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Some Reminiscences and the Bagpipe
Chapter XXX — The Bagpipe in Scotland


THERE are more frequent references to the Bagpipe in Early England than in Early Scotland, not because the Pipe was first introduced into England, but because English records were made earlier, and are fuller and more complete, and were better preserved, as AI Bain says, than Scottish records.

Scotland was too much occupied with the sword in her young days to take up the pen, and perhaps with nation-making on hand, she had too little leisure ; her early scholars also thought the small details of everyday life too trivial to be recorded, and in this way the Bagpipe was neglected, and the historians of England stole a march upon her.

Indeed, but for the fact, firstly, that a Welshman in the twelfth century—who visited Scotland with the express object of studying its musical system—wrote a book, giving a list of the musical instruments used by the Scots; and, secondly, that the expenses of the Royal Household in the fourteenth century were jotted down and preserved in the old exchequer rolls, we would be without any certain proof to-day that the Bagpipe was known in Scotland before the middle of the fifteenth century, when M'Vurich, the bard, reviled it in song; and the claim of those who say “it came, of course, from England into Scotland,” would be as strong now as it is weak, and would be much more difficult to disprove by men who, like myself, believe in the Celtic origin of the Bagpipe.

The history of the Bagpipe in Scotland is similar . to its history elsewhere in Celtdom: it is a story of gradual progress from small beginnings.

The historian who first mentions the Pipe in Panonnia agrees, in his description of the instrument, with the writer who first describes the Pipe in Scotland, although fifteen hundred years separate the two.

The early Bagpipe in both countries was found to consist of a simple reed and bladder ; and out of this little Pipe the Great War Pipe of the Highlands has been slowly, but surely, evolved. We in the south did not get it put into our hands a ready-made instrument of one drone, nor did the Highlander in the north begin with the “Great Pipe” of two drones, as the Inverness School asserts. The little Bagpipe of “ane reid and ane bleddir,” the original Pipe of the Celt, survived alongside of its more powerful and useful offspring, the Drone Bagpipe, almost to our own day; and in 1548 the author of the “ Complaynt of Scotland” places this little Pipe second in a list of seven instruments well known to the Scottish peasant of that period.

The first instrument on the list—in order of merit and popularity, I presume—is a Drone Bagpipe; the second is “a Bagpipe of ane reid and ane bleddir;” the third is the Jew’s Harp or Trump, an instrument very common in my young days ; and the seventh is the Fiddle.

There is no mention of the harp whatever, which is surely strange if the harp were in such universal use among the common people as recent writers would have us believe; and the Fiddle — Sir A. C. M‘Kenzie’s Scotch Fiddle—comes in a bad seventh.

There is an old tradition still in existence, which the poet Burns heard at Stirling and elsewhere, that the Pipe was played at Bannockburn, and for believing in which he was laughed at by the wiseacres of the next generation, who said that there were no Bagpipes in Scotland for at least two centuries after 1314, the date of the battle. The truth is, that although there is no historical reference to the use of the Bagpipe on this occasion, we now know, what the writers of twenty years ago did not know, that the Pipe was a well-known instrument in Scotland at the time the Battle of Bannockburn was fought, and for some centuries before.

Now, if Bagpipes were used at Bannockburn, as tradition asserts—an assertion which our later and fuller knowledge of the facts strongly supports—they were Highland Bagpipes, because we learn from history that the Highlander was the first to discover their stimulating effect in battle, and was the first, since the days of the Romans, to substitute the Pipe for the drum in war. From the beginning of the fifteenth century and onward, numerous references— owing to the advancement of letters—shew how universal its use was throughout Scotland in early times. We know that it was always a favourite with the herd boy ; but the very fact that King David II. kept a piper, and that King James I. was himself a piper, must have increased its popularity with the upper classes as well. And so we learn without surprise that soon after King James’ time every burgh in Scotland had among its recognised officials a piper, dressed in the town’s livery—often gay with bright colours and tassel decorations, and with a cock of particoloured ribbons in his bonnet—whose duty it was to open and to close each day with a tune on his “Drone.” So popular, indeed, was the Bagpipe with us in the olden days, that whenever a piper turned up at the Township—be it morning, noon, or night—work came to a standstill : the weaver left his shuttle, the tailor his bench, the blacksmith his forge, the hind his plough, and with the lassies, who were never far away, flocked to the village green, where dancing was begun, and generally carried on until nature, worn out, called a halt.

In that most delightful of songs, “Alister M‘Alister,” we have the best description of the impromptu dance to be found in literature. So excellent, indeed, is it, and so impregnated with the spirit of the times, that I offer no apologies for giving it here in full :—

Oh, Alastair MacAlastair,
Your chanter sets us a’ asteer,
Then to your bags, an’ blaw wi’ birr,
We’ll dance the Highland Fling.
Now Alastair has tuned his pipes,
An’ thrang as bumbees frae their bikes,
The lads an’ lasses loup the dykes,
An’ gather on the green.

Oh, Alastair, etc.

The miller, Hab, was fidgin’ fain
To dance the Highland fling his lane,
He lap, as high as Elspeth’s wame,
The like was never seen.
As round about the ring he whuds,
An’ cracks his thumbs, an’ shakes his duds,
The meal flew frae his tail in cluds,
An’ blinded a’ their een.

Oh, Alastair, etc.

Neist rauchle-handed smiddyjock,
A’ blackened ower wi’ coom an’ smoke,
Wi’ shauchlin’ bleare’ed Bess did yoke,
That slav ’rin gabbit queen.
He shook his doublet in the wind,
His feet, like hammers, strak the grund ;
The very moudiewarts, were stunn’d,
Nor kenn’d what it could mean.

Oh, Alastair, etc.

Now wanton Willie wnsna blate,
For he got haud o’ winsome Kate,
“Come here,” quo’ he, “I’ll show the gate,
To dance the Highland fling.”
The Highland fling he danced wi’ glee,
And laps as he were gaun to flee.
Kate beck’d an’ bobbed sae bonnilie,
An’ trip’t sae neat an’ clean.

Oh, Alastair, etc.

Now Alastair has done his best,
An’ weary houghs are wantin' rest,
Forbye wi* drouth they sair were pres’t,
Wi’ dancin’, sae, I ween.
I trow the gantrees gat a lift ;
An’ roun’ the bicker flew like drift ;
An’ Alastair, that very nicht,
Could scarcely stand his lane.

Oh, Alastair, etc.

It is rather interesting to learn that the miller in England, as well as in Scotland, was often the village piper.

In Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” the piper is a miller to trade, and King Jamie’s piper is also a miller.

“With that Will Swan came smeiland out,
Ane meikle miller man,
Gif I sail dance have done, lat se,
Blow up the Bagpype than.”

Its popularity, however, did not begin and end with the dance. King James also writes :—

“The Bagpipe blew, and they outdrew
Out of the townis untald.”

shewing that it was used in Scotland as a marching instrument, just as in England; and all processions in those days, whether of pilgrims or of the ordinary people to or from fairs, markets, weddings, or funerals —even the Royal processions from Church on Sunday —were headed by the piper.

From this we see that the Bagpipe was once popular throughout the length and breadth of Celtic Scotland, and was not peculiar to the Highlands. No doubt the adoption of the bellows helped to hurt the growing popularity of the “Pipes” in Lowland Scotland, as it had certainly done in England and in Ireland, for when the original Great Pipe became whittled down to suit the ears of drawing-room dames, it lost more than its loudness. It lost its usefulness and its individuality. But it was only after the Low-lander had developed into the peaceful trader, to whom the flash of a broadsword or the “skirl of the Pipe ” was hateful, and after the Highlander had developed into the soldier of fortune who found the very spirit of battle in the Pipe’s wild war-notes, that the Great Bagpipe began to be looked upon as a purely Highland instrument.

It was this retrograde development of the Pipe into a household weapon by the Lowlander, and the forward development by the Highlander of the same Pipe into a still louder and more powerful instrument—an out-of-doors instrument—fitted for the clamour of battle, that brought the Bagpipe its lasting fame. It seems almost like the irony of fate that a pastoral instrument—the most peaceful of instruments— first invented by shepherds to beguile their lonely vigils with—to lead gentle sheep to the fresh pastures—should become the delight in war of the fierce soldier.

Who could foresee that this little shepherd’s Pipe, of “ane reid and ane bleddir,” a poor thing at best—a feeble-voiced, soft-toned, primitive, droneless instrument, should one day blossom out into the Great War Pipe of the Clans, with its loud clarionvoiced call to arms?

Now, so long as the Bagpipe consisted only of chanter and bag, not much improvement was possible or could be expected : its usefulness was greatly curtailed, and it never could—and never did—become an instrument of any note. The noise of combat drowned out the little Pipe, and the old historians, if they knew of its existence, thought it unworthy of notice.

The Greeks learned this lesson very early, and the Pythaulos—a drone Bagpipe—was the result. In the evolution of the primitive Piob, then, the first and greatest improvement of all was the addition of the drone. The drone Bagpipe, once invented, became in turn, to the eager, open-mouthed listeners, a teacher of concord or harmony, and the oldest part-song in the world, called, “ Summer is a cumen in,” is a song composed to a Bagpipe tune in which the men’s voices droned a bass of one note —the keynote—right through the song, just as the drone of the Bagpipe did.

After the first drone was added, it required no great stretch of genius or imagination—Celtic or otherwise—to add a second, or a third, or a fourth drone for that matter to the Pipe, and no country could justly claim the Bagpipe as its own, because of such addition; so that the Highlander who, according to Mr M‘Bain, only added the third drone to the newly-borrowed two-drone Bagpipe, had no right whatever to claim the instrument as a Highland one.

When on the subject of the drone, I may here say, that in this country, as we learn from the descriptions of old writers, confirmed in many instances by drawings of the actual Pipes, the second drone was added early in the sixteenth century, and the third drone about the middle or end of the eighteenth century, although the present three-drone Bagpipe did not become general, especially in the Highlands, till well on in the nineteenth century.

In his preface to the Pioba.ireachd Society’s first collection of tunes, published in 1905, the writer disputes the above view, and holds that the three-drone Bagpipe was the Highland Pipe from the first, and in proof of this somewhat bold assertion he quotes from a fifteenth century satire on the Pipe, composed by one Niall Mor MacVurrich. From this Gaelic poem the following quotation—translated first into English—is taken :—

“The first Bag(-pipe)—and melodious it was not —came from the time of the Flood. There was then of the Pipe but the chanter, the mouth-piece, and the stick that fixed the key, called the sum air c (drone?) But a short time after that, and—a bad invention begetting a worse—there grew the three masts, one of them long, wide, and thick,” etc.

Now, taking for granted that this poem is authentic, and the translation correct, it may still only refer to the two-drone Pipe where the second drone—as we constantly see it in old pictures—was added, “long, wide, and thick,” and the two drones with the mouthpiece would represent the three masts.

No doubt there were three-drone, and four—nay, even five-drone Bagpipes before the eighteenth century, but' the three-drone Highland Pipe of today was not much used in the Highlands until the nineteenth century. In my young days the Inverary Gipsies, who were—many of them—great pipers, never used any but a one-drone or two-drone Bagpipe, and it is not quite fair for the writer of this preface, or for the Piobaireachd Society, which is responsible for its publication, to belittle the one-drone or the two-drone Bagpipe, and praise only the modern form of Highland Pipe, as if it were the real and only Simon Pure. “It has been frequently stated,” we are told, “and repeated in most of the recent works on the subject,”—not that there are any ancient or recent works on the subject, except Mr Manson’s book, which was published in 1901—“that the bass drone was added to the Bagpipe early in the nineteenth century, or, in any case, not fifty years earlier.” The “Seanachas Sloinuidh”—M‘Vurich’s poem—“disproves that assertion, and even should it not" (there is evidently a doubt in the writer’s mind) “it is impossible to believe that at the time the greatest of the Macrimmons composed their masterpieces, they should have played on an impossible and incapable instrument. Now, as a matter of fact, the two-drone Bagpipe is not an impossible or an incapable instrument at all, and if the great Macrimmon wrote his “masterpieces” with a three-drone Bagpipe at his elbow, it was not from the third drone that he drew his inspiration, but from the Pipe as a whole. Indeed, for practising purposes, and in the dance, the big drone is no improvement, and in holiday time I fall back on the older form of two-drone Pipe as being easier to play on, and easier to dance to, for those at least who are not accustomed to Pipe music.

To say that the full-fledged instrument is the only original Highland Bagpipe is to say that the Highlander did not invent it for himself, but borrowed it —as Mr M‘Bain says he did—and such “impossible and incapable” claims put forward in its favour by rash friends, lend weight to the verdict of those hostile critics who say that the Highland Bagpipe is neither ancient nor Highland.

Of its age I treat elsewhere. That it is a genuine Highland instrument I have no doubt, And if the invention of the Bagpipe has been denied to the Highlander, I must be honest, and say, “right away here,” that for this misapprehension he has himself only to thank. He was the first to start the stories which gave the credit of it now to this nation, now to that. He did not value the instrument, in later days at least, as he should have done. After the

Rebellion of 1715, the Highlands began to be opened up to the outer world, and the Highlanders were forced to meet English-speaking strangers, whose surprise and, in many instances, contempt for what they saw, was but half veiled. And so Donald, to be on “the right side of the laugh,” began to disparage everything distinctively Highland.

We have seen that the Clan piper himself was not always above displaying this same poor spirit in the hope of standing well with the stranger. He was no doubt a gentleman of parts, and a musician. It might be beneath his dignity to carry the “Pipes” himself. He had a boy—the gille Piobaire —to perform this office for him. But he did not need to throw the “Pipes” on the ground disdainfully when the tune was over, to show his English friends that the Bagpipe, in his opinion too, was but a sorry instrument for so great a musician.

There is no man so thin-skinned as your real Highlander fresh from his native hills, and the Highlander was never so thin-skinned as just after the ’45, when, deserted by his leaders, he, in consequence, lost the old confidence which he previously had in himself, and in things Highland. He thought the world was laughing at him, and the fear of being laughed at was as gall and wormwood to him. Accordingly, when the Sassenach quizzed the dress, or language, or Bagpipe, Donald was ready to go one better, and like poor doubting Thomas, disown and curse what in his heart he loved more than life.

When the great Dr. Johnson called his language “the rude speech of a barbarous people,” Donald acquiesced by his silence in a dictum born of ignorance. Only here and there, like the voice of one crying in the wilderness, was a protest raised. In like manner he has been stripped of his kilt without a murmur. And Mr M‘Bain, who would take from him the last and most precious of his three great possessions, without caring how much pain his words carried to many a loyal Highland heart at the time they were written, walks the streets of the Highland capital to-day in safety. O, Highlanders! of a surety ye are a long-suffering race.

This is why I say that Donald was himself to blame for the spreading of false stories about the origin of the Highland Bagpipe.

When Pennant, or Martin, or M‘Culloch, or other inquisitive traveller, one hundred to two hundred years ago (these visitors being really interested in things Highland), began to question Donald—in all good faith—about the origin of the Bagpipe, Donald (suspicious and sensitive, and understanding but imperfectly the language in which he was addressed), anticipated hostile criticism by attributing the origin to the Dane, or Northman, or Roman, or Greek. And so the opinions of the Highlanders — I speak especially of the days after the ’45 — are not worth the paper they are written on, and are wholly misleading.

Does history afford us any help in our research? Have we any reliable data to go upon? I think so, and the dates, so far as known to me, although few, I will give you later on when I come to talk of the antiquity of the Bagpipe in Scotland.

Now, of all Bagpipe playing peoples, the Highlander, as I have said before — if we except the Roman and the Alexandrian—was the first to substitute the Pipe for the drum in war; and was alone in resisting the addition to his Pipe of bellows and keys. He perfected it as far as possible on the old lines, and refused to assimilate it to modern instruments.

A “semi-barbarous instrument” it began, and a “semi-barbarous instrument” it has ever since remained in the Highlanders’ hands. To modernize it, even if this were possible, would mean its decay.

The Highlander long ago believed in himself, and looked down upon the more effeminate Lowlander. He was not ashamed but proud of his language, and of his dress, and of his music. His Bagpipe was perfect in his eyes. It did not admit of improvement. No bellows for him ; no modern scale ; no keys on the chanter.

A war instrument he made it, and a war instrument he meant to keep it; and so, to-day, thanks to this belief in himself and in his Pipe, the people of Scotland—almost alone among peoples in this—can boast of a national music, and a national instrument.

The history of the Bagpipe in the Highlands— as apart from Scotland—is, in reality, the history of the Highlander, and would require a book to itself. No event of any importance took place in the old days that was not recorded on the Bagpipe; whether the death of the Chiefs piper, or the birth of the Chief’s son and heir; whether the little Clan fight in some out-of-the-way corner, or the Jacobite death-struggle at Culloden; it was the only record the Highlander possessed of these events; and we can safely wander along the highways and byeways of Highland history with no other guide in our hands than Bagpipe music.

“The Desperate Battle,” 1390; “Pibroch of Donald Dhuand Ceann na Drochit Mor,” 1427; “Blar na Leinne" 1544; “Ceann na Drochit Beg,” 1645, and fifty other Pibrochs I could name, had each their separate tale of battle for the Highlander. Play, even now, to one of the old school, well versed in Pibroch, “The Desperate Battle,” or “The Massacre of Glencoe,” and watch his face. In the waves of feeling which come and go with the music, you can read, in the first case, of the fierce love of battle, which still smoulders beneath the calm exterior, and in the second, the whole tragedy enacted on that bitter night of shame and treachery.

And so to-day the history of the rising in ’45 is summed up for us Highlanders in three tunes :— “The Prince’s Salute,” “Hey, Johnnie Cope,” and “Culloden Day.”

After Culloden, the Bagpipe became once again more of a national instrument, and less distinctively Highland, and its records are those of a whole nation, not of one part only.

Its strains are no longer confined to the hills and glens of its native home. Its gay streamers float proudly on many a foreign shore. Its fame has already gone forth on the heights of Alma; in the streets of Lucknow; at Bloody Quatre Bras; and on the stricken field of Waterloo. Ever in the van of battle ; ever in the thickest of the fight, its proud bearer courts the post of danger and of death as his own peculiar right, sanctified by length of years. And when his name is missing at roll-call, look not for him on the outskirts of the battlefield; waste not your time hunting behind boulder, or peering into sheltering hollow, but make straight for the front, where the fight waxed fiercest, and the dead lie thickest, and there you will find him sleeping with his comrades: surely the bravest among many brave ones, for of all who lie there, he alone went forth unarmed to battle and to death.

For many years I hunted high and low for the “Great War Pipe” of two drones, but without success.

The Bagpipe shewn here is a facsimile of one that lies in the Edinburgh Museum, without—unfortunately—any history attached to it. There is no “combing” on the drones, and the terminals are more or less pear-shaped, and the ferules are made of lead. The chanter is of the same bore as the present full-sized Highland Pipe, and the only difference between this Pipe and the modern one— with the exceptions mentioned above—is the absence of the large drone. This Bagpipe is made of hawthorn, is very light to carry, and is the one I


The Great Two-Drone War Pipe of the Highlands: Ornamented with lead, to he seen in the Edinburgh Museum.

personally take with me when going from home. I had the offer of a very nice two-drone set made out of boxwood—a genuine eighteenth century set—not many months ago. It came up from Wales, but the owner did not know the value of it, and before he had made up his mind what to ask, I picked up a set in England for a tenth of the first price he mentioned. I had some pleasant experiences when on the hunt for the old Highland Pipe. Once I found myself stranded for the night at a small village on the West Coast, with no means of getting awray before morning.

To wile away the time, I asked an old schoolfellow who resided there, and one or two of his friends, to spend the evening with me at my hotel. After all the local gossip—much of it going back over twenty years or more — had been discussed at interminable length, and the night was still young, conversation began to flag, in spite of the jogging of an occasional tumbler of toddy, and my spirits sank at the prospect of the long night before me. But just a little before ten o’clock, my friend was called out of the room, and after some mysterious whisperings with the pretty barmaid behind the door, he returned to announce in a sort of shamefaced way, that a particular friend of his was downstairs wanting to see him, and might he bring him up?

“He is only a piper, although a good one, doctor. But perhaps you wouldn’t care to have him in the room with you?”

A piper! I wouldn’t care to have him in the room with me? For me, everything was changed in a moment. “Bring him up, by all means,” I said, and placed a chair for him on my right hand. He was quite a gentlemanly lad, and modest for a piper, and I had my reward before long for the poor entertainment — all I could offer him— when shouldering my “Pipes,” he opened up in masterly fashion with that fine Pibroch, “Molndh Mairior", “The MacLachan’s March,” of which I am very fond, largely for its own sake, but partly also because my mother was a MacLachlan. After this auspicious beginning, we two piped alternately, while the others smoked and listened, and the evening which threatened at first to be too long, but which ultimately proved itself all too short, came to a pleasant termination in the small hours of the morning. And when I asked the young player to whom was I indebted for so much good music, he replied :—

“I am piper at Skibo Castle to Mr Carnegie. He is away in America just now, and I am on holiday.”

With books as cheap as they are to-day, I am no great believer in Free Libraries, but I shall not forget that once I was under obligation to Mr Carnegie because, being a wealthy man and able to afford it, he had the good taste to keep a Piper.

On another occasion, when yachting with my friend, Mr Southerne of Solus, in the “Alcyone,” a well-known Clyde boat, and a most comfortable one, we were driven early one evening by stress of weather into Loch Torriden, Loch Broom being our real destination. I had accepted my friend’s invitation to spend a fortnight with him cruising among the Western Isles, principally in the hope of picking up an old set of  Pipes.”

My search, so far, had resulted in failure, so you can imagine the delight with which I listened to the store-keeper at Loch Torriden, as he told me that there was an old piper—a very old man, well over ninety years of age—living down by the shore, not more than two miles away, who had been a good player in his day, and who had still in his possession the original old Bagpipe of two drones upon which he used to play. My informant, who was a most intelligent man, was quite sure that there was no big drone. Away I went in high glee with Mr Southerne—who is almost as enthusiastic in the search after Pipes as myself, and who has added two of the most valuable Bagpipes to my collection—feeling assured at last of success.

After a stiff walk over the hill by the very picturesque but narrow and uneven track which did duty for a road, we soon dropped down—or scrambled down, for it was a very steep descent—upon the piper’s home, which we had no difficulty in finding, as it was, indeed, the only house in the place.

The daughter, an old woman with thin grey hair, and wrinkled, sallow skin, came to the door, and blinked feebly at the two bold strangers, who had so unceremoniously invaded her retreat. But after a word of Gaelic from myself—a word which has often stood me in good stead in the Highlands—and a tune on the “Pipes,” she became quite communicative, and informed us, in a queer mixture of English and Gaelic, that her father was not at home, and that the old Pipe had been burnt in the fire, two years before, by her brother, at the request of the minister.

A lonelier spot than this where the old piper lives you could not imagine, nor a bleaker.

The one redeeming feature is the glorious expanse of sea in front — its clear blue waters at flood-tide swelling up almost to the door of the hut; and the glorious sunsets—one of which we watched with delight — to be seen from the little window, which looks west across the bay. Otherwise, there was nothing here to soften the asperities of life, or to relieve its monotony. And yet, the one little earthly source of comfort and consolation left to these lowly dwellers by the lone sea — the chanter which the old man had loved all his life, and fingered so fondly and so often, and to which he had confided all his little joys and sorrows in the past, was taken from him, and burnt before his eyes, by his own son, at the instigation of the F.C. minister. The old maiden lady looked sad as she told us the story of the burnt Pipe ; otherwise she complained none, but ever and anon she cast a wistful glance at the well-appointed Bagpipe under my arm, and her looks were eloquent of regret.

“You like the Pipes?” I said.

“Oh, that I do,” she answered in Gaelic.

“Would you dance if I piped to you?” I then asked.

She peered at me closely out of half-closed eyes, as if not comprehending my meaning—as if trying to read my thoughts — half afraid that I must be laughing at her. But when I quietly repeated the challenge, it touched my heart to see the tears well up in those dim eyes, and the blush of pleasure struggle through the tan on those thin cheeks.

She looked down at her feet, with a coy movement of her short skirts, eminently feminine. The feet were hopeless. The heavy, clay-covered boots were sizes too large, and there was not the vestige of a lace in either of them, so that the hard, fire-baked tongues curled down in front.

As she stood on the large flat stone by the side of the door, raised above the muddy pools of water which lay everywhere around, waiting, with sad, impassive face for the music to begin, she looked a pathetic sight. Standing there, without one feminine grace to relieve the hard, bony, angular, weather-stained and weather-beaten frame ; without one trace of colour in her dress to relieve its drab monotony; without one line of beauty on her face, to tell that she had once been young, she seemed, indeed, but the veriest anatomy of a woman — the empty husk, out of which the joyousness of being had long since fled.

But under the influence of the music, a perceptible change was quickly brought about, and she became transformed. The poor, bent back grew erect; the dull, expressionless face lighted up; the frail-looking body, keeping time to the music, swayed gently to and fro ; the clumsily shod feet began to move about—at first with a dreamy, uncertain sort of up-and-down motion, more like a woman walking cloth or tramping clothes, then with more and more confidence as memory wakened up under the spell of that king of Strathspeys, “Tullochgorum,” until at length we saw evolved as out of chaos, some beautiful old-world steps, smooth and graceful in movement, and quite unknown to the modern lightning-speed dancer.

Once before I saw the same steps danced by an old lady of eighty, in Skye—Miss M'Leod, of Caroline Hill—whose offer to teach me some thirty-two different Strathspey steps, which she said she could dance, I have ever since regretted not accepting.

When the dance was over, it was time for Mr Southerne and myself to be getting back to the yacht; so I paid the old lady a well-deserved compliment on the pretty steps she shewed us, and we bade each other a kindly good-bye. How little it costs to give pleasure to a fellow-creature at times, and yet how often we miss the chance? On this occasion I felt pleased to think that we had managed, with so little effort, to add a few happy moments to the life of this lonely woman, whose chances of amusement were so few. I like to think of the old piper’s daughter, not as we first saw her, when she came blinking and winking at us out of the smoke, a worn-out, wizened woman, spiritless and dejected-looking, but as we left her on that day, standing upon the flat stone in front of the cottage, looking years younger, and waving us a smiling farewell; 1 like to remember her as we saw her from the crest of the hill for the last time, bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, with the light of the dance still in her eye, and a look of happy wonderment on her face at something which Mr Southerne had whispered into her ear--or?

Well! I was not looking, and so could not swear to it.

I hurried back to the Manse to have it out with the old vandal, but found him from home, so I discussed the situation with his housekeeper, a stout, pleasant-looking old lady, who sympathized with me, but could not understand what I wanted with an old set on Bagpipes when I had such a nice one under my arm.

“I am very fond of the Bagpipe myself,” she said, “and I like no dance so well as the “Highland Fling.”

Here was a chance to avenge the burning of the Pipe, so I immediately proposed a reel.

“O! indeed, sir, I am much obliged to you, but I am too stout: but there’s Christina in the kitchen. She comes from Inverness, and is a fine dancer.” Christina, a fair-skinned bonnie lassie, with a wealth of golden hair, and straight as a lath, came tripping out at the first call, every movement full of grace. She wasted no time in idle pretence when she learned from the housekeeper that we wanted to see her dance, but turned to me, and said quietly, “Can you play the ‘Sean Truis?"

In reply, I struck up the tune, and if her movements in walking were graceful, her dancing was superb. After a short rest, she danced the “Highland Fling,” and again we were forced to applaud, for —as the old teller of tales would say—if the “Sean Truis” was good, the “Highland Fling” was better. In the meantime some young men from the village, which was a good way off, attracted by the sound of the Bagpipe, joined us, and soon I had three or four sets dancing together, under the very manse window.

My revenge would have been complete, if only the minister had come back in time to see his staid housekeeper dancing on his own lawn, with an abandon which savoured of anything but the Church, while Mr Southern, her partner—an absolute stranger, too!—endeavoured, but in vain, to encircle that ample waist.

Christina, during this time, was doing great execution among the young men of the village — in fact, she fairly danced herself into the heart of more than one susceptible that night, and I felt that it was time to be moving yachtward, when I saw Mr Southerne—all-forgetful of his dear wife at home — disputing with one of the natives as to the possession of the ruddy-cheeked, ruddyhaired, laughing, dancing nymph of the manse, who in all she did, was but obeying nature, if perhaps disobeying the mandates of the Free Church.

In the autumn of 1893 I found myself at Tongue, in Sutherlandshire, on the old quest. Tongue was famous at one time as a piping centre, and gave more pipers to the British Army than any other district of Scotland, excepting Skye. I found pipers in plenty, but no Bagpipe older than myself. After being entertained with some excellent Pipe music in one house where no fewer than five brothers fingered the Chanter, I, in return, was asked to give a tune on the Northumbrian “Small Pipe,” which I had with me, as I generally found that the sight of a strange Pipe gave a jog to the memory, and set people a-taiking, but on this occasion, the Tongue—I apologise—refused to wag.

No sooner had I strapped on the bellows, and given it a squeeze or two, than a young girl, who had hurried in from the shearing, astonished to hear piping at such an hour—a delicate - looking girl, with a sweet face, and a glorious head of rich brown hair (who being an only daughter, was evidently the pet of the family) burst out laughing.

“Fan Samhach,” said the mother, sharply. “Be quiet! ”

But although the poor thing made convulsive efforts to obey the warning voice, and stuffed the corner of her apron into her mouth in the brave attempt, she bubbled over, every time I began to play, with uncontrollable laughter—in which I had to join, so infectious was it—until at length she was ordered out of the house ; but the others present remained grave and stern as judges.

Time and again, peeping timidly round the corner, the irrepressible one tried to come back — for, Eve-like, she was curious to hear the strange little instrument — but never got further than the door. The Bellows-Pipe was too much for her keen sense of humour. At every fresh attempt she broke down, and at last turned and fled from the rising wrrath ot her angry mother, who was afraid lest I should “ think her very rude.”

Now, about the same time that I was picking up my experience in the little village of Tongue, a great ’lady out in India found herself in somewhat similar plight to this crofter lassie, and the Bagpipe was again the cause—shewing anew how true it is that “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

The following story is told of herself by Lady Dufferin :—

“The Maharajah entertained us right royally, and every meal is a banquet; his pipers played for us at dinner, and walked round the table afterwards. They are really rather good, but they played several different tunes in the room.” I suppose the writer here means that they stopped at the end of each tune, and started again without leaving the room, not that they played different tunes at one time—“and the Bagpipes groaned in such a fearful manner at the beginning of each, that in spite of the viceregal gravity of D.’s face, I could not help laughing."

On another occasion, her good manners were also severely tried, and the Bagpipe was again to blame.

“Another Punjaub Chief, Nabha, let his pipers play to us at luncheon. It was very amusing to see them, as the whole costume is Scotch, but pink silk tights have to be worn to simulate the delicate complexion of the ordinary Highlander’s knee.”

I like Lady Dufferin’s description of the Highlander’s knee, although it puts a different complexion upon it. English tourists who wear the kilt in Scotland to distinguish themselves from the natives, might, perhaps, take a needful hint from the pink silk tights of this Indian Chief, and so bring the over-delicate complexion of their knees—which is frequently painful to contemplate—more into harmony with the dress and its surroundings.


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