Piobaireachd Club – October 28, 2006

Piobaireachd Club
On Friday, October 28, 2006, an elite group of Club members met at the home of Ron and Eileen Sutherland for a grand evening of music.
Jack Lee led off with Lament for Ronald MacDonald of Morar (1662-1741), a man known to his contemporaries as Raghnall MacAilean Og. He was the third son of Alan, 4th Chieftain of Morar. Ronald was known for his exceptional physical strength as well as for his musical talents. In addition to being called by his clansmen “The best piper upone the pipe now living”, he was also a fine fiddler and harpist. He composed at least three piobaireachd that are still played – The Finger Lock, The Vaunting, and, The Red Speckled Bull. The composer of this fine tribute to Ronald MacDonald is unknown but it is generally assumed that it would have been a Clanranald piper.
Hal Senyk made one of his rare but very welcome appearances. He played two tunes in the Angus MacKay setting. He led off with Catherine’s Salute (a rare tune about which, more later) and followed with Weighing from the Land. As to the latter, one source suggests that it was composed by a Mull piper – another suggests Uist. The unknown composer observed a shipload of emigrants leaving a Hebridian island bound for Charleston in the Carolinas and endeavoured to convey the strong emotions of the emigrants. In a common custom of the time, many would have plucked grass from their family graves to carry with them as a remembrance. Although those who emigrated before 1800 left voluntarily for the most part, they did so with heavy hearts, perhaps singing the Gaelic version of the following song, circa the late18th century:

We shall go to America
It is our destiny to go there;
A plague on the landlords,
With their greed for money;
They prefer flocks of sheep
To their own armed hosts.

Edward McIlwaine stepped up to play The Battle of Strome, a tune that celebrated the successful MacKenzie seige of Glengarry’s Castle Strome in 1602.
Jack Lee closed the musical evening with The Big Spree, a tune composed on a MacGregor blacksmith. He was a man who was fearless and ferocious in battle but given to excessive tippling that would inevitably turn into a spree that rendered him temporarily helpless. Some credit a MacGregor Chieftain with the composition. However, it is more likely that it would have been one of the MacGregors of Glen Lyon, famous bards, fiddlers and pipers who provided hereditary pipers to the Clan Chieftain. By sheer determination the Glen Lyon family maintained their piping school despite King James VI’s proscription of all things MacGregor.

The next meeting of the Club will be held at the home of Jack and Christine Lee, Friday, December 8th. This pre-Christmas meeting will feature the young pipers as has been the custom for many years. Details to follow.