Piobaireachd Club – November 3, 2008


Greetings,  a short report on a performance that deserves better. Regards, the other Ron

Piobaireachd Club 


Another dark and stormy night outside. A brilliant night of piping inside! The home of Ron and Eileen Sutherland was well stocked with people, sociability and enthusiasm.

First up was Andrew Lee playing the tune that won him second place in the Silver Medal Competition, Oban – Hector Maclean’s Warning, MacArthur setting.

John Lee followed with Tulloch Ard, the MacKenzie gathering tune.

Alastair Lee followed with The Desperate Battle of the Birds. Credit for composing this tune circa 1750/60 is attributed by many to Angus MacKay, Gairloch. A popular Gaelic poem of his time is thought to have inspired him. However, in true Gaelic style there are suggestions that the origin of the theme could be much earlier in time. This school of thought suggests that the theme may well reach back to the arranged Battle of the North Insh of Perth, 1396, where 30 men from Clan MacKay squared off with 30 men from Clan Chattan while the King looked on from wooden galleries erected to seat himself and his guests. The intent was to end a vicious and long-standing feud between the two Clan. A third inspirational candidate is linked to an incident at Ardvrek Castle where the Lady of the Castle was annoyed at the crowing of the roosters at dawn and sent servants out to tie their beaks and in this way silence them. The tune that sprang from this event is said to reflect attempts to woo the birds with soft words, followed by an explosion of concern that raised a storm of dust, noise and flying feathers from cackling hens, screeching roosters and screaming servants. All of which is reflected in the music. This latter tale, of which I only touch on, originated in Lewis in the late 15th or early 16thcentury and passed down orally before appearing in an article in 1959 written by the late Roderick MacLeod, first President of the B.C. Pipers’ Association.

Colin Lee then played Lament for the Castle of Dunyveg. This tune laments the demise of MacDonald of Islay, erstwhile Lord of the Isles. The Castle was their final refuge in their struggles with Campbell of Argyll. It was finally destroyed in 1647, 54 years after the MacDonald’s forfeited their title and prerogatives to the King.

Jack Lee played The Phantom Piper of Corrieyarrick, a tune composed by the late Captain John A. MacLellan. To put the matter briefly, the tale has it that a phantom piper, a relic of Montrose’s campaign against Campbell of Argyll in 1645, still haunts the difficult and treacherous Pass of Corrieyarrick over which Montrose force-marched his troops to totally surprise  and rout Argyll.

A surprising and very welcome player was up next with Lament for the Old Sword. Kyle Banta has been absent from the piobaireachd boards for a time and it was a delight to see him back at it again. His tune has its origins in the pre-Christian time of the Ossian legends, circa 200-300 A.D. It was passed down by bards and eventually adapted for the pipe by an unknown composer. It celebrates the great sword of Oscar which, as the bardic story has it, came into the possession of the Lord of the Isles and later the King, only to be lost at Flodden Field, 1513 A.D.

The next meeting of the Club is scheduled for Friday, November 28 at the home of Jack and Christine Lee. This will be the Christmas Special where we can look forward to the young pipers playing up a storm. More later.