ho! for the Highlands."
It is Caledonia — the Scotland of the poets — which
the traveller has come from afar to see.
Sir Walter Scott is on his lips, and in his heart,
as he whispers to himself, when first his eye rests
upon the great mountains,
" O ! Caledonia, stern and wild "
The verv name of Caledonia is taken from a tribe
of Picts who inhabited the country round Loch
Ness, comprising Stratheric, The Aird, and Strath-
glass, a district which is now, and has been for
hundreds of years, the Fraser country and the home
of the Chisholms.
And when the poet, glowing with enthusiasm for
his native land, word-paints it so that others may
see and love it, as he sees and loves it, he seeks
not for inspiration by the banks of the broad
smooth-flowing Clyde, or of the winding Forth, or
of the swift flowing Tay.
He seeks it not in the flat Lowlands teeming
with great cities, nor in the carse lands, rich and
fertile, and beautiful as these may be.
With true poetic instinct his eyes are drawn north-
150 SOME REMINISCENCES
wards. On the wings of his imagination he is away
to the Highlands, that land of poetry and romance,
and he sees as through a golden mist, the birch
glen and heath - covered mountain, and quick-
running streamlet that to-day a child can cross with
safety, and to-morrow is a roaring torrent, uprooting
trees in its fury, and tearing the mighty rock from
its base. And with his heart beating in unison
with the mighty throb of nature's heart, an unerring
instinct leads him to hall-mark Scotland for all
men, and for all time, as the
" Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood."
The glamour that the Highlands has cast over Scot- 1
land's sons is well seen in tiie case of the Scot abroad.
The home- sickness which affects him is but
natural, and is shared by the exile from other
countries. But the craving for the tartan and the
Bagpipe which characterises the exiled Scot, whether
he be a Highlander or a Lowlander, is most pro-
nounced, and is seldom or never absent. In
Johannesburg, on Burns' Night this year, as in
past years, we expected — and our expectations were
realised — to see cockie-leekie and haggis grace the
board, and to hear the usual Burns oration.
But why should the great War Pipe of the High-
lands be in evidence on such an occasion ?
Because to these exiles it represents Scotland as
a whole, and not merely the Highlands. Because,
in their eyes, it is the national instrument. Because
it is eminently Scottish.
AND THE BAGPIPE. 151
And as abroad, so at home. Quite recently Lord
Rosebery presided over a great gathering of Scots
at the Holborn Restaurant, London. These Scots
met to celebrate the Festival of St. Andrew.
In the speech of the evening the noble Lord
quoted from a book written by one of the "bloody"
In this book, the squalor of Scotland, in those days,
and more especially the evil smells to be met with in
Edinburgh streets, were most graphically described.
" Malodours, which," as the speaker said, *'seem
almost to reach from the book through the centuries,
and strike the modern nose, as it bends over the
page. In that very book they compare the music of
the Bagpipes, to "which we have listened with so much
pleasure to-night^ to the ' shrieks of the eternally
tormented.' I venture to say that there is no part
of this Empire where the sound of the Bagpipe is
not welco?ned and halloived at this moment. (Cheers. )
There is no part of this Empire in which fond and
affectionate hearts are not turning at this very
moment with a warmer feeling than usual to the
Land o' Cakes."
And what is this land to which the speaker's
heart warms ?
The broad domains of Dalmeny, covered with
luxurious woods and green pastures, and fertile
farms, might well at such a time draw out all the
love in this Scotsman's heart: might well on this
night of nights mean Scotland for him. But no !
If he sees Dalmeny, 'tis but for a moment. His
152 SOME REMINISCENCES
eyes are lifted to the hills beyond. The Coolins,
and Ben Nevis, and Ben Cruachan, with a hundred
other Bens, make mute but powerful appeal, to
which his heart as powerfully responds.
" Let me," he says, " before I sit down, quote a
stanza which I think one of the most exquisite
that has ever been written about the Scottish Exile,
and of which strangely enough we do not know
the author. I am sure I shall not quote it correctly,
but I will quote it sufficiently for my purpose.
* From the lone shieling on the misty island,
Mountains divide us and a world of seas.
But still our blood is strong, our heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.'""
Skye and the Outer Hebrides evidently dominate
the speaker's heart and brain, as his thoughts turn
to the land of his birth.
Can you want any stronger testimony than this
to the powerful fascination which the Highlands
exert over the Scotsman, be he Highland or Low-
land, be he at home or abroad? In a gathering of
Scotsmen anywhere, you cannot in truth exclude
the Highlander : you cannot forget the Highlands.
Long may the tartan delight the eye, and the Bag-
pipe make itself heard at such meetings.
Shorn of these two — the tartan and the Bagpipe
— our social meetings would lose much of their