IN 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 other : that the two forms of
music were in reality interchangeable, so that whether at feast or
merrymaking, 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 net 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 preserved.
Now the Bagpipe is not
the only good thing preserved 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 tongue.
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 forgotten all about his own dance, and now he falls
back upon the Highland fling when he wishes to show something
distinctively Scottish to the inquisitive stranger.
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
The very name of
Caledonia is taken from a tribe of Piets who inhabited the country round
Loch Ness, comprising Stratheric, The Aird, and Strathglass, 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 northwards. 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 shaggv wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood.”
The glamour that the
Highlands has cast over Scot- j land’s sons is well seen in the 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 pronounced, 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 Highlands 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
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 welcomed and hallowed 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 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 Lowland, 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 Bagpipe make itself heard at such meetings.
Shorn of these two—the
tartan and the Bagpipe —our social meetings would lose much of their
charm, and Scotland would be deprived of all that to-day reminds us of
our once distinctive nationality.