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A Highlander Looks Back
By Angus MacPherson



The Author

THE memories of one who has never risen to any great altitude in life’s way may not appeal to modern thought, but to those who, like myself, lived in the Victorian days, so commonly referred to as “the bad old days”, they will, I hope, be of interest, and may, perhaps, cause the modern thinker to pause, if not alter the condemnation so glibly expressed.—Author.

Foreword
by
Seton Gordon

There are few men like Angus Macpherson left to-day in the Scottish Highlands. For almost half a century he has been a public figure. Expert piper, angler, seannachaidh and sheep farmer, he has by his charm, sincerity and courtesy made innumerable friends in all walks of life. In his hotel at Inveran, by the banks of the Shin, I have often stayed. There was always a welcome, always a tune on the pipes. On the river bank, just below the hotel, the pipes sounded particularly well. Many great pipers played there—John MacDonald of Inverness, who often told me how much he owed to the skilled tuition of Angus Macpherson’s father, Calum Piobair, the supreme master on the Piob Mhor; George MacLennan of the Gordon Highlanders, and many others. Nor must we forget Angus’s only son, Malcolm. He was, when very young, sent by his father as a pupil to John MacDonald, and at his best has at times almost equalled in technique the playing of his illustrious teacher.

I have judged for a good many years at a good many Highland Gatherings, and I recall two outstanding performances by Malcolm Macpherson. One was at the Kyleakin Games in the Isle of Skye, the other was at the Argyllshire Gathering at Oban. I do not recall for certaiq Malcolm’s tune at Kyleakin, but he was placed in the Piobaireachd Competition equal first with John MacDonald at his best. I doubt if any other of the younger generation of pipers has had that honour. The second occasion was at the Gold Medal competition at the Argyllshire Gathering at Oban in, I think, 1927. Malcolm played that beautiful MacCrimmon masterpiece, “Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon”, a tune which very, very few, even of the front line pipers, can do justice to. I still remember how we, the judges, were impressed by his playing on that occasion. It was one of those memorable performances which are recalled with pleasure across the years.

During the last few years I have been present at three public functions at which Angus Macpherson has been the central figure. The first of them was at Invershin, after his hotel at Inveran had been completely destroyed by fire and the family had lost a beloved home. It was decided to make Angus a presentation. The idea originated with an angler (whose name is carried to the four corners of the world by the liners of his fleet) who had stayed at Inveran and fished the Shin for many years. He set the ball arolling. Famous names, both in this country and abroad, members of the aristocracy, Members of Parliament, the princes of commerce, all wished to show their friendship. They recalled the hospitality of “himself” and his good lady during those happy days beside the Shin, often in his company beside some famous pool. That presentation of the token of esteem of many friends was a heartening occasion, and perhaps in its way was unique. The second occasion was in 1952, when the Invergordon Highland Gathering in full swing came to a sudden halt for a few minutes when Angus was presented by the committee with an inscribed Cromag bearing in silver a suitable inscription, that the staff was given him as a tribute to his judging of the piping at these Games for many years. The third occasion was as recently as September, 1954, at the Northern Meeting Rooms in Inverness. This presentation was made by Cameron of Lochiel and was a tribute by the members of the Meeting to Angus Macpherson to mark his 60th annual attendance without a break at the piping events, either as a competitor or as a spectator.

As a true Highlander Angus may perhaps be said to have inherited from his ancestors his courtesy and distinction of bearing. His poetic love for the Highlands, their old traditions, and music, will be realised by those who read his book. They may also realise a quality in my old friend which has often impressed me—his idealism and his striving always towards what is best in his fellow men. In his journey through life he has, like all of us, had dark and anxious days, but he has had the joy of an ideal partner in his married life, and I am sure that he would be the first to admit how much he has owed, and still owes, to her wise counsel and self-effacing support. He has, as he tells us, now reached the time of the borrowed years, but his friends hope that he may be spared to keep alive the old qualities of the Highlander in these days of material progress, when so much of spiritual value is being lost.

For myself, I feel that his friendship, through many years, has been a thing beyond price. It has been a privilege to have been asked by him to write this Foreword, and I wish the book every success, for we may not see its like again.

Contents

My Boyhood Days
Description of My Native Parish
Highland Games at Kingussie
Cuimhneachain na h-Oige
Early Days in Laggan
A Philanthropist comes to My Parish
My Stay at Skibo Castle
In Business at Newtonmore
Return to Sutherland
New York and Death of Mr Carnegie
Inveran — Hotelkeeper
Inveran — Farmer
Inveran — Angler
Tribute to Inveran
Invershin and its Surroundings
The Shin Hydro-Electric Scheme
My Personal Memories of the Skye Pipers
Pipe-Major John MacDonald’s Memoirs
Later Pipers of My Day
Presentations
The End - An Angler’s Prayer

See also our page on Andrew Carnegie


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