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The Scottish Gael
Chapter XIII
Poetry and Music

THE estimation in which poetry was held by the ancients is well
known. It is the original vehicle in which the knowledge of past events
is carried down to posterity, and the medium through which laws are at
tirst promulgated. Legislation and religion are at first intimately con-
nected, and poetry is the excellent auxiliary of both. Hesiod and other
Greek poets lived ages before Pherecides, who, according to Pliny, was
the first who wrote in prose, and the compositions of Homer were pre-
served in detached pieces by oral tradition, long before they were col-
lected and embodied in the regular form which they now present.

In the first stages of civilisation the characters of priest and legislator
are combined, whence arises the connexion of poetry with the first in-
stitutions of society, for the ministers of religion are both poets and
musicians, and the service of their gods and precepts of morality are
equally rendered in verse. Before the era of written record, the Greeks
preserved their laws in traditionary rhymes, the same word in their lan-
guage signifying a law ana a song.* The statutes of this people continued

* Walker's Irish Bards, who quotes Wood on the genius of Homer.


long to remain in oral record, before it was permitted to reduce them to
writing. The progress of civilisation softened the reluctance, so strong
in that enlightened race, especially among the Spartans, to commit to
the preservation of letters, the laws which were inculcated in popular
verse, but when inscribed on tablets in the public streets, the poetic
form was rigidly adhered to.

This veneration for oral record strongly pervaded the Celtic race, and
it regulated society among the Gael of Albin, while their ancient insti-
tutions remained entire. The principle does indeed exist to this day in
the British kingdom, where the common law of the land is a certain un-
written but recognised code, emanating according to the opinion of the
best antiquaries, from the Druidical system of legislation. The well-
known practice by which the Recorder of London is obliged to make
his report to the King by word of mouth, is, with every appearance of
probability, referable to the same institution.

The chief object aimed at in poetic composition being the assistance
of recollection, no pains were spared to improve the memory. The Py-
thagoreans, a sect resembling the Celtic Druids exercised their memory
with the greatest care and diligence, the first thing they did in the morn-
ing being to call to mind whatever they had done the preceding day,
from morn to night, and if time permitted, they were accustomed to re-
count the actions of the day previous, the third, the fourth, and even
farther.* In no shape could the traditions of an illiterate people be pre-
served so effectually as in verse, which in ancient composition was very
simple, a character applicable to the early poetry of all nations. The
song of Moses consists of a certain number of words in every sentence,
an arrangement eminently conducive to the mental retention of the sub-

The Celtic poetry is remarkably forcible, and from its peculiar con-
struction is easily remembered, and it was an object of great solicitude
to teach the rising generations the traditions of theirfathers. It was not
only a national care, but was esteemed a sacred duty in parents to make
their children perfectly acquainted with the ancient poems. The expres-
sion of an American chief, in a parallel state of civilisation with the old
Highlanders, is here applicable: " While I was yet young, my father
taught me the traditions and laws of the nation, day by day and night
by night." Columba is said to have retained the Celtic practice at lona,
and delivered his precepts in verse; it would even appear that in Ire-
land, historical relations were not written in prose before the twelfth

The influence of poetry over the nations of antiquity is evinced by
many signal instances. Tyrtseus, by chanting his verses, so inspirited
the Lacedemonians, that they turned the tide of prosperity and came off
victorious. The Celtic bards stimulated their hearers to war, or *'.,-
dued them to peace by the mere recitation of their poems. Witti this

* Diodorus, Fragmenta. Valesii, vi. 36, 37. t Walker's Jrish Bards.


race the gift of poesy was highly honored: " the mouths of song" were
a sacred order. When Ovid, in his banishment, wrote poems in the
Getic language, the admiring people crowned him with laurel, and con-
ferred on him many honors and immunities.*

The ceremonials of Pagan theology were conducted in verse, the
meaning of the poems being wrapped up in allegory and mysticism. It
is probable we have not lost much that would have been useful if known,
from this secrecy, which rather appears to have been intended to keep the
vulgar in awe than to preserve information of past transactions or know-
ledge of useful arts, | the historical records were not concealed from those
who could study and understand them. The priests of antiquity were
national historiographers. Josephus' Antiquities of the Jewish nation
were published from the sacred books, and in the stories of Greek and
Roman theology, relating the adventures of persons, deified in sub-
sequent times, we have only fragments of vague and traditional, but in
most cases, if divested of fable, real history. The old poems of the
Germans, according to Tacitus, were their only registers. The songs
of the bards are represented as consisting chiefly of hymns to their gods,
and poems in praise of their ancestors, but in these were contained their
national annals, for the origin of all nations is connected in their fabu-
lous history with that of their gods. The Celtic bards were members
of the priesthood, and no class of society among the ancients have been
more celebrated. Whether we consider the influence which they pos-
sessed, their learning or poetic genius, they are one of the most inter-
esting orders of antiquity, and worthy of our entire admiration.

The favorite songs of the bards are said to have been those celebra-
ting the renown of their ancestors. The praises of great men were
accompanied with a sort of religious feeling. It was not only useful to
the living to extol the virtues of former heroes as an excitement to their
imitation, but was reckoned extremely pleasing to the deceased it was
indeed thought the means of assisting the spirit to a state of happiness,
and became consequently a religious duty. But even where this super-
stition has no influence, an elegy on a deceased friend continues to grat-
ify the human mind, and the example of virtue seldom fails to inspire
youth with a generous spirit of emulation. Eginhart celebrates Char-
lemagne for committing to writing and to memory the songs on the wars
and heroic virtues of his predecessors, and Asser bestows similar praise
on the great Alfred. With how much effect the Celtic bards pursued
the practice of inflaming their hearers with a spirit of freedom is uni-
versally acknowledged. So influential were they, that national enter-
prises were directed and controlled by them; and the Roman policy so
cruelly carried into effect by Suetonius in Anglesea, was imitated by

* Clark.

1 The Orphic verses are believed to have been the very hymns sung by the initiated
in the Eleusinian mysteries. " He that has been initiated in the mysteries of Eleusis
or has read the poems called Orphic, will know what I mean." Pausanias, i. 36.


Edward the First in his sanguinary wars with the Cumri. Even Queen
Elizabeth thought it necessary to enact some laws to restrain and dis-
courage the bards both of Ireland and Wales.

The Bardic compositions, commemorating the worth and exploits of
heroes who had successively figured in the different states, were a sort
of national annals which served the double purpose of preserving the
memory of past transactions, and of stimulating the youth to an imitation
df their virtuous ancestors. The lives of the upright Celtic statesmen
and heroes were handed down to posterity, and exhibited as illustrious
examples for the youth to follow. Their virtues were detailed in verse
so forcible, and national calamities were portrayed in language so af-
fecting, that the hearers were excited to the most daring heroism. On
occasion of an embassy from the Romans to Attila, two bards recited to
him a poem celebrating his victories, and so powerfully were the audi-
ence affected, that whilst the young men exulted in rapture, the old
shed tears of regret that their vigor was gone.* The effusions of Ne-
lan, a bard of Erin, more powerful than the wise council of the Chris-
tian primate, stimulated to precipitate rebellion Lord Thomas Geraldine,
in the reign of Henry VIII. The sublime strains in which the virtues
of the chiefs of Morven are celebrated, continued to animate the Gael
until the decline of bardism and subversion of their institutions, and they
still remain, even in translation, specimens of most admirable composi-
tion. Diodorus informs us, that the bards had power to prevent an en-
gagement, even when the spears were levelled for immediate action.
This strong influence was probably increased by their religious charac-
ter, in which they were able to determine when it was expedient to fight,
in reference ,to which, the Irish tell us the shaking "the chain of
silence" was the signal to prevent or to put a stop to the battle.

The practice of animating troops by the chanting of heroic poems is
of most ancient origin. Tyrtseus, the Lacedemonian, who flourished 680
years before our era, composed five books of war verses, some frag-
ments of which it is believed yet remain. Tacitus speaks of the old
poems of the Germans, some of which related to the origin of the people,
and the collection continued to increase, for it was the duty of the priests
or bards to commemorate events, to celebrate the virtues and denounce
the vices of successive heroes. One poem, celebrating the worth of Ar-
minius, a hero famous for his struggles for freedom, was composed in
the days of Tacitus.j

It was not only in actual war, and previous to an engagement, that the
bards rehearsed their spirit-stirring compositions; each chief was con-
stantly attended by a number of these poets, who entertained him at his
meals, and roused his own and his followers' courage by their powerful
recitations. The liberal manner in which this order was provided for,
shows how indispensable their services were reckoned, and, in return
for so much respect, the bards were most assiduous to please their pa-

* Friscus, quoted in Robertson's Charles V. t Annals.


trons, and blazon their renown. The profession, even in rccer. times,
was by no means one of easy acquirement. It was indeed heicJitary,
but a long course of study, and a life of continual practice, were neces
wary for proper qualification and due success. In a publication, by
Cambray, member of the Celtic Academy at Paris, it is said that Dru-
idic learning comprised 60,000 verses, which those of the first class
were obliged to get by heart.* The Irish bard, according to Walker,
was obliged to study for twelve years, before he was admitted to the or-
der, the Ollamh, perfecting himself by a probation of three years devot-
ed to each of the four principal branches of poetry. Campion says they
spent sixteen or twenty years at their education, and talked Latin like a
vulgar language. "I have scene them," says he, " where they kept
schoole, ten in some one chamber, groveling upon couches of straw,
their bookes at their noses, themselves lying flat postrate." This refers
to a comparatively late period, but it shows that their acquirements were
not superficial, and that a common education was by no means sufficient
for an aspirant to poetical fame.| When a student was admitted to the
profession of bardism, he was honored with the degree of ollamh, or
doctor, and received an honorary cap, called barred. In 192, the law-
ful price of the clothing of an ollamh, and of an anra, or second poet,
in Ireland, was fixed at five milch cows. Concovar Mac Nessa, King
of Ulster, is represented in Irish history as establishing seven grada-
tions in the order of Fileas,^ which is said to have originally combined
in one person the offices of seanachaidh and breitheamh. These were
the Fochlucan, who was obliged to repeat, if asked, thirty tales; the
Macfuirmidh, who had to repeat forty; the Doss, who repeated fifty;
the Canaith, whose name seems derived from canadh, to sing; the Cli,
the Anstruth, so called from an, good, and sruth, knowing; and lastly
the Ollamh, who required t<j> store his memory with seven times fifty sto-
ries. An account of their various duties, real or supposed, maybe seen
in Walker's History of the Bards. The Irish authorities are extremely
questionable, but it appears from other proofs that the different prov-
inces of the profession were committed to separate individuals. The
Scots of both countries had originally their Ferlaoi, or hymnists; the
Ferdan, who sang the praises of the good and valiant; and the Sean-
achaidh, or Seanachies, to whom were submitted the registration of
events and preservation of family history, but on the declension of the
system, the offices were often necessarily held by one person.

The Caledonian bards officiated as a sort of aides-de-camp to the
chief, communicating his orders to the chieftains and their followers, an
office that tends to confirm my explanation of the beum sgiath, or strik-
ing of the shield. When Fingal retires to view the battle, " three bards
attend to bear his words to the chiefs." Each chief appears to have

* Mac Arthur's Observations on Ossian's Poems.

t The last Filean school was kept in Tipperary, in the time of Charles I., by Boethi-
ua Mac Eaoran. { Walker's Irish Bards.



had a favorite or principal bard, similar to the Welsh domestic bard,
who rlosely attended the person of his master. The bards animated the
troops in battle, and amused them by their songs during the hours of
darkness " song on song deceived as was wont the night." Nor was
this part of their duty confined to the field; they solaced their master
after the fatigues of the day, and composed his mind for rest by their mo-
ral and entertaining recitations. The bard was an important member
of the Comhairlich, or counsellors presiding over and directing in his
professional character their deliberations. " Though it was every man's
duty to fill the ear of his chief with useful truths, it was more particu-
larly the duty of the Filea, for to such only do princes lend an ear."
Some curious particulars of their duties may be found in Ossian. When
a bard brings a challenge to battle from Torlath, he refused to raise the
song himself, or listen to the bards of Cuthullin, who had invited him to
partake of their cheer, but as he withdrew, he sings an extempore poem,
which, in mystical language, alludes to the slaughter that is to ensue.
" The meteors of death are there," says he, as he looks towards the hill,
"the grey watery forms of ghosts." This must be considered a coro-
nach in anticipation over the Gael, who were to fall, and it is curious
that Cuthullin's bard joins in it.

An important part of the bardic duty was, the preservation of the gen-
ealogies and descent of the chiefs and the tribe, which were solemnly
repeated at marriages, baptisms, and burials. The last purpose for
which they were retained by the Highlanders was, to preserve a faithful
history of their respective clans.

Lachlan Mac Neil, mhic Lachlan, mhic Neil, mhic Donald, mhic
Lachlan, mhic Neil more, mhic Lachlan, mhic Donald, of the surname
of Mac Mhuirich declared,* that according to the best of his knowledge,
he is the eighteenth in descent from Mhuireach, whose posterity had offi-
ciated as hards to Clan-Rannald, and that they had, as the salary of their
office, the farm of Staoiligary, and four pennies of Drimisdale, during
fifteen generations. That the sixteenth lost the four pennies, but the
seventeenth retained the farm of Staoiligary for nineteen years. That
there was a right given to them over these lands as long as there should
be any of the posterity of Mhuireach to preserve and continue the gene-
alogy and history of the Mac Donalds, on condition that the bard, fail-
ing of male issue, should educate his brother's son or representative, in
order to preserve their title to the lands, and it was in pursuance of this
custom that his father had been taught to read and write history and
poetry by Donald Mac Neil, mhic Donald his father's brother. This last
of the race, who, according to Doctor Mac Pherson, was " a man of
some letters, and had, like his ancestors, received his education in Ire-
land, and knew Latin tolerably well,"* was bard, genealogist, and sea-

* Before Roderick Mac Leod,J. P. and in presence of six clergymen and gentlemen
t Letter to Dr. Blair.


From their antiquarian knowledge, the bards were called seanachaidh,
from scan, old, a title synonymous with the Welsh, arvydd vardd, an offi-
cer who latterly was of national appointment, and whose heraldic duties
were recognised by the English College of Arms. They attended at
the birth, marriage, and death of all persons of high descent, and the
marwnod, or elegy, which they composed on the latter occasion " was
required to contain, truly, and at length, the genealogy and descent of
the deceased from eight immediate ancestors to notice the several col-
lateral branches of the fa.nily, and to commemorate the surviving wife
or husband. These he registered in his books, and delivered a true
copy of them to the heir, See., and it was produced the day after the
funeral, when all the principal branches of the family and their friends
were assembled together in the great hall of the mansion, and then re-
cited with an audible voice."* He also made a visitation called the
bard's circuit, once every three years, to all the gentlemens' houses,
where he registered and corrected their armorial bearings. Many of
their books still exist, distinguished by the name of the bard or the house
whose honors it records, and some of their awards of arms are of so late
a date as 1703. One of the Triads commemorates the three golden
robed heralds, Caswallon, son of Beli, &c. The bard had a stipend
paid out of every plough land, and the chief was called " King of the

Much has been done to restore the order of bards in the Principality,
or at least to encourage the effusions of Cumraeg poesy and music, and
many meritorious individuals have met with flattering encouragement.
I believe the kings of Great Britain have always maintained a Welsh
minstrel. In the laws of Hvvyel Dha, it is said that at an entertainment
the bard ought to commence singing in praise of God, and then in praise
of the king, and the fine for insulting him is six cows, and one hundred
and twenty silver pennies, his value being estimated at one hundred and
twenty-six cows. He was assigned a place at table suitable to his rank.f
In the reign of Harald Harfager, the bards, or scalds, sat next to the
king. The Aois dana of the Gael, mentioned in the end of the seven-
teenth century, who appear to have been a certain class of bards, sat in
the sreath or circle, among the chiefs, and took precedence of the
ollarnh or doctor, the title which was bestowed on completion of the bar-
dic studies. Their persons, houses, and villages, were sacred. J A re-
spect for the bards continued after the introduction of Christianity, the
precepts they inculcated being unobjectionable, and the early missiona-
ries appear to have held them in considerable esteem. Columba had a
particular regard for them, and actually became their advocate at the
celebrated council of Drumceat, in 580, mediating successfully between
those of Ireland and the King who threatened their extirpation, for their
insolence had become insupportable, and they at last insisted on receiv-
ing the royal buckle and pin of gold, too audacious a demand to be un-

* Preface to the History of Cardiganshire. t See p. 337. J: Armstrong.


hesitatingly complied with. The honors which were heaped on this body
made them forget themselves. Their arrogance in Wales arose to such
a height, that in the time of Griffyth ap Cynan, it was necessary to con-
trol them from asking the king's horse, greyhound, or hawk.

No event in the annals of literature has excited so much wonder and
curiosity as the publication of those ancient Gaelic poems, usually dis-
tinguished as Ossianic, from the name of that most distinguished of the
Caledonian bards. To those unacquainted with the state of society in
the Highlands of Scotland, and lamentable until lately was the igno-
rance concerning that part of the kingdom, the existence of traditional
poetry of such antiquity appeared impossible, and skepticism, confirmed
by the unaccountable reserve of the translator, bestowed on him an
honor, and imputed to him a merit, of which *he was by no means wor-
thy that of being the author of the poems in question. Public opinion
was indeed divided as to the authenticity of Ossian's poems, but the
general belief at first was, that they were an impudent forgery, and the
talents of many learned individuals were exerted to expose the impost-
ure. Their writings, as might be expected, had for some time great
weight, while the only satisfactory answer to their objections was not
returned. The regret of the admirers of this sublime bard, and vindica-
tors of his poems, was at last relieved by the publication of the origin-
als, by that truly patriotic body the Highland Society. A reference to
these most interesting relics might be sufficient, but, consistent with the
design of this work, I shall endeavor to display the manners by which
their preservation was effected manners which no longer exist in Eu-
rope, and which, after a continuance from the earliest dawn of record,
expired with the system of social government, which received its mortal
blow in the Act of 1743.

The history of the Celts, their laws, and usages, were preserved in
their poems, which were their only registers. It has been shown that
traditional verse was the only medium by which the early Greeks trans-
mitted their most important statutes, and the memory of past transactions,
and that it was by no means a " feeble instrument" is very evident. The
oral registers of the Germans were ancient in the days of Tacitus, and,
in spite of the fluctuations and reverses of that people, they were not
forgotten even in the eighth century. The Lusitani had poems, which
they maintained were two thousand years old.

When we consider that the preservation of these national annals was
entrusted to the Druidical order, and was a point of the utmost public
solicitude, and when we consider that the vanitv of individuals, whose
own exploits, or those of their ancestors were celebrated, was flattered
by the record of their fame, we perceive strong motives acting in aid of
the preservation of these singular historical monuments. It is not to be
forgotten also, that this personal feeling pervaded the whole nation, for
if the memory of a chief was consecrated to fame in the impressive strains
of the bards, his followers, from the ties of consanguinity, felt closely


interested in the glory of their clansman. That the Celts preferred oral
record to that of writing may be regretted, since to this prejudice the loss
of much information, which would probably have been highly curious
and instructive, is to be attributed; but as both the principles and prac-
tice of the Druids were hostile to literature, we can only pursue the
investigation of the peculiar system which they chose to follow, and al-
lowing the above causes their united effect, added to this other powerful
one, that the chief amusement, both public and private, was the recitation
of their poems, much of our wonder at the long preservation of bardic
compositions must cease.

Many of those who believe it impossible for poems or prose relations
to be preserved for any length of time without being committed to writ-
ing, do not advert to the ancient state of society. To instruct the youth
in the traditional knowledge of their country was then a branch of the
most careful education, and that knowledge was couched in verse. If
a novitiate in Druidism spent twenty years in getting by heart the
knowledge necessary for his profession, some idea may be formed of
the amount of learning which the sons of the better classes found it ne-
cessary to acquire. The choicest pieces of ancient poetry have come
down to us in the same manner as Ossian's productions. The poems of
Horner were preserved in detached parts, called Rhapsodies, as, the bat-
tle at the ships, the death of Dolon, Etc., long before they assumed their
present form; and the Athenians found it necessary to offer rewards to
those who could furnish the most authentic fragments of the Iliad or
Odyssey, before they were able to produce the works as they now
appear.* Even since the Christian era, the ability to repeat traditional
poetry was reckoned a qualification not unbefitting the highest princes.
Charlemagne is praised for his talents this way, and he had made a
large collection of most ancient poems, which in barbarous style related
the actions of the first kings, j

That poems of great antiquity existed at the period when Ossian sung,
is evident from the frequent allusion he makes to " the songs of old,"
and bards of other years. " Thou shall endure, said the bard of ancient
days, after the moss of time shall grow in Temora; after the blast of
years shall roar in Selma."^ The Tain-bo, or cattle spoil of Cualgne,
commemorating an event that occurred 1838 years ago, is believed to
be the oldest poem in the Gaelic language. The Albanach Duan, a
poem of the time of Malcolm III., 1056, which is an indisputed relic,
must have been composed from poems much anterior to its own age,
and this is admitted by those who have been most noted for their skepti-
cism as to Celtic literature.^

The lengthened discussions on the authenticity of the poems ascribed
to the Caledonian bard, relieve me, in a great measure, from the task
of advocating at length their antiquity. "The poems of Ossian," says
Gibbon, " according to every hypothesis, were composed by a native

* /Elian. i Eginhart. t Smith's Gallic Antiquities. Pinkerton, &<5.


Caledonian." The era of that Caledonian was the end of the third cen-
tury. When accounts of Mac Pherson's publication of these poems
and the controversies which it engendered had reached the Highlands,
the natives were equally surprised at the doubts concerning their genu-
ineness, at the scanty collection which had been made, and their imper-
fect translation. Finding so much interest excited, they were not a
little displeased that more justice was not done to the memory of their
venerated poet.* " There is infinitely more," says Mac Donald, of
Killepheder in his deposition, "to be found among us, than what Mac
Pherson is said to have translated of the works of Ossian; and that to
many persons who never saw that man, who never heard of his name,
and who are totally ignorant of the English language." The Rev. Don-
ald Mac Leod of Glenelg writes thus to Dr. Blair, in 1764. " Mac
Pherson took too little time to be able to have collected the whole of
them; for as the works of Ossian are dispersed all over the Highlands,
there is not a clan through whose lands you travel, but you will find
some one of these poems among them, which is not to be met with any
where else."

The knowledge of these poems was not confined to the Highlands.
From the history of King Robert Bruce, written by Barbour, Archdea-
con of Aberdeen, about 1380, we find that they were well known in the
Lowlands. In the third book we are informed, that when the Lord of
Lorn saw that his troops durst not follow the enemy, he was "rychtan-
gry in his hert," and said

" me think Marthokys son,

Rycht as Gaul Mac Morn was won,

To haif fra Fingal his menzie,

Rycht swa all hys fra us has he."

Boethius | calls the King of Morven, concerning whom fabulous sto-
ries were sung, Fynnan filius Cceli; and Gawin Douglas speaks of Gow
Mac Morn and Fyn Mac Coul,

" My foir grand syr hecht Fyn Makoull,
That dang the deil and gart him yowl."J

Fingal and Ossian are mentioned in Mac Geoghagan's Ireland, 1627.
A MS. in the British Museum, noticed by Pinkerton, also alludes to
them; and Buchannan, in his History of the Buchannans and other
clans, mentions " rude rhimes on Fin M'Coel."

* Ewen Mac Pherson, aged 73, who made a declaration in 1800, that he accompanied
the translator to several of the. Isles, relates the following anecdote of his travelling com-
panion. Having met with Mac Codrum, a descendant of a race of bards, he asked him,
" a bheil dad agad air an Fhein ? " This question, it would appear from the incorrect-
ness or inelegance of the Gaelic, could bear another construction, viz. Are the Fin
galians indebted to you ? of which Mac Codrum, being a man of humor, took advan
tage, and answered, that " really if they owed him any thing, the bonds and obligations
were lost, and he believed any attempt to recover them at the present day would be
unavailing ; " which sally of Mac Codmm's wit offended Mac Pherson, who cut short
the conversation and proceeded towards Benbecula.

\ Lib. vii. I Evergreen, p. 259. Ayscough's Cat. 4817.


All this indisputably shows that the poems now before the world were
formerly well known throughout Scotland and Ireland; and it must be
declared, that however much we are indebted to Mr. Mac Pherson, the
obligation must be shared with others; for besides the partial translations
of Jerome Stone and Mr. Hill, who published portions of these poems
some time before Mac Pherson, a large collection of them were made
long previous by Doctor Smith, of Campbelltown, which he afterwards
gave to the public, under the title of " Gallic Antiquities." This gen-
tleman was a native of Glenurchy, and heard an old man called Doncha
rioch Mac Nieol, who was famous for his knowledge of traditional lore,
repeat many of the Ossianic poems. The Fletchers of Glenforsa were
also famous for their recitation. Mr. Mac Donald, a priest in Moidart,
knew a whole poem that had escaped the research of Mac Pherson; and
*' Cath Benedin," the Rev. Donald Mac Leod says, was recovered
after the collection was published, and he thinks it superior to any of
the others. A Mr. Mac Diarmid, of Weem, in Perthshire, got Ossian's
Addresses to the Sun, as they appear in Carthon and Carricthura about
1770, from the repetition of an old man in Glenlyon, who had learned
them in his youth from people in the same glen. It may be here observ
ed that this beautiful address was particularly pointed out as a glaring

Captain John Mac Donald, of Thurso, who was formerly of Breakish,
in Sky, and furnished Mac Pherson with some of the pieces in his col-
lection, declared at the age of seventy-eight, on the 12th of March, 1805,
that when a boy of twelve, or fifteen, he could repeat from one to two
hundred poems, which he learned from an old man of about eighty, who
used to sing them to his father at night when he werit to bed, and in
spring and winter before he got up. Niel Mac Mhuireach repeated to
the Rev. Mr. Mac Niel the whole of the poem of Clan Usnoch, called
by Mac Pherson, Darthula. Malcolm Mac Pherson, in Portree, Isle
of Sky, son of Dougal Mac Pherson, who had been tenant in Benfuter,
in Trotterriish, and was an eminent bard, declared on oath before two
justices of the peace, that his brother, who died in 1780, recited four
days and four nights to Mac Pherson.

What has been said, it is hoped, will show that there was nothing to
render the preservation of poems for so many centuries impossible; nay,
that under such circumstances they could scarcely be lost, and convince
the skeptical that such poems have been fortunately saved from oblivion
and brought down to our times in great purity.

Nothing has yet been said of Gaelic MSS. t which Dr. Johnson and
many others believed could not be found except of modern date.

The Highland Society has now in its possession various MS. versions
of Ossian's poems, of different ages, the oldest of which the late Mr. As-
tle, keeper of the records in the Tower, a competent judge, pronounced
to be of the ninth century. This, to be sure, does not reach the period
when the bard flourished, but it disproves the assertions of those who


maintained that there never were any written poems. I think Dr. Mac
Pherson speaks very reasonably, when he says, " we have among us
many ancient MSS. of detached pieces of Ossian's works, and these
may have been copied from MSS. still more ancient." A tradition is
noticed by Dr. Smith, that Mac Alpin took down all Ossian's poems as
he repeated them; and another tradition, which need not be repeated,
informs us of the cause of their destruction. The Scots, as may be
seen in another part of the work, were very early acquainted with the
use of letters, and were distinguished throughout Europe for their

A few of the depositions of those persons examined on the subject will
prove more satisfactorily that MSS. did exist, and show the means by
which the interesting and beautiful compositions of the Gaelic bards
were preserved, more satisfactorily than any argument of mine, while it
will, at the same time, elucidate the former state of that celebrated

Hugh Mac Donald, of Killepheder in South Uist, before-mentioned,
says, in his testimony as translated, that the last bard of the Mac Don-
ald family " was John Mac Codrum, who had lands and maintenance
from Sir James Mac Donald, and from his brother and immediate suc-
cessor, the late Lord Mac Donald. John Mac Codrum's predecessor
was Duncan Mac Ruari, who possessed, as bard and by inheritance,
the lands in the district of Trotternish, in Sky, called Ach na' m'Bard,
(the bard's field,) and his descendants, as well as the collateral branches
of his family, are to this very day called Clann 'a Bhaird." He ob-
serves, that the bards of Clan Rannald held their lands on the express
condition of transmitting in writing the history and poetry connect-
ed with the family; and continues, " there is still extant a poem com-
posed by one of them, Niel Mor Mac Mhuirich, to the Mac Donalds,
immediately before the battle of Gariach, called the Prosnachadh cath
Gariach. As a proof of the estimation in which the bards were held,
I need only mention, that when the chief of the Mac Leods dismiss-
ed Mac gilli Riabhich, his family bard, Mac Donald received him
hospitably, and gave him lands on the farm of Kilmorey, in Trotternish,
which retain to this day the name of " Baile gilli Riabhich."

Mac Mhuireach, part of whose testimony is given in p. 386, remem-
bered well, that works of Ossian, written on parchment, were in the cus-
tody of his father, as received from his predecessors, some in the form
of books, and some loose and separate, which contained the works of
other bards besides those of Ossian. He affirmed that the leabhar
dearg, or red book, was long in his father's possession, and was receiv-
ed from his predecessors. It was of paper, and contained a good deal
of the history of the clans, written by different hanojs. He remembered
well that Clan Rannald made his father give up the red book to James
Mac Pherson, from Badenach. Several parchments, he believed, were
taken away by the Rev. Alexander Mac Donald and his son Ronald,


but he saw others cut up by the tailors for measures.* He having no
longer any lands, and not being taught to read, he set no value on them.
This declaration he signed before Roderick Mac Leod, J. P., in pres-
ence of six other clergymen and gentlemen. Dr. Mac Pherson knew
the lust of these bards, who had been in the service of the Lords of the
Isles before they entered that of Clan Rannald. He was a man of
some letters, understood Latin, and, like his ancestors, received his ed-
ucation in Ireland. He travelled through the country about 1735, and
read as well as repeated poems from a MS.

Malcolm Mac Pherson, in Portree, gave to the translator of Ossian
a 4to. volume about 1| inch thick, containing the works of that bard,
which he had procured at Loch Carron when an apprentice. Lord
Kames, in his Sketches of Man, mentions four books of Fingal that Mac
Pherson got in Sky. Mrs. Fraser, of Culbokie, had a MS. volume of
Ossian's poems, that was written by Peter Mac Donell, chaplain to
Lord Mac Donell, of Glengary, about the time of the Restoration, as
well as others which her son carried to Canada. It is said that Dr.
Watson, author of the Lives of Fletcher and Gordon, discovered at
Rome a MS. of these poems, which had been brought away after the
rebellion in 17 15."!" A MS. once in the Scots' college at Douay, much
of it written before 1715, by a Mr. Farquharson, contained all the
pieces given by Mac Pherson, besides many more. Mr. Farquharson
left another similar collection at Brae-Mar before he went to Douay,
which was unfortunately destroyed, but he thought it would be easy to
make another collection. " He was not sensible of the rapid, the in-
credible, the total change which had taken place in the Highlands of
Scotland.''^ " Thirty or forty years back," say the authors of the Re-
port on the Poems of Ossian, in 1803, " the number of persons who
could recite tales and poetry, and could write Gaelic, was very much
greater than at the present time." Since 1745 the amusement of list-
ening to recitation is scarcely known.

It was usual for the young women of a baile, or hamlet, which con-
sisted of from four to twenty families, to carry their work to the houses
of each other's parents alternately. In these societies oral learning was
attained without interrupting industry, and the pleasure of instructing
and receiving knowledge was mutual. The matron, visited on one eve-
ning, perhaps excelled in genealogy, while another was well versed in
general history; one may have been an adept at poetry, and another
an able critic, See. The Highlander, after his daily occupations, has-
tened to join the society of the young women, where he met his belov-
ed, or had the pleasure in her absence, of repeating the last sonnet he
had composed in her praise, for which he either received applause or

* The Rev. Angus Mac Niel, of South Uist, said in 17G3, that Clan Rannald told
him a volume was carried to Ireland by some worthless person. Ewan Mac Pherson
attested the delivery of the above volume to the translator, which appears also to have
been lost. t Literary Journal, i. p 458.

t Letter from Bishop Cameron to Sir John Sinclair on the subject.


encountered disapprobation. With us, fools will publish what impartial
criticism may condemn; but with the Highlanders it -vas otherwise,
'what could not be published in the above societies could not be pub-
lished at all: they were to them what the press is to us; a song that was
learned by a few out of mere compliment to its author was soon forgot-
ten. It may be readily supposed that local circumstances sometimes
gave a temporary existence to very indifferent compositions, but their
popularity being confined to the districts where the subjects of them
were best known, with those subjects they generally expired. I have
spoken in the past tense," continues the writer, "because, within a. few
years, the manners of my countrymen have suffered a total revolution,
very little to the advantage of the present race who are neither so hos-
pitable, so learned, nor so pious as the generation they have succeed-

What has been a very great means to preserve the Ossianic poems is
this, that the greatest number of them have particular tunes to which
they are sung, the music of which is soft and simple. Duan Dearmot,
an elegy on the death of a celebrated warrior so called, is held in much
esteem among the Campbells, who trace their descent from that hero.
In Lord Rea's country is a tribe of this name, and the following anec-
dote of an old member is here appropriate. The Rev. Alexander Pope
having got this veteran to sing the poem, he commenced his performance
by reverently taking off his bonnet; but, says the writer, " I caused him
to stop, and would put on his bonnet; he made some excuses; however,
as soon as he began, he again took off his bonnet. I rose and put it on
he took it off 1 put it on; at last, as he was like to swear most horribly,
he would sing no more unless I allowed him to be uncovered. I gave
him his freedom, and so he sung with great spirit. I then asked him the
reason: he told me it was out of regard to the memory of that hero. I
asked him if he thought that the spirit of that hero was present; he said
not, but thought it well became them who were, descended from him to
honor his memory."!

Of the music adapted to these poems, a specimen furnished by the
Rev. John Cameron, of Halkirk, in Caithness, from the recitation of a
very old man in his parish, is given by Sir John Sinclair, in his excellent
dissertation prefixed to the Highland Society's edition of Ossian. One
of superior merit is given in the musical part of this work, and several
others of undoubted antiquity are noticed.

That Fingal fought and Ossian sung there can be no rational doubt
The names of places all over the Highlands testify the existence of such
persons, and the manners described in the poems suit no other period in
history but that of the ancient and unmixed Celts. J When General

* Notes on the Superstitions of the Highlanders, by Mr. Donald Mac Pherson, 1524.
t Letter to the Rev. Alexander Nicholson, of Thurso, 17G3.

t Mr. Rosing, the Danish consul, in reply to a letter from Sir John Sinclair, finda
Ossian's recitals corroborated by Suhne's History of Denmark.


Wade, in the operation of forming the military roads, hud to remove
Clachan Ossian, or the monumental stone of this revered bard, about
four score indignant Highlanders, in becoming solemnity, carried off' his
bones, with pipes playing, and deposited them within a circle of large
stones on the summit of a sequestered rook, in the wilds of western Glen
Amon, where they are not likely evermore to be disturbed. That the
Highlanders are disposed to receive any thing alluding to those remote
times as productions of Ossian is fal<e, and can only be advanced by
those who know nothing of their poe'ical judgment; succeeding bards
followed their great predecessor as a imdel, but never approached
the sublimity of "the voice of Cona." Many have studied his works,
and a most successful imitator was Ailen Mac Ruari. A modern bard
in Glendochy, in Perthshire, and another in Glendovan, Argyle, after
laborious attempts to catch the poetic fire of this prince of Celtic poets,
gave up the pursuit.* The nearest approach was made by M'Intyre,
whose works display true poetic feeling. The Highlanders can, howev-
er, detect the true Ossianic from other poetry, by its peculiar excellence,
simplicity of construction, and grandeur of imagery. There were
several Ossians in the profession of bardism, who flourished in times
subsequent, but none ever rivalled their predecessor.! Nor do the
Highlanders swallow the poetic descriptions as strictly natural. They
can well discriminate between hyperbole and plain narration, as in the
instance of Civa dona, where the description is allowed by the most
enthusiastic to be ideal. In matters of history, Doctor Mac Pherson
admits that the bardic accounts are not altogether to be depended upon;
but it is a fact that curious discoveries have been made in consequence
of songs. Treasure buried for centuries has been recovered, and the
poem of Cath Gabhra, commemorating the interment of Conan, a king,
under a stone, inscribed in Ogham characters, the Irish Academy made
search and found it.

It has been thought impossible for a language to remain unchanged for
so great a length of ti'/ie, and this objection has been urged with much
vehemence, as an unanswerable argument against the antiquity of Gaelic
poetry. In the second Chapter of this work, some of the causes affect-
ing language are noticed. By these causes, that of the Scotish moun-
taineers has not been altered in any great degree these 2000 years, but
'Jiat no change has taken place would be a rash assertion. From the
publication of the original poems which James Mac Pherson first trans-
lated, it is manifest, that certain changes have been produced, by the
introduction of Christianity and the altered state of society; but the
number of words now obsolete are very few, and, to the studious, may
be easily understood from etymological solution. A Life of Saint Pat-
rick, written in verse, in the sixth century, is still perfectly intelligible

Smith's Gallic Antiquities.

t From Colgan s Life of Saint Patrick, we find he had a convert called Ossian, which
circumstance has led to some confusion.


to an Irishman,* and the Ossianic remains are, with trifling exceptions
still understood in the language in which the bard composed them.

Finally, if the poems of Ossian are an imposture, Mac Pherson is not
the only one implicated. Smith and Others have been equally skilful in
the deception, and a whole nation have been the abettors of an imposi-
tion. But no rational being can now, it is believed, entertain any doubt
that these poems have existed in Highland tradition through successive
centuries, and been the solace of the aged, and the means of virtuous
excitement to the young. The bard of Caledonia " is one of the most
transcendent geniuses that ever adorned the history of poetry, or that
ever graced the annals of valor and glory let such as do not like to
name him Ossian, call him Orpheus: doubts may be entertained whether
Fingal was his father, but no one will say that he is not the son of

"Upon the construction of the old Celtic poetry we want much infor-
mation.'^ The chief aim of the poet was to compose his pieces in short,
simple, and forcible sentences or stanzas, so that they might be easily
learned and retained in the memory, and that they succeeded in their
object is abundantly proved. The language, from its simplicity, was
admirably calculated to assist recollection, and the ingenuity of the poets
added infinitely to the effect. In Mac Pherson 's Dissertation on the era
of Ossian, are these remarks: " Each verse was so connected with those
which preceded or followed it, that if one line had been remembered in
a stanza, it was almost impossible to forget the rest. The cadences
followed in so natural a gradation, and the words were so adapted to the
common turn of the voice, after it is raised to a certain key, that it was
almost impossible, from a similarity of sound, to substitute one word for
another. This excellence is peculiar to the Celtic tongue, and perhaps
is to be met with in no other language. Nor does this choice of words
clog the sense or weaken the expression. The numerous flections of
consonants, and variation in declension, make the language very copi-

The genius of the people, naturally musical and poetical, materially
assisted in the preservation of oral compositions, and inclined them to
afford that encouragement to the order of bards which fostered their tal-
ents, and enabled them to devote the years of probation which the pro-
fession required, with undivided attention to its duties. The length of
time which students were obliged to spend in qualifying themselves for
the dignified station of bard, demonstrates the importance in which it
was held.

Among the ancient Irish, the Fileacht was a mental composition for
the exercise and improvement of poesy, which took place at stated times.
This people retained their esteem for the bards, while they preserved
their primitive manners, and Spenser ceased to wonder at their attach-

* Dr. Smith. t The Abbe Cesarotti's Dissertation.

I Pinkerton's Enquiry, ii. 145.


ment to old customs when he understood the nature of their poetry, and
witnessed their respect for the reciters. This writer, an accomplished
poet himself, says the native compositions, were " of sweet wit and good
invention, sprinkled with pretty flowers of their natural device. ' The
importance of national poetry, nowhere more influential than among the
Celts, is acknowledged by those who have most deeply studied the his-
tory of man. " Songs are more operative than statutes, and it matters
little who are the legislators of a country compared with the writers of its
popular ballads." It would appear from Hume and Burnet, that the
misfortunes of James II. were chiefly owing to the effect of the Irish
song or ballad called Lilli burlero.

According to ^Elian, Homer's poems were at first detached pieces,
called Rhapsodies. The rhapsodists of Greece bear a strong resem-
blance to the Celtic bards. The name is derived from &5og, a rod or
branch, and wdij, a song or poem, because the person always held a
branch of laurel while reciting the poems. The order, like that of the
bards, having began to abuse the liberty of their profession, the term
came to be applied contemptuously, and a rhapsody signified a vile
performance, the meaning which it still retains, although it was orig-
inally used in quite another sense.*

The first efforts of the muses in all countries are melancholy themes.
Ossian never stoops from his sublimity, for wit or levity did not accord
with his feelings. The Leudus of the Celts was a sort of ode, and the ^
term survives in the Gaelic Laoidh, applied to a hymn. Carthon, one
of the Ossianic poems, is called in the original, Duan na' n laoi, or the
poem of the hymns, probably from the celebrated address to the sun,
and Fingal's pathetic "song of mourning," which it contains.

Dan is the Gaelic name of a song. The bards distinguished those
compositions in which the narration is often interrupted by odes and
apostrophes, by the name of Duan, but since the extinction or disuse of
the order, it has become a general name for all compositions in verse.
The Duans always finished with the opening words. The bards were
sometimes styled h : story men, or tell-talers, and repeated a short argu-
ment before commencins;. This traditional tale, which accompanied a
ooern, and sometimes has survived it, is called Sgeulachd, and, consider-
ing that much art was required to reduce the language to measure, they
may be supposed to have preceded the poetical version. Of the various
sorts of versification, I confess myself at a loss to form a compile list,
especially of those in ancient use. In the Irish uiraiceacht na neagir, or
rules for poets, there are upwards of one hundred different kinds de-
scribed. f Doctor Molloy assures us that the construction and variety
of Irish metre is the most difficult he had ever seen or heard of. In its
composition these things are required number, quartans^ number of

* Larcher, note on Herodotus.

: Walker's Memoirs of the Iriah Bards, who refers to Vallancey and O'Molloy for


syllables, concords, correspondence, termination, union, and caput, the
subdivisions of all which are minute and perplexing. The rules res-
pecting the division, conjunction, affinity, mutability, ellipses, and pow-
er of consonants, were to be understood, and the long and short quanti-
ty of vowels in the beginning, middle, and end.

The Welsh system is described as comprehending twenty-four classes
cf verse or elementary principles. These, with their subdivisions, saj
tl e authors of the Myvyrian Archaeology, " include every species of
v rse that has ever yet, in any age, or amongst any people, been pro-
dv ced, besides a prodigious number of originals, entirely and exclusive-
ly our own, all which had been discovered and brought into general
practice about the close of the second period," commencing about the
beginning of the twelfth century, and continuing to the fourteenth.
Those who are interested in Cumraeg poetry and literature may con-
sult the above work, which contains numerous specimens, unfortunately,
by not having a translation, sealed up from all who are ignorant of the
language. The antiquaries of the Principality, who account for the
origin of almost every thing, tell us that Gwyddon Ganhebon was the
first poet. The oldest sort of rhyme is called, in Rhys's Grammar, En-
glyn Milur.

We find the pupil of a learned Scot master of no fewer than one
hundred different kinds of verse, with the musical modulation of words
t and syllables, which included letters, figures, poetic feet, tones, and

The warlike propensity of the Celts afforded ample scope for the
employment of the bards, who chanted stimulating poems at the com-
mencement and during the heat of a battle. The subject of those songs,
which animated the Celtic warrior, was chiefly " the valorous deeds of
worthy men composed in heroic verse, " j 1 Tacitus says, that, when the
Germans advanced to battle, they extolled Hercules in their songs
Among the Gael these spirit-stirring odes were styled Prosnachadh
cath, or the incentives to battle; to which the Irish Rosga cath, martial
odes, and the Welsh Arymes prydain and Cerdd vrliant, or songs of
praise, were analogous. J There was also a sort that may be called the
recruiting song, or incentive to rise.

" The song of battle " had an astonishing effect on the Celtic war
riors, and its power of animation was not less remarkable among the
Scotish Gael, than it was among the ancient Gauls. " Support," cries
Fingal, " the yielding fight with song, for song enlivens the war."

The war song of Gaul Mac Morn is given in this work, page
116. Those compositions were in a short measure, and were repeated
in an animated, rapid style; and so well adapted were the verses to the

* Anglia sacra, ii. p. 2 7. Among the Northern nations, who seem to have despis-
ed simple versification, there were no less than one hundred and thirty-six different
kinds of measure. Olaus Wormius. t Amm. Marc. xv. 9.

t The Greek orthia and paean must have been more than a huzza. A war song', pro
bably resembUag the Prosnachadh, appears to have been so termed.


subject and the tune in which they were chaunted, which was again ex-
pressive of the feeling, that the sound partook of the tone of whattvci
passion the poet was at the time inspired with. Of this admirable adap-
tation of language to the expression of feeling a thousand striking in-
stances might be produced. The following may suffice.

" The hoarse roaring of a wave against a rock.

Stairirich measg charraige cruaidh a garraich."

" The song of victory " was chanted by the bards, who preceded
the army on its return from a successful expedition.

The Cumhadh, or Lament, otherwise called the Coronach, was an
elegy composed on the death or misfortunes of any celebrated individual.
It partook, in some degree, of the song of praise, for it extolled the vir-
tues of the individual; and in pathetic verse, to which the most plaintive
wild notes were adapted, the bard gave vent to his own grief and excit-
ed that of his hearers. These compositions were anciently repeated at
funerals, but they have given way to the music of the bagpipe, the tune
only being now played during the impressive ceremony. The Irish
caoine. or cine, is still retained in secluded parts of the island, and is
religiously adhered to by some even in London. The wife, or other
near relations, commonly assisted by mercenary mourners, occasionally
get up whilst the corpse is waking, and, in an extempore effusion, ac-
companied with tears and the most doleful cries, celebrate the merits of
the deceased. The same conduct was formerly continued while the
corpse was on its way to its last resting place. An ancient and affect-
ing lamentation over Cuchullin, has fortunately been preserved, and
shows the nature of this sort of composition, one characteristic of which
is, that every stanza closes with some remarkable title of the person to
whom it refers.

The ancient poems were repeated at entertainments, and in those,
where a dialogue occurs, the characters were represented by different
bards, or other individuals. In the poem of Carrie thura, the parts of
Vinvela and Shilric were represented by Cronnan and Minoria.

Sir John Sinclair sketches, from the first book of Fingal, a dramatic
scene, which, he believes, was acted by different persons. Clarke,
who refuted the attack of Shaw, on the authenticity of the poems, de-
clares that he went with Mac Pherson to late wakes in Badenoch, where
they were so acted or represented. " The Highlanders, at their fes-
tivals and other public meetings, acted the poems of Ossian. Rude
and simple as their manner of acting was, yet any brave or generous
action, any injury or distress exhibited in the representation, had a sur-
prising effect towards raising in them corresponding passions and senti-

When the Highlanders met to watch the corpse of their friends, most
part of the night was spent in repeating their ancient poems, and talking
of the times of Fingal. On these occasions they often laid wagers who

* Rev. Donald Mac Leod writing to Dr. Blair, 1763.


should repeat the greatest number of verses; and to have acquired a
great store of this oral knowledge was reckoned an enviable acquisition.
Dr. Mac Leod says, he knew old men who valued themselves much for
having gained some of these wagers. The Prosnachadh fairge, already
noticed, contains upwards of 800 lines, the Lament of the Women of
Mull about 250, and Mac Intyre's Beindoran is about 1000 lines, or
nearly as long as any of Ossian's compositions, yet the people learn
every word of these long poems. Even in the Low Country the people
delighted in lengthened recitations, as witness the poem on Flodden
Field, on the battle of Harlaw, 62 verses, the battle of Glenlivat, 82,
&c. &c.

Most of the Highland amusements were connected with poetry, and
some of those diversions in which they took greatest delight were, in
fact, poetical exercises. The obligation laid on every one who partook
of the Drom-uinn to recite an extempore verse has been noticed. Dr.
Johnson describes an amusement in the hall of a laird, where a person,
dressed in the skin of a beast, makes his appearance, and is immediately
attacked, but ultimately the assailants, as if frightened and overpower-
ed, run out. The door is then shut; and when admission is solicited, for
the honor of poetry, it is not to be obtained but by repeating a verse;
this is called Beannachadh Bhaird.

A curious method of composition was, by connecting three lines or
sentiments, of which sort are the famous Welsh Triads, first committed
to writing, it is thought, about 1200 years ago. Cormac, king of Ire-
land, about 260, wrote De Triadibus, and Camden mentions a Welsh
work, Triadum Liber. Some of the Triads of the celebrated Fingal are
still preserved in oral record.

In Gaelic poetry, the rhythm sometimes consists in the similarity of
the last words of the first and third, and second and fourth lines, as in
English composition, thus

Measg aoibhneis an talla nam fear
Mar so thog cronan am fonn
Dh'eirich maduinn a, soills' o'n ear
Bughorm air an lear, an tonn.

Carraig Thura, ver. 195.

In the stanza which immediately follows this, the rhymes are in the
last syllables, but the final consonants are not alike, the harmony de-
pending on the concord of the vowels.

Ghairm an righ a shiuil gu crann ;
Thanig gaoth a nail o'n Chruaich :
Dh'eirich Innis-Thorc gu mall;
Is Carraig Thiira iul nan stuadh.

Here the correspondence is in the a in the first and third lines, and in
he ua in the second and fourth.
Sometimes the conformity between the last word of a line, and some


word or part of a word about the middle of the following line, constituted
the rhyme: as,

' Suaigneach m' aigne 'n uaimh mo bhroin ;
' Smor mo Icon fo laimh na h'aois.
Ossag 'tha gastar o Thuath
Na dean tuasaid ruim 'smi lag.


The above three sorts of rhyme are often found in one composition,
intermixed with couplets rhyming as softly and perfectly as in modern
Italian; for example

Soilsichibh Srad air Druim feinne
'Sthig mo laoich o ghruaigh gach beinne.


Some of the most beautiful passages in old Gaelic poetry are, how-
ever, a sort of blank verse, having no rhyme. It appears that the bards
sought in this case no more than to render every line perfect, with-
out any dependance on the next, of which the above poem affords an


Dhaluich a ghealach a ceann ;
Bha cadal reultan air chul neoil.
Cabhag ghaoth is cuan o chian :
Bu gharbh an cath bha eadar stuaidh
Is sileadh gailbheach nan speur.

The Prosnachadh cath Gariach, a specimen of which is given in
page 117, is a curious example of ingenious alliteration, each stanza
being composed of epithets, the initial letter of which is always the same.
The ease with which the language is rendered harmonious is the cause
that there are so few bad verses in Gaelic. Many of the sweetest lyrics
have no other rhyme than the frequent sound of a single vowel or diph-
thong running throughout the stanza, with hardly any regularity of

A nighean donn na buaile

Gam bheil an gluasad farusda

Gun tug mi gaol co buan duit

'Snach gluais e air an Earrach so

Mheall thu mi le d' shiiighradh,

Le d' bhriodal a's le d' chuine

Lub thu mi mar fliiuran

'Scha duchas domh bhi fallain uaath.


In singing or playing these compositions, the rhyming vowels are ap-
parent, and prove the harmony of the measure. " The Aged Bartf's
Wish" is probably older than the introduction of Christianity among the
Gael, foi he displays his belief in the ancient Celtic theology, and an-
ticipates the joys that await him in the elysium of the bards in the hall
of Ossian, and of Daol It shows that at a very early period, harmony



of numbers was sedulously studied. There is a beautiful poetical trans-
lation of this piece by Mrs. Grant; for the literal version of the stanzas
quoted I am indebted to the author of Melodies from the Gaelic


Ocambh mi ri taobh nan aUt
A shiuhhlas mall le ceumaibh ciuin.
Fo sgail a bharraich leag mo cheann
'S bith thus a ghrian ro chairdeil rium.

Gu socair sin 's an fheur mo thaobh
Air bruaich na'n dithean 'snan gaoth tfa,
Mo chos ga slioba sa bhraon mhaoth,
Se luba thairis caoin tren bhlar.

Biodh sobhrach bhkn is ailli snuadh
M'an cuairt do m' thulaich, 'sualn fo dhriuchd,
'San neonain bheag 's mo lamh air chluam
'San ealbhuigh mo chluas gu cur.*

Lyrical compositions are, without comparison, the most numerous in
the Highlands, the first-mentioned measures being chiefly confined to
those called Ossianic and other ancient poems. Of lyric poems, thou-
sands might be collected, some of considerable antiquity, and many of
great beauty, and the measures are nearly as numerous as the airs to
which they are sung.

There is an ode, the stanzas of which consist of two lines and a repe-
tition of the last. In this, the word upon which the cesural pause falls*,
rhymes with the final word, and with some other word about the middle
of the second line; thus

Lochluinneach threum toiseach bhur sgell

Sliochd solta bhair freamh Mhknais

Sliochd solta, bhair freamh Mhanais.

* O lay me by the streams that glide,
With gentle murmurs soft and slow,
Let spreading boughs my temples hide ;
Thou sun, thy kindest beams bestow.

And be a bank of flowers my bed,
My feet laved by a wandering rill :
Ye winds, breathe gently round my head,
Bear balm from wood, and vale, and hill.

Thou primrose pale, with modest air.
Thou daisy white, of grateful hue,
With other flowers, as sweet and fair
Around me smile through amber dew.


In the ode of three lines, with the stanza twice repeated, the ante-
penults of the first and second lines rhyme with a syllable at the middle
,f the third line.

Gam biodh faram air thaTIisg,

Agus fuiam air a chlarsaich,

Mar a bhuineadh do shar Mhac Mhic Leod.*

Gam biodh, &c.

Gur e b'eachdraidh na dheigh sin

Greis air ursgeul an Feine

'S air a chuideachda cheir-ghil na' n crochd.

Gur e b', &c.

The ode of six lines of four syllables and a seventh of six syllables has
the first six lines rhyming at the end, and with the antepenult of the

Leansa 'sna treig

Cleachdadh as be us

Taitim gu leir,

Macanta searnh,

Pailt ri luchd theud

Gaisgail am feim

Neartmhor an deigh toirachd.

These three sorts of measures are by the celebrated poetess Mary
Mac Leod, and she appears to have invented them, for I do not think
they occur in the works of any other.

There are stanzas of four lines, each of the three first having a double
rhyme, and the rhyming word of the last line of every stanza answers
to that of the fourth line of each of the first stanza, as seen by this

Thuair mi sgeula moch dicedin

Air laimh fheuma bha gu creuchdach,

'Sleor a ghieurad ann san leumsa

Anal on treud bha buaghar.

O Dhun Garanach uT Allall
Na'n trup meara 's na 'n steud seanga,
Na'n gleus glana s'ceutach sealladh,
Beichdail allaidh uaibhreach.

* The game of chess,
And the music of the harp,
The history of the feats of the Fingalians,
With the relations of the pleasures of the chase,
Were what the good son of Mac Leod loved.

404 BARDS.

A stanza of eight lines of six and eight syllables, where the final syl-
lables of the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth lines rhyme, is common.
In another also of eight lines of seven and five syllables, the last words
of the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth lines rhyme, and cesural and
penult, and cesural and final rhymes occur irregularly throughout the
other lines.

Si so'n aimsir an dearbhar

Antaiganach dhiunn;

'S bras meinmnach fir Albin

Fon armaibh air thus ;

'Nuair dh eireas gach reun-laoch

Na'n eididh ghlan ur

Le run feirg agus gairge

Gu seirbhis a chruin.*

That Gaelic poetry may be regularly scanned, is shown by Mr. Aim-
strong in his excellent Dictionary.

Gaelic poetry seems to have had its classical as well as its declining
period. There are many ancient poems of great beauty that cannot
have been composed later than the first, second, or third century at leas!:,
but from the fall of the Pictish kingdom until the thirteenth century
there is hardly any thing to be found of historical poetry. Whatever
destruction may have been occasioned by Edward I. to the other his-
torical documents, he could never carry away the productions, of Mac
Alpin's bard and succeeding professors; they must have come down to
our times like those of Ossian and Ullin, had they ever existed or been
at all worthy of preservation. The dark age of poetry and learning in
the Highlands continued nearly 500 years. f

Some Highlanders have heard a song repeated on the battle of Perth,
1396, which bore evidence of its having been composed about the period
of that event. Lachlan mhor Mac Mhuirich Albinnich, bard to the
Lords of the Isles, was probably born about the middle of the fourteenth
century. He composed that curnus Prosnachadh, to animate the troops
at the battle of Gariach in 1411, since which time every thing memora-
ble in Highland history is recorded in poetry.

Mary Mac Leod, better known by the appellation of Nighean Alas-
tair Ruadh, or the daughter of Red Alexander, was born about 1570.
Many of her compositions are of great beauty.

Shelah Mac Donald, of the house of Keppoch, a family that may be
termed hereditary poets, who lived from the reign of Charles II. to that
of George I., wrote many patriotic and moral odes of great merit.

Mr. Alexander Mac Donald, whose admirable Prosnachadh Fairge

* John Lorn Mac Donald's Address and Invitation to the Clans, in 1714, to take
up arms

t Poetry flourished in Wales until the time of Elizabeth, when it declined, until re-
vived by the encouragement of late institutions. Myvyrian Archaeology.

BARDS. 405

has been partially translated, in a previous chapter, was an excellent
poet and strongly imbued with the spirit of Ossian. He lived from the
latter end of the sixteenth until after the middle of the seventeenth
centu/y, and was a good scholar and musician. His first song, " Ban-
arach Dhonn a Chruidh," is still very popular, and the air to which it is
sung made so strong an impression on Burns, that he wrote the words
of " the Banks of the Devon" to it. Mac Donald's " Praise of Morag"
is equally popular, and appears to have been the first poem adapted to
a Piobrachd. It has three parts, the first being quick, the second
quick, quick, and the third quick, quick, quick, and is the same measure
as that in which Mac Intyre composed his celebrated descriptive poem
of " Beinn Dorain," and Mac Kenzie that of " the Ship."

John Lorn Mac Donald was born in the reign of James the First of
England, and, I believe, died either in the reign of Queen Anne, or
that of her successor, at a very great age. He accompanied Montrose
a all his wars, being named poet laureate to the king, and contributed
to the support of the royal cause, probably as much by his songs as the
marquis did by his sword. He celebrated in verse the notable victory
at Kilsyth, which he attributes to Montrose, and that at Inverlochy,
which he thinks was achieved by Alexander Mac Donald, commonly
called Mac Coll, or Colcitach. This last poem he composed on the top
of the Castle of Inverlochy, to which he had retired to view the bat-
tle; and being reproached by Montrose for not taking the field, he
asked the hero, who would have commemorated his valor had the
bard been in the fight? He laments, in pathetic verse, the murder of
the king and of Montrose, but his indignation does not lead him to abuse
Cromwell. He sung the murder of the children of Kepoch, and having
obtained a commission to apprehend the murderers dead or alive, he
ceased not to pursue his object until he carried their heads to the lords
of council. He was an eccentric character, warm and ardent in his
friendship, bitter and unrelenting in his hatred, the greatest share of
which fell to the Campbells. It is related, that dining one day with the
Earl of Argyle, his host asked him why he kept always gnawing at his
clan; when John, presuming on the bardic privilege, promptly express-
ed his regret that he could not swallow them.

From the time of John Lorn, there is an uninterrupted succession of
good poets. Mr. Mac Pherson, of Strathmasie, who was born about
1720, and died in the latter end of the last century, was a gentleman
and a scholar, equal to the best Gaelic bards in every respect, and su-
perior to them all in one particular humor. His poems have not been
published in a collected form, and some of them have never been com-
mitted to the press, but a good many of them are to be met with in the
collections of Stewart, Macfarlane and Turner. Alastair Mac Aonaig
composed a Prosnachadh do na Gael in 1745, and other pieces.

The celebrated John Roy Stewart, who was both a good soldier ai
a good poet, must not be forgotten. In a poem on the battle of Cull

406 BARDS.

den, he finds an opportunity to inveigh against Lord George Murray,
whose proceedings during the progress of the Rebellion he often disap-
proved of. He directly charges his Lordship with treachery. His La-
ment for Lady Mac Intosh, who may be called his sister in arms, from
having joined the rising in 1745, is pathetic and elegant.

William Ross, Robert Donn, and Duncan Mac Intyre, possess supe-
rior excellence. Ross may be called the Gaelic Anacreon, Donn the
Juvenal, while Mac Intyre combines the descriptive powers of Thomson
with the versatile genius of Burns. The works of Robert Donn, who
was a native of Sutherland, were published in one volume, 1829. Mac
Intyre was a native of Glenurchy, and served in the Argyle Militia at
the battle of Falkirk, where he lost his sword, which was a favorite
weapon of the chieftain of the Fletchers. His Apologetic Poem on this
misfortune is humorous, and shows that he was not sorry at the defeat
of the royal forces. When after the rebellion in 174-5. the wise ministry
of George II. thought the Highlanders could be made loyal by being
compelled to wear a foreign, and to them very inconvenient dress, Mac
Intyre wrote his poem of " the grey breeches," in which he flatly accuses
parliament and the ministry of injustice in imposing such a garb on the
loyal as well as disloyal clans, insinuating that it would make the next
rising more general: for this he was imprisoned. His poems were
published in 17,68, and that on Bein Dorain is said to excel every thing
of the kind.

Dugald Buchannan, a schoolmaster at Rannoch, published a volume
of poems in 1770; and Kenneth Mac Kenzie, originally a sailor, and
afterwards an officer in the army, who is perhaps still alive, published
in 1796 a volume of poems of some merit. John Mac Gregor, of Glen-
lyon, published his poetical works in 1801. Those of Allan Mac Dou-
gal, the blind bard of the late Glengarry, were first published in 1800,
and their popularity is attested by many subsequent editions. This man
was blind from his infancy, but Apollo, to compensate for the loss of
sight, made him not only one of the best poets, but also of musicians.

Among the modern poets of Caledonia, the late Mr. Ewen Mac Lach-
lan, master of the Grammar School of Old Aberdeen, makes a conspicu-
ous figure. He translated, from the Greek, the third book of Homer's
Iliad, and various excerpts from the same poet. He also wrote " The
Seasons" in four songs, and a variety of other pieces; but what is re-
markable is, that although his English and classical writings are good,
they are not at all equal to his Gaelic poetry, a proof, perhaps, of the
superior fitness of that language for the service of the muses.

Alexander and Donald Stewart published a large collection of the
works of the bards who flourished within the last 400 years, and Tur-
ner, himself an aspirant for poetic fame, in addition to his first work,
obtained a numerous subscription for a collection of the Gaelic Jacobite
songs, translated into English.

Music is either the mother or daughter of poetry. It is probably the

MUSIC. 407

former. The manner of the Gaelic bards seems to have been to make
the tune or melody first, and then to adapt words to it. The original
poem was often lost, but the air if a good one, seldom shared the same
fate, because a tune is easier learned than a song. Many, however,
could make a song who could not compose a tune, and, consequently,
many were adapted to the same air. The poetry, which was composed
by the Celts for the service of religion, was chanted to appropriate
music, and to the sweet melody of harps. The bards, who were of the
Druidical order, sung the deeds of worthy men, celebrating the virtues
of the good, and denouncing the vices of the reprobate. The practice
of advancing to battle with songs of incitement and defiance was truly
Celtic. The Gauls attacked Hannibal at the Rhone, crying and sing-
ing after their custom.* The bards conducted the music, and, by differ-
ent modulations and changes in the air, the troops were led to advance
or retreat, a fierce and harsh tone of defiance, according to Tacitus,
being chiefly studied, with an unequal murmur, sometimes produced by
applying the shields to the rnouth, to swell the notes. To Pythagoras,
from whom the Druids did not much differ, if he did not form his opin-
ions from their maxims, the world is said to be indebted for the discovery
of the principles of music, and he introduced the system of seven planets
from the seven tones."j" The ancients esteemed a knowledge of music
an indispensable" accomplishment. The Arcadians, a people resembling
the Scots' Highlanders, reckoned it infamous to be ignorant of so agree-
able an art. The youth were carefully taught to sing until they were
thirty years of age, and their favorite songs were in celebration of the
angels of birth, the gods and virtuous men, affording in this a remarka-
ble resemblance to the Celts. Whether the melody of the human voice
preceded or followed instrumental music, it was much cultivated by the
primitive Celts, and their descendants in the different races have evinced
a strong attachment to it. It is probable that music was seldom heard
in ancient times, without being accompanied by the recitation of poetry,
the harper being also a vocal performer. The song of the Druids, en-
graved in the following plates, is well known in the Highlands, where it
is revered like a sacred hymn. The chanting of the Druidical precepts
in times of paganism was imitated by the early Christians, who were
passionately fond of music. Adomnan is represented as having taken
much delight in hearing Cronan, a famous poet, sing his native melodies.
The clergy did not confine their talents to the voice, and it was not sur-
prising that they should excel in performing on instruments where the
qualification was so common. Bede says, that at entertainments the
harp was handed from one to another, and if any one could not play, he
felt so ashamed of his deficiency, that he took the first opportunity to
slink off.J The bishops continued to carry this instrument along with
them in the time of Cambrensis, and, indeed, the clergy were often ex-
cellent bards. Donchadh O'Daly, Abbot of Boyle in 1250, excelled all

*Polybius, iii. t Dion. Cassius, ap. Beloe on Herodotus. t Lib. iv. c. 24.


the hards of his time. The members of the Scots' Church brought
sacred music to great perfection, and rendered it celebrated throughout
Europe in very early ages, and left many treatises on it. When Neville
Abbey, in France, was founded, the queen of Pepin sent for Scots*
musicians and choristers to serve in it. Mungret Abbey, near Limer-
ick, is celebrated by monkish writers for its religious melody, having no
fewer than five hundred, who served continually in the choir.* Coradh,
from cor or cur, music, is applied to a proficient in the art, from which
Doctor O'Conner thinks the name of curetes among the primaeval Celts
was derived.

The ancient Gael were fond of singing, whether in a sad or cheerful
frame of mind. Bacon justly remarks, that music feedeth that disposi-
tion which it findeth: it was a sure sign of brewing mischief when a
Caledonian warrior was heard to " hum his surly song." This race, in
all their labors, used appropriate songs, and accompanied their harps
with their voices. At harvest the reapers kept time by singing; at sea
the boatmen did the same; and while the women were graddaning, per-
forming the luaghadh, or at other rural labor, they enlivened their work
by certain airs called luineags. When milking, they sung a certain
plaintive melody, to which the animals listened with cairn attention.
The attachment which the nations of Celtic origin have to their music is
strengthened by its intimate connexion with the national songs. The
influence of both on the Scots' character is confessedly great the pic-
tures of heroism, love, and happiness exhibited in their songs are indeli-
bly impressed on the memory, and elevate the mind of the humblest
peasant. The songs united with their appropriate music affect the sons
of Scotia, particularly when far distant from their native glens and ma-
jestic mountains, with indescribable feelings, and excite a spirit of the
most romantic adventure. In this respect the Swiss, who inhabit a
country of like character, and who resemble the Highlanders in many
particulars, experience similar emotions. On hearing the national Ranz
de vache, their bowels yearn to revisit the ever dear scenes of their
youth. So powerfully is the amor patriae awakened by this celebrated
air, that it was found necessary to prohibit its being played under pain
of death among the troops, who would burst into tears on hearing it,
desert their colors, and even die.

No songs could be more happily constructed for singing during labor
than those of the Highlanders, every person being able to join in them,
sufficient intervals being allowed for breathing time. In a certain part
of the song, the leader stops to take breath, when all the others strike in
and complete the air with a chorus of words and syllables, generally
without signification, but admirably adapted to give effect to the time

* Archdall's Monasticon, Hib. The English Church appears to have been a con-
trast. Prinn, in 1663, compares the music to the bleating of brute beasts.' Histrio
mastix. See Ledwich's Observations on the Gregorian and Ambrosian chants, in
Walker's Bards.


Trl singing during a social meeting, the company reach their plaids or
handkerchiefs from one to another, and swaying them gently in their
hands, from side to side, take part in the chorus as above. A large
company thus connected, and see-sawing in regular time, has a curious
effect; sometimes the bonnet is mutually grasped over the table. The
Low Country manner is, to cross arms and shake each other's hands to
the air of " auld lang syne" or any other popular and commemorative
melody. Fhir a bhata, or the boatmen, the music of which is annexed,
is sung in the above manner, by the Highlanders with much effect. It
is the song of a girl whose lover is at sea, whose safety she prays for,
and whose return she anxiously expects. The greater proportion of
Gaelic songs, whether sung in the person of males or females, celebrate
the valor and heroism, or other manly qualifications, of the clans.

We are not precisely informed of the method by which the bards
taught the music. In the college of choristers, we are told, it was
taught in the drochaidh, or circle of melody. Brompton says, those of
Ireland were instructed in secret, their lessons being committed to mem-
ory; and it is believed, that they had not in ancient times the art of
communicating their melodies by notation, circumstances to which must,
in a great measure, be attributed our imperfect knowledge of ancient
Celtic music. Although the principle which led the Celts to teach by
memory long existed, some remains of musical notation are yet to be
found. A curious specimen, not older, however, than the time of Queen
Elizabeth, is given by Walker. An air, called the tune of David the
Prophet, a production of the eleventh century, was deciphered from an
ancient Welsh MS., and Mr. Turner mentions another MS. of British
music in existence, of which the notation cannot now be explained; be-
ing disregarded while it could be understood, it is thus lost forever.*
An Irish MS. of the fifteenth century contains the native musical terms.
Car was a line of poetry, marked, and the characters; annal was a
breathing, and ceol was the sound, which also signified tae middle tone,
or pitch of the voice. Ard ceol was a third higher, and has ceol was a
depression, one-third lower than the pitch. Circeol denoted the turn-
ing, or modulation, and semitones were left to the musician's ear.
There were three names for harp notes, signifying the single, the great,
and the little harmony.

Celtic music, like the poetry, is generally of a grave and plaintive
character, although cheerful and animating airs are by no means want-
ing. "The Welsh, the Scots, and the Irish, have all melodies of a
simple sort, which, as they are connected together by cognate marks,
evince at once their relationship and antiquity. "j The Manx have but
a few national airs that much resemble the Irish. The Golltraidheacht
of the Irish was the martial music. This sort seems adapted to the
Prosnachadh Cath of the Gael, which is in a short, rapid, spirit-stirring
measure, of which many curious specimens might be given. This spe-

* Preface to his History of the Anglo Saxons. t Caledonia, i. 476.



cies of music being introduced at entertainments, is also called the
festive. The Geantraidheacht is the sorrowful, of which sort the
Caledonians are very fond. The Suantraidheacht is the reposing, or
that which was calculated to quiet the mind and dispose the person
hearing it to sleep. We perceive in the works of the old bards mel-
odies for war, for love, and for sorrow, but in later times we shall
find other classes that seem to have emanated from the pipers. The
song of peace was raised in the field of battle at the termination of a
conflict, and the song of victory was sung by the bards before the king
after the gaining of a battle. In the poem of Cath Loda is an invoca-
tion to the harp of Cona, with its three voices, to come " with that which
kindles the past." Fingal had a particular tune that appears to have
been well known; it is called " that song which he hears at night when
the dreams of his rest descend."

The love songs compose the chief part of the national poetry of Ire-
land and Scotland. Of the former country, it has been said, that its
poetry seems considered as designed for love only, an opinion for which
there is some reason. The amatory effusions of the Scots' bards exhibit
great knowledge of the human heart and delicacy of sentiment, with a
spirit of affection, and romantic tenderness and devotion, not surpassed,
if equalled, by any other people either ancient or modern. The passion
of love is excited by the sensibility and tenderness of the music; and,
stimulated by its influence, the Gael indulge a spirit of the most roman-
tic attachment and adventure which the peasantry of, perhaps, no other
country exhibit.

It is well known that the Scots' music is composed on a peculiar scale.
Caledonia has indeed to boast of the most ancient melodies, and, per-
haps, the only national melody in Europe; the Irish rank next to her;
and the Welsh must be permitted to follow in the possession of their
corresponding styles.

The Scotish scale consists of six notes, having, in the key of C, c, d,
e t Si a > c corresponding to the black keys of the piano forte; a scale,
from its natural simplicity, singularly well adapted for the composition
of an air. This is the enharmonic scale, used by the Egyptians, and
other Eastern nations, and similar to that of the ancient Greeks
Whether, from the possession of this system, or peculiar organization,
the Celts were proverbially musical; and the music of the Scotish Low-
landers, which they think their own, being genuine Gaelic, they prob-
ably have preserved from the time when they retained the same language
and manners as their brethren in the mountains. Those who believe
that Pictish invasions rendered the Eastern Scots a Gothic people, and
altered their language, are obliged to confess that the music underwent
no such change. The diatonic scale used by the Gothic nations pro-
duces melodies of a character completely different from that of the Celts.

Cambrensis contrasts the slow modulation in Britain with the rapid
notes of the Irish. He says the Welsh did not sing in unison, but had


as many parts as there were performers, and that they all terminated in
B flat; the treble part also began soft, and produced, at last, a wild
melody; and, speaking of the natives of Cumberland, he says, they sung
in parts, in unisons, and octaves.

Although the Welsh were not previously ignorant of music, it is relat-
ed that Gryffith ap Cynan, or Conan, being educated ip Ireland, brought
its music, musicians, and instruments to his own country about 1100,
and having summoned a congress of the harpers of both countries to
revise the music, the twenty-four canons were established. It is diffi-
cult to account for the fact, that the Welsh music, some of it of consid-
erable antiquity too, differs from the Gaelic airs, being composed in the
diatonic, or perfect scale. This modern style predominates, although
not to the exclusion of the ancient, but the circumstance proves that the
Welsh have materially swerved from their ancient simplicity. In a
small degree, this has been the case with the Irish also, but that which
is considered their proper harp music is of the Scotish character. Mu-
sicians and antiquaries seem to have found a bone of contention in the
subject of thesp airs, some maintaining, that in the Highlands there are
no harp melodies, while others assert that the luineags, or singing tunes,
are composed for the harp only, and are unfit for the pipes. I am not
a sufficient musician, perhaps, to discuss this subject with due ability,
but I venture to say that both opinions are erroneous. Harp music is
abundant in the Highlands, although not generally of the refined sort
now so termed, and the old vocal melodies can certainly, with only a few
exceptions, be performed on the pipe. The old harpers, who performed
airs in the diatonic scale, appear to have tuned the instruments without
knowing on what principle.

It has excited the wonder of some, that the ancient Scots' airs are
usually in the minor mode; some are not in it, because the flat series is
never constituted as a key note by means of its sharp 7th, as it invaria-
bly is in modern music.*

The most ancient vocal tunes had only one measure, and by attending
to this, perhaps, one could lorm a tolerably accurate collection of genu-
ine melodies, for it is my opinion, that the fiddlers added 2nd, 3rd, and
sometimes 4th parts to the original strain, which additions may be detect-
ed by being above the compass of the pipe chanter. Thus the beautiful
Strathspey, for instance, called Callum Brogach, given as a specimen
of this delightful music, is admirably adapted, in the first part, for the
bagpipes. From this practice, however highly we esteem the merits of
the individuals, we must regret the vitiation of some of our ancient pieces
by Gow, Mac Intosh, and others. The simple harmonies, as given
by Clarke, Fraser, and Mac Donald, are preferable to those put forth
in characters unsuitable to the Celtic, and dressed up to please corrupt-
ed tastes; the airs are altered indeed, but they can scarcely be said to

* Essay on the Influence of Poetry and Music upon the Highliuiders, in the Preface*
to Mac. Donald's Collection of Gaelic Airs.


be improved, and the collection cannot claim to be one of genuine
Scots' melodies, or aid in assisting to preserve these interesting relics in

There is another remarkable feature in the Gaelic school, and a cri-
terion by which to judge of the age of tunes : the old airs, however slow
and plaintive, are generally, with good effect, convertible into a quick,
or dancing measure, and vice versa. Of this conversion, the dancing
airs of modern times do not admit, at least, with any propriety.

The appogiaturas in modern music, are usually the next in degree to
the chief note, and any great departure from this rule is accounted a
barbarism. In Scots' music they are some degrees distant, and appear
very graceful. This is most remarkable in pipe tunes, to which instru-
ment they are indispensable.

There are certain differences very perceptible to a musical ear, in
the style and character of the music of certain districts. The Caithness
and Sutherland people are noted for playing in quick time, and the peo-
ple of Strathspey, or rather the part of Scotland in which that valley is
situated, are celebrated for their partiality to slow time, and the perfec-
tion in which they have composed and play the airs, which are known
by the name of the place where they originated. The Strathspey is in
simple common time, and it has been described as being to the common
reel what a Spanish fandango is to a French cotillion.* Many assert
that Strathspeys are so essentially different from reels, that they can
never be transposed; to me, it is evident that Strathspeys can be played
in reel time with perfect facility, if not always with good effect, although
I shall not say that reels can be made Strathspeys. The people of this
district liked their music of a slower turn than others, and produced that
style now so much and so justly admired.

Of the first composers or performers of Strathspeys, there appears to
be no certain accounts. According to tradition, the first who played
them were the Browns of Kincardine, to whom several of the ancient
tunes are ascribed. After these, the Cumn^ings of Freuchie, now Cas-
tle Grant, were the most celebrated. Of these musicians there were a
hereditary succession, the last of whom, John Roy Gumming, who was
very famous, died between 1750 and 1760. His descendants in London
inherited the musical genius of their ancestors, and are known by many
ingenious works in mechanics.*

The Reel of Tulloch, given as a specimen, is a popular tune among
pipers, from whom it receives the appellation Righ na m Porst, or king
of airs. It is stated by Mac Donald, that this reel was composed at
Tulloch, in Aberdeenshire, a tradition that I have often heard repeated,
detailing the particular circumstances connected with its production,
but in Mac Gregor's Collection of Poems, where the song is given, it is
confidently asserted to be the composition of John Dubh Gear, a Mao
Gregor of Glenlyon.

* Newte.



Some affect to discover a striking difference between Scots and Irish
jig tunes. I confess I cannot so easily perceive it, although I am aware
that each have their characteristic style. A frequent distinction, though
by no means a general rule, is, that the first is most frequently in 6, 8
time, the last 9, 8. The specimen given is a lively Highland air, but
if sung or performed slowly, it is a very beautiful melody.

Of the Pastoral Melodies many others might have been selected,
perhaps superior to the one given, but amid so great a variety of beauti-
ful airs, it is not easy to fix on one that will be admired by all. In
looking over Fraser's Collection, I hesitated whether I should substitute
"Nigean doun na Gobhair," The Maid that tends the Goats; " JBha-
narach dhoun achruidh," The Dairy Maid; or others of the same char-
acter. The Lament of Ossian may not be received by the skeptical as
the production of that bard, but it must be allowed to be, like the Druid's
song, a fragment of merit, which bears undoubted marks of great* anti-
quity. >

The MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS of the ancient Celts were simple; that of
which we read most is the harp, but they also had others. When the
Gauls sacked Rome they had trumpets with which they sounded the
charge,* and which were employed to assemble their council; they made
a most horrid noise, and were at times blown to terrify the enemy.*
The horn of battle was used by the old Caledonians to call the army to-
gether, and sounded for a retreat; " The horn of Fingal" was, proba-
bly, his attendant trumpet. The Cornu was blown by the Druids, and
their Christian successors appear to have retained the practice. St.
Patrick is represented as carrying one. The wind instruments of this
sort in use among the ancient Irish, were the Stuic, a brazen tube, used
as a speaking trumpet. The Corna, in its rudest form, was a cow's
horn, and was sometimes sufficiently powerful to be heard at a distance
of six mites. The Dudag is not certainly known, but is believed to
have been a semi-circular horn. Some of them were found near Ar-
magh, and are engraved in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Society ;t
when blown they are said to have made a tremendous noise. The Buab-
hal, Beann, and Adharc, are not precisely known, but are conjectured
to be only different names for cornua. O'Conner says, that particular
clans had horns of peculiar tones, and Froissart describes the Scots at
Otterburn as blowing them in different notes. The Irish also speak of
Gall trompa, the stranger's trumpet, and the Blaosg, or concha marina,
resembling the buccinum of the Latins. The Cibbual, or corabas, was
composed of several small plates of brass, or shingles of wood, fastened
with a thong, being held in one hand while it was struck with the palm
of the other The Corabasnas consisted of two circular plates of brass,
connected by a twisted wire, which, on being struck, produced a jing-
ling sound, and was used to mark time. The Corna'n, or crona'n, was
named from cor, music, and anan, base, an instrument to which the

* Diodorus. f Vol. viii.


lachdar cliannus was similar. The readan, fideog, or lonloingean, are
supposed to have been a sort of flutes.*

The HARP, that most ancient and esteemed of stringed instruments,
was a favorite of the Celtic nations, and was retained in the British Isl-
ands when it had become almost unknown on the continent. The Hy-
perboreans, who are believed to have been the Aborigines of Britain,
were celebrated performers on it, accompanying their hymns with its
music, and carrying their offerings to Delos with both flutes and harps.

The Irish have, in all ages, been noted for their excellence in harp
music, and many proofs could be adduced of their proficiency. It is re-
lated of the Xing of Munster, so early as 489, that he had the best band
of harpers of any in his time, who accompanied their music with sing-
ing ;"f but the most flattering testimonial to the national merit is paid by
Giraldus Cambrensis, who resided in Ireland for some time in the latter
part 'of the twelfth century. His eulogium is certainly high, and its jus-
tice is confirmed by his countrymen, who acknowledge, that to the Irish
they owe not only the improvement of the harp, but that of their music
also.J Powell, in his History of Cambria, says, that in 1078, " Gryf-
fith ap Cynan, or Conan, brought from Ireland cunning musicians, that
devised in a manner all the instrumental music now used, as appears by
the names of the tunes and measures." That their harp may have been
improved by the Irish is probable, but it was used by them from the
remotest ages. The harper was a distinguished member of the royal
household; none were permitted by their laws to play on this instrument
except freemen; and it was reckoned disgraceful for a gentleman not
to have a harp and be able to play on it. Buchannan is adduced as
testifying that the harpers in Scotland were all Irishmen, but as the pas-
sage refers to a king, whose existence is denied, it is unfair to press it
into the service, or lay any weight on it. Ireland at one time does ap-
pear to have obtained a superior reputation for skill in harp music; but
Giraldus who extols them so highly, says, when he had made himself
better informed, that it was the opinion of many that the Scots far sur-
passed the Irish in musical science, and that Scotland had become the
resort of those who were desirous of perfecting themselves in it. Al-
though there is not, I believe, at present in the Highlands any profes-
sional harper, and although it had been so long disused, that its former
existence in these parts was doubted, it is easily proved, from other au-
thorities than the above, to have been common to the Gael. Buchan-
nan speaks of their delightful playing on it; and Major tells us, James
I., who died in 1437, excelled all the Irish and Scots' Highlanders, who
were the best of all harpers. In short, harpers were hereditary attend-
ants on the Scots' kings and the Highland chiefs, from whom they had
certain lands and perquisites; and this is confirmed by a hundred names
of places throughout the Highlands, and by numerous traditions.

One instance, apparently the latest, of a harper attending a Highland
* Walker's Irish Bards. t Life of St. Kieran. t Caradoc, ap. Wynne, Walker, <fco


army occurs in the case of that sent against the cathclic lords, Errol,
Huntly, and Angus, in 1594, on which occasion, Argyle carried with
him his harper to animate his troops, unfortunately without effect. The
prophecy of a witch, whom he also took with him, that it should be play-
ed at the Castle of Slanes, the Earl of Errol's seat, on a certain day,
may have been literally true, for it could have been there sounded at
the time foretold, but the Campbells had previously suffered a total

A harp key, that had been time immemorial in the family of Lord Mac
Donald, and that bore marks of antiquity, being ornamented with gold
and silver, and a precious stone, making its value eighty or one hundred
guineas, was presented by his lordship to the celebrated O'Kane. But
the harps of Lude, that have been preserved so long by the Robertsons
of that house, are now in possession of the Highland Society, and remain
valuable relics in themselves, and evidence that this instrument held the
same place in Scotland that it did in Wales and Ireland. One of these
harps was brought from Argyle by a daughter of the Laird of Lament,
who married into the family about 1460, and is supposed to be some cen-
turies older than that time; the other was presented by Queen Mary,
when on a hunting excursion, to Beatrix Gardyn, daughter to the Laird
of Banchory, near Aberdeen, who was married to Findla Mhor, an an-
cestor of the Farquharsons of Invercauld, from whom both families are
descended,* and such a present shows that to play on the harp was at
that time an accomplishment of the ladies of Scotland, at least of the
Highland?, for it is not to be supposed the Queen would have bestowed
this instrument on one who did not understand it.

Mr. Bowles, the ingenious author of Hermes Britannicus, believes
the form of the Celtic harp is represented in the figures on an ancient
monument in Egypt, where it is seen exactly to resemble that of the

There appears to have been four sorts of harps among the ancient
Irish. The common sort, or clarsach, the ceirnine, a smaller sort, the
creamthine cruit, and the cionar cruit. The harp proper was called
clar or clarsach by the Scots and Irish, and was sometimes termed sit-
earn, a word now obsolete. The Welsh call the harp telin, which seems
to be a pronunciation of teud luin, an appellation borrowed from the
Gael, who frequently term it poetically, teud ciuil, strings of melody.

The Cruit, or croith, as some Irish will have it, is often confounded
with the harp, but they were evidently different; " am bu lionmhan cruit
is c/ar," there were many a cruit and harp, says an old poem. The
name, which is Latinized Crotta, is derived by etymologists from crith,
a shaking. It is the crwth of the Welsh, and the parent of the violin,
from which, in old English, a fiddler was denominated a crowther. This
instrument was once much esteemed in Scotland, but has been so long
disused in that country, that the Welsh think it their own.'f

* Trans, of Highland Soc. iii. p. 39. Introd. t Evans.


The Creamthme cruit had six strings, and was used at carousals; the
Cionar cruit, used by the bards, had ten strings, and was played by a
bow, answering, it is thought, to the canora cythara of the Romans, and
the modern guitar.

From some ancient sculpture, the Gaelic harp appears to have been
of the same form as it is still. That which is believed, apparently with
truth, to have belonged to Brian Boroimh, king of Ireland, slain in 1014,
is preserved in Trinity College, Dublin, and has been engraved in seve-
ral works. It bears an exact resemblance to the clarsach Lumanach,
as the Lament's harp is called, and that of Queen Mary, in the number
of strings and general appearance, being only one inch higher than
the latter, which is thirty-one inches in extreme height, and the breadt \
of the lowest part of the sounding board, which rises towards the
middle, while that of the other is flat, is only eleven inches and a
half. This harp has twenty-eight string holes, and the like number of
pins or keys to which the strings are fixed. 'The holes are quite plain,
unlike those of the other, which have brass escutcheons of neat work-
manship fixed in the sound board. In front of the upper arm weie the
queen's portrait, and the arms of Scotland, both in gold, and on each
side was placed a jewel, surrounded by minute inlaid work, as repre-
sented, but of those valuables it was despoiled in the troubles of 1745.
Queen Mary's harp is altogether a more neat and compact instrument
than the other, being little more than half its weight. The Caledonian
harp has thirty strings, and has this peculiarity, that the front arm is not
perpendicular to the sounding board, but is turned considerably towards
the left, to afford a greater opening for the voice of the performer, and
this construction shows that the accompaniment of the voice was a chief
province of the harper.* Giraldus describes the harp as containing
twenty-eight strings, but they were afterwards increased to thirty-three,
and Mysut, a Jesuit, is said to have introduced double strings in the
fifteenth century. The old Welsh harp is said to have had nine strings,
md that of the Caledonians only four. An account is given by Martin
of a man who travelled about as a harper, with an instrument contain-
ing only four strings, and ornamented with two hart's horns in front. It
was first intended to string the above two harps with brass wire, accord-
<ng to the old Scots' and Irish manner, but as it would have been neces-
sary, in order to bring out the proper sound, for one to allow the finger
nails to grow to a certain length, that method was abandoned. A fine
clear tone was produced by the finger nails from the wire, and it is relat-
ed of O'Kane, the Irish harper, who frequented the Highlands about
thirty years ago, that, inheriting a bardic spirit of arrogance, he was often
punished by being turned from the houses of his patrons with his nails
cut. The strings were also sometimes struck by a plectrum, or bit of
crooked iron Both Highlanders, Irish, and Welsh, held their harp on
the left side, and a remarkable peculiarity in the construction of the

* Gunn's Enquiry respecting the Performance of the Harp.


Caledonian one, as represented by Gunn, is, that it is bent to accommo-
date the arm.

Buchannan describes the Scots' harp as sometimes strung with wire,
and sometimes with gut. The Welsh now use strings of the latter, but
formerly they appear to have used hair; hence Borde speaks of his
harp, which was

"made of a good mare's skyn,
The strynges be of horse hair, it maketh a good dyn."

There is this distinction made by the Chronicle of 1597, that the clar-
ishoe (clarsach) had brass wire, and the harp sinew strings.

The Highlanders took great pains to decorate their harps. Buchan-
nan said their only ambition seemed to be to deck them with silver and
precious stones; the poor, who could afford nothing better, using crys-
tals and brass.

Roderick Morrison, usually called Rory Dall, or the blind, was one
of the last native harpers. He served in that capacity to the laird of
Mac Leod, but on the death of his master, Dunvegan castle and its
establishment being abandoned, he began an itinerant life. About 1650,
he accompanied the Marquis of Huntly on a visit to Robertson of Lude,
on which occasion he composed a porst or air, which, with other pieces,
are yet preserved, called Suipar, chiurn na Leod, or Lude's Supper.
There is a proverb in Gaelic, referring to this man, implying that " one
may tire of the,best tune that Roderick ever played."

Mr. Robertson was an eminent performer himself; and Mac Intosh,
the compiler of the Gaelic Proverbs, relates the following anecdote,
which he received from his father: " One night, my father, James Mac
Intosh, said to Lude, that he would be happy to hear him play upon the
harp, which, at that time, began to give place to the violin. After sup-
per, Lude and he retired to another room, in which there were a couple
of harps, one of which belonged to Queen Mary. James, says Lude,
here are two harps; the largest one is the loudest, but the small one is
the sweetest, which do you wish to hear played? James answered the
small one, which Lude took up and played upon till daylight."

John Garbh Mac Lean, of Coll, who lived in the latter end of the
reign of King James VI., and first of Charles, was a composer of music
and a performer on the harp. Caoineadh Rioghail, the Royal Lament,
and Toum Murran, two of his compositions, are yet preserved. This
anecdote has been handed down concerning him: the captain of an En-
glish vessel, which had been wrecked on the island, went to the Castle
of Coll, where, seeing the laird sitting with a bible in one hand, and a
harp placed by his side, he was struck by the venerable appearance
of the old gentleman and his occupation, and exclaimed with admiration,
" Is this King David restored again to the earth?"

Murdoch Macdonald, who was brought up in this family, was, per-
haps, the last harper. He studied with Rory Dall, in Sky, and after-
wards in Ireland, and remained with Mac Lean, as harper, until 1734,


as appears from an account of payments still remaining, soon after whicn
he appears to have retired to Quinish, in Mull, where he died. He is
still spoken of as Murdoch Clarsair, and his son was distinguished as
Eoin Mac Mhurchaidh Clarsair. The Mac Niels, a celebrated race of
bards, were the hereditary harpers of the Mac Leans, of Dowart.

When Alexander III. met Edward I. at Westminster, he was attend-
ed by harpers and minstrels, and Elye, the chief performer, in the first
class received more than either the trumpeter or minstrel.

Harps were a sort of heir looms, and were sometimes very old. The
Caledonian harp before described, carries evidence in its shattered state,
of its antiquity and ill usage. Mr. Gunn, in his " Enquiry," has the
following passage on this subject: " I have been favored with a, copy
of an ancient Gaelic poem, together with the music to which it is still
sung in the Highlands, in which the poet personifies and addresses a very
old harp, by asking what had become of its former lustre? The harp
replies, that it had belonged to a king of Ireland, and had been present
at many a royal banquet; that it had afterwards been successively in the
possession of Dargo, son of the Druid of Baal, of Gaul, of Fiilan, of
Oscar, of O'Duine, of Diarmid, of a physician, of a bard, and lastly of
a priest, c who, in a secluded corner, was meditating on a white book.' "

The PIPE is a most ancient instrument of music. It was well known
to the Trojans and Greeks, among whom there were different sorts for
Dorian, Lydian, and Phrygian measures; but the addition of a bag and
accompanying drones or burdens, must have been an invention of sub-
sequent times. Theocritus, who flourished 385 A. C., mentions it in
his Pastorals, and Procopius describes it as having both the skin and
the wood extremely fine. Pronomus, the Theban, is said, by Pausan-
ias, to have been the first that played the different measures at once on
one pipe.

There is at Rome, a fine Greek sculpture, in basso relievo, represent-
ing a piper playing on an instrument bearing a close resemblance to the
Highland bagpipe. The Greeks, unwilling as they were to surrender
to others the merit of useful inventions, acknowledge, that to the barba-
rians, i. e. the Celts, they owed much of their music, and many of its
instruments. The Romans, who, no doubt, borrowed the bagpipe from
the Greeks, used it as a martial instrument among their infantry.* It is
represented on several coins, marbles, 8cc.; but from rudeness of execu-
tion, or decay of the materials, it is difficult to ascertain its exact form.
On the reverse of a coin of the Emperor Nero, who thought himself an
admirable performer on it, and who publicly displayed his abilities, the
bagpipe is represented. An ancient figure, supposed to be playing on
it, has been represented, and particularly described by Signer Macari,
of Cortona, and it is engraved in Walker's History of the Irish Bards,
but it does not, in my opinion, appear to be a piper. A small bronze

* Varro calls it Pythaula, a word of Greek derivation, and not dissimilar to the CeJ
tie piob-mhala, pronounced piovala.


figure, found at Richborough, in Kent, and conjectured to have been an
ornament of horse furniture, is not much more distinct. Mr. King, who
has engraved three views of it, and others, believe it to represent a bag-
piper, to which it has certainly more resemblance than to " a person
drinking out of a leathern bottle."

The bagpipe, of a rude and discordant construction, is in common use
throughout the East, and that it continues the popular instrument of the
Italian peasant is well known. In this country it is the medium through
which the good Catholics show their devotion to the Virgin Mother, who
receives their adoration in the lengthened strains of the sonorous Piva.
It is a singular but faithful tradition of the church, that the shepherds who
first saw the infant Jesus in the barn, expressed their gladness by play-
ing on their bagpipes. That this is probable and natural will not, be denied,
but the illuminator of a Dutch missal, in the library of King's College,
Old Aberdeen, surely indulged his fancy when he represented one of the
appearing angels likewise playing a salute on this curious instrument.
The Italian shepherds religiously adhere to the laudable practice of their
ancestors, and, in visiting Rome and other places to celebrate the ad-
vent of our Saviour, they carry the pipes along with them, and their
favorite tune is the Sicilian mariners, often sung in Protestant churches.

" It is a popular opinion that the Virgin Mary is very fond, and is an
excellent judge of music. I received this information on Christmas
morning, when I was looking at two poor Calabrian pipers, doing their
utmost to please her and the infant in her arms. They played for a full
hour to one of her images, which stands at the corner of a street. All
the other statues of the Virgin, which are placed in the streets, are
serenaded in the same manner every Christmas morning. On my in-
quiring into the meaning of that ceremony, I was told the above-men-
tioned circumstance of her character, which, though you have always
thought highly probable, perhaps you never before knew for certain.
My informer was a pilgrim, who stood listening with great devotion to
the pipers. He told me, at the same time, that the Virgin's taste was
too refined to have much satisfaction in the performance of these poor
Calabrians, which was chiefly intended for the infant, and he desired me
to remark, that the tunes were plain, simple, and such as might natu-
rally be supposed agreeable to the ear of a child of his time of life."*

Some writers suppose the Highlanders derived the bagpipe from the
Romans, while others think it was received from the Northern nations.
Giraldus Cambrensis does not appear to have found it among the Scots,
except he means it by the chorus, an instrument of the Welsh also
The term may be used to express a chord of pipes, a conjecture that is
supported by the inability of antiquaries to tell us what else it can be.
The chord at any rate is not mentioned by him as an instrument of
the Irish, but the writers of that country think the bagpipe was known
very anciently. The Cuisley ciuil is believed to have been a simple

* Moore's View of Society and Manners in Italy. Letter 52.


sort, but Walker and others acknowledge that the bagpipe was intro
duced from Scotland.

It seems impossible to trace its origin among the Scots, but it is un-
doubtedly of great antiquity. Without deducing it from other nations,
we may reasonably presume that in a country to* which it has been so
long peculiar, it was from its primitive simplicity, gradually brought to
its present perfection: that the chanter was an improvement of the sim-
ple pastoral reed, to which the drones, a happy accompaniment, were
subsequently added. The great Highland pipe is, perhaps, the only
national instrument in Europe; every other may be found common to
many countries, but this is used in Scotland alone. "In halls of joy,
and in scenes of mourning, it has prevailed; it has animated her warriors
in battle, and welcomed them back after their toils, to the homes of their
love and the hills of their nativity. Its strains were the first sounded on
the ears of infancy, and they are the last to be forgotten in the wander-
ings of age. Even Highlanders will allow that it is not the gentlest
of instruments; but when far from their mountain homes, what sounds,
however melodious, could thrill round their heart like one burst of their
own wild native pipe ? The feelings which other instruments awaken,
are general and undefined, because they talk alike to Frenchmen, Span-
iards, Germans, and Highlanders, for they are common to all; but the
bagpipe is sacred to Scotland, and speaks a language which Scotsmen
only feel. It talks to them of home and all the past, and brings before
them, on the burning shores of India, the wild hills and oft frequented
streams of Caledonia, the friends that are thinking of them, and the
sweethearts and wives that are weeping for them there ! and need it be
told here, to how many fields of danger and victory its proud strains have
led! There is not a battle that is honorable to Britain in which its war
blast has not sounded. When every other instrument has been hushed
by the confusion and carnage of the scene, it has been borne into the
thick of battle, and, far in the advance, its bleeding but devoted bearer,
sinking on the earth, has sounded at once encouragement to his country-
men and his own coronach."*

How many anecdotes might be given of the effects of this instrument
on the hardy sons of Caledonia? In the war in India, a piper in Lord
Mac Leod's regiment, seeing the British army giving way before supe-
rior numbers, played, in his best style, the well known Cogadh na Sith,
which filled the Highlanders with such spirit, that, immediately rallying,
they cut through their enemies. For this fortunate circumstance, Sir
Eyre Coote, filled with admiration, and appreciating the value of such
music, presented the regiment with fifty pounds, to buy a stand of pipes.
At the battle of Quebec, in 1760, the troops were retreating in disorder,
and the general complained to a field officer in Eraser's regiment of the
bad conduct of his corps, <: Sir," said the officer, with a degree of
warmth, "you did very wrong in forbidding the pipers to play; nothing

* Preface to Mac Donald's Ancient Martial Music of Caledonia.


inspirits the Highlanders so much, even now they would be of some use."
" Let them blow in God's name, then," said the general; and the order
being given, the pipers with alacrity sounded the Cruinneachadh, on
which the Gael formed in the rear, and bravely returned to the charge.
George Clark, now piper to the Highland Society of London, was piper
to the 71st regiment at the battle of Vimiera, where he was wounded in
the leg by a musket ball as he boldly advanced. Finding himself disa-
bled, he sat down on the ground, and, putting his pipes in order, called
out, " Weel, lads, I am sorry I can goe nre farther wi you, bit deel hae
my saul if ye sail want music;" and struck up a favorite warlike air,
with the utmost unconcern for any thing, but the unspeakable delight of
sending his comrades to battle with the animating sound of the pio-

It is a popular tradition, that the enemy anxiously level at the pipers,
aware of the power of their music; and a story is related of one, who, at
the battle of Waterloo, received a shot in the bag before he had time to
make a fail beginning, which so roused his Highland blood, that, dash-
ing his pipes on the ground, he drew his broadsword, and wreaked his
vengeance on his foes with the fury of a lion, until his career was stop-
ped by death from numerous wounds. It is related of the piper major
of the 92nd, on the same occasion, that, placing himself on an eminence
where the shot was flying like hail, regardless of his danger, he proudly
sounded the battle air to animate his noble companions. On one occa-
sion, during the peninsular war, the same regiment came suddenly on
the French army, and the intimation of their approach was as suddenly
given by the pipers bursting out their gathering. The effect was instan-
taneous; the enemy fled, and the Highlanders pursued.

The use of the bagpipe in war is very ancient among the Highlan-
ders. Its fitness for the tumult of battle must have given it an early
preference over the harp, and led, from the military state in which the
Gael were so long placed, to the disuse of the latter.* Robertson, in
his Enquiry into the Fine Arts, says, that pipe music is the voice of up-
roar and misrule, and that the airs calculated for it seem to be those of
real nature and of rude passion. Its correspondence with the feelings
may have increased the influence of pipe music over the Highlanders,
but their partiality does not depend on this; for although its use in in-
spiring courage in battle was unparalleled and held indispensable, yet it
was equally in request for the exhilaration of wedding and other parties,
expressing sorrow on occasion of death or misfortune, and amusing the
shepherd in the solitude of his avocations. At all rural occupations in
the Highlands it has been observed that labor is accompanied by sing-
ing. Where music can be had, it is preferred. A piper is often regu-
. larly engaged in harvest to animate the reapers, and he generally keeps
behind the slowest worker.

* The Athenians rejected the use of pipes, as they were not only a hindrance to dis-
course but to hearing. Major represents the Scots at Bannockburn as using tub
.Xui, and cornua


The effect is not confined to the mountaineers, for the inhabitants of
the Low Country are equally partial to it; and even those of the South-
ern parts of the island are not unmoved by the tones of a well-played
Highland bagpipe. When the Margrave of Anspach was on a visit to
Duff House, he was entertained by this instrument, and on being asked
how he liked the piobrachd, he confessed the effect of the bold rapid
and intricate measures, by placing his hand on his heart, and intimating
the emotion which he experienced.

The piobrachd, as its name implies, is properly a pipe tune, and is
usually the Cruinneachadh, or gathering of a clan, being a long piece
of music composed on occasion of some victory, or other fortunate cir-
cumstance in the history of a tribe, which, when played, is a warning for
the troops to turn out. There are, however, other classes of this sort
of music, which generally pass by the same name, but which in reality
are, or ought to be, used for particular purposes. Some of these had
their origin in similar events to the cuairt piobrachd, or regular gather-
ing, and are of the same character, but are properly a cumhadh, coro-
nach, or lament, and a failte, salute, or welcome. The first has been
composed ^n the death of some celebrated chief, and is played at the
funeral of his successors and others of the clan, and the second has been
composed on the birth of a chief, or gentleman of a clan, his baptism,
arrival at age, marriage, or other happy event, and was played on like
occasions to his successors, and when the chief, or colonel of a clan,
came on the field of muster. Although their characters are much alike,
with the exception of the coronach, which is, of course, particularly slow,
plaintive, and expressive, little or no attention is now paid to the distinc-
tions, and so much has propriety been disregarded, that these pieces of
music are frequently called " marches." Now the pipers may and do
play piobrachd when a regiment is on the inarch, but it is not adapted
for regularity, because the time varies in its different parts. A pio-
brachd may be described as an extended piece of music adapted for the
bagpipe, composed in celebration of a battle where the clan was success-
ful, or composed, -before the conflict commenced, to excite the warriors
to heroism, or it was first played even in the midst of a battle, from a
sort of inspiration produced by enthusiasm; which pieces of music be-
come, in particular clans, consecrated to all succeeding enterprizes of
war and occasions of festive enjoyment, when it is desirable to enliven
the company by recalling the deeds of other years. But although clan
gatherings are now all more or less old, pipers continued to compose
similar music until recently. Several originated in the year 1745, as
one by the piper of Clunv, who composed a piobrachd during the battle
of Falkirk, which is yet well known; and later instances may not be
wanting, but the old gatherings retained their place, which they certain-
ly deserve, from the true expression and genuine character of their
music. Indeed, the composition of salutes and other piobrachds is now,
perhaps, oftener attempted than success can warrant; and pipe musi-


cians would acquire greater credit by paying more attention to the
inimitable works of their ancestors than to their own rhapsodies. It is
alleged, by those who are competent to form a correct opinion, that the
present pipers are inferior to their ancestors, arid are getting worse.
There are certainly many exceptions to this assertion where a musical
ear is assisted by knowledge, which the old pipers did not possess. The
lists of competitors at Edinburgh show numerous names of clever pipers;
and in London, Mr. Mac Kay, piper to his Royal Highness the Duke
of Sussex, and Mr. Clark, who officiates in the same capacity, to the
Highland Society, are excellent; but we must regret that the same cause
which led to the decay of oral recitation, impaired our modern list of an-
cient Gaelic music; for the former celebrated seminaries being no more,
a considerable portion of pipe music, from having never been noted
down, is already lost. " In less than twenty years," says Mac Donald,
in his excellent Preface to his Gaelic Melodies, " it would be in vain to
attempt a collection of Highland music."

The piper, who was hereditary, held an important place in the estab-
lishment of a chief. He had lands for his support, and was of superior
rank to the other members of the "tail," had a gilli, or servant, who
carried his pipes, and was esteemed, as his profession entitled him, to
the appel"'ition of a gentleman. He accompanied the chief wherever he
went, and \ ith the harper had a right to appear in all public meetings.
He promenaded in front of the castle while the laird was dressing, at an
early hour in the morning, and enlivened the meals either in the same
way, or at the end of the hail.*

A striking proof of the respect paid to this class, resembling the ven-
eration in which the bards were held, occurred on the defeat of the Mac
Leods at Inverury, in Aberdeenshire, by the rebels in 1745. Mac
Rimmon, the chief's piper, and master of the celebrated college, was,
after a stout resistance, made prisoner. Next morning none of the
pipers in the victorious army played through the town, as usual, and
being asked the reason of this extraordinary conduct, they answered,
that while Mac Rimrnon was in captivity their instruments would not
sound; and it was only upon the release of the respected prisoner that
the musicians returned to their duty.

Being held in so much estimation it was to be expected that they
should become aware of their own importance, and be tenacious of their
honor and privileges. Many instances might be recorded of their nice
feeling upon this point.

The captain of one of the companies of the Black Watch had receiv-
ed orders to add a drum to his bagpipe, which could not be dispensed

* In some towns a practice exists, derived, in all probability, from the duties of
these musicians. In Perth, I believe, there is still a piper who plays through the
streets at five o'clock in the morning and seven at night. The death of one of these
performers sometime since was much regretted at the time, the music having an
effect in the morning "inexpressibly soothing and delightful." Memorabilia of Perth,
p. 13. In Keith, an inland town of Banffshire, the same custom is retained.


with, as the Highlanders could not be made to march without it. The
drummer was accordingly procured, between whom and the original
musician a bitter contest arose about the post of honor. The contention
at last grew extremely warm, and came to the ears of the captain, who
called the parties before him to adjust their difference, and decided the
matter in favor of the drummer, notwithstanding the warm remonstrances
and forcible reasoning of the piper. " The devil, sir," says he, " and
shall a little rascal that beats upon a sheepskin take the right hand of
me, who am a musician? "

Perhaps this is the first instance of a drummer being placed in a
Highland regiment; formerly they had none, and, although they were
used in 1745, the pipers outnumbered them beyond comparison, for,
wherever they found one who could perform on this instrument, they
compelled him to follow them, and Prince Charles is said to have been
entertained by thirty-two, who marched before his tent during meals.
Some of the unfortunate pipers who were taken on the suppression of
the rebellion, thought they could effectually plead that, being only
pipers, they had not carried arms against his Majesty, but it was decided
that their pipe was an instrument of war. Mac Donnel, the famous
Irish piper, lived in great style, keeping servants, horses, Sec. In the
"Recollections" of O'Keefe, the following anecdote is given: " One
day that I and a very large party dined with Mr. Thomas Grant, at Cork,
Mac Donnel was sent for, to play for the company during dinner. A
table and chair were placed for him on the landing outside the room, a
bottle of claret and glass on the table, and a servant waiting behind the chair
designed for him, the door being left wide open. He made his appear-
ance, took a rapid survey of the preparation for him, filled his glass,
stepped to the dancing room door, looked full into the room, said ' Mr.
Grant, your health, and company! ' drank it off, threw half-a-crovvn on
his little table, saying to the servant, ' there, my lad, is two shillings for
my bottle of wine, and sixpence for yourself He ran out of the house,
mounted his hunter, and galloped off, followed by his groom! " This
was a remarkable case; all pipers, though comfortable enough, had not
quite so much of the good things of this life. I recollect an eccentric
but respectable minstrel, who perambulated Aberdeen, Banff, Moray,
Kincardine, and adjoining counties, delighting the families he visited
by his melodies, and gratifying them by his amusing compositions, for
he woed the muses. Poor Clark, although aware of his abilities, was
not so independent as Mac Donnel, but would play and rhyme con annore
to his friends for a lee lang day, and good humoredly tell his entertain-
ers, at the close of a panegyric,

" T maun gang hame, the nicht's growin' dark,
Your humble servant, Kennedy Clark."

Whilst other professions, with the exception of the bard, might be
adopted at pleasure, the piper was obliged to serve a regular appren-
ticeship. The most celebrated seminary for instruction was kept in tho


Isle of Sky by the Mac Rimmons, hereditary pipers to the chiefs of Mac
Leod They held certain lands, from time immemorial, for the duty of
attending the chief and his clan, and increased their income by pupils,
who spent seven years in perfecting themselves for pipers, and the mas-
ters never admitted a student, it is said, who had not an ear for music.
In the Highlands, however, such an individual was not likely to be met

The Mac Rimmons have long since ceased to play for their chief, or
give instructions to youth. Captain Mac Rimmon died lately in Essex,
at an advanced age, and the descendant of those celebrated pipers is
now, I believe, a respectable farmer in Kent.

The Mac Carters were the hereditary pipers of the Mac Donalds of
the Isles, and a descendant was long established in Edinburgh as a pro-
fessor of that branch of music, and was attended by several scholars.

There was a branch of the Mac Gregors established in Rannach who
were celebrated musicians, and afforded instruction to the chief part of
the pipers of the central Highlands, as those of the house of Mac Pher-
son, of Cluny, &.c. This tribe, from their extensive knowledge of his-
tory, were termed Clan an sgeulaich, or tellers of tales, which proves
that pipers were anciently qualified in that part of the bardic duties.

The care of the Highland Societies of London and Scotland, to en-
courage the preservation and perfection of pipe music by periodical com-
petitions, and the award of various prizes of considerable value, has
done much to revive the popularity of the bagpipe. The interesting
performances, which are held at the theatre, are numerously attended,
and the audience are transported with feelings of enthusiasm when the
performers, in all the imposing effect of costume and thrilling war notes,
are on the stage. The plan is, to intersperse dancing with the music,
and may be thus shortly described. The exhibition is divided into acts,
and commences with a salute to the Society, by its piper, which is fol-
lowed by a Highland dance. Then three or more of the competitors
play each a piobrachd, when another dance leads to the performance of
two or three piobrachds, by as many pipers. The second act is also
three or four piobrachds, a dance, two or three piobrachds, and a dance;
and the third act is similar, the only difference being in the dancing,
which is sometimes Strathspey, sometimes Reel, &c. The judges then
retire to determine the prizes, which are also given for dress, during
which time the audience are entertained by a salute. The prizes, being
determined, are delivered by the president, when a dance forms the con-
clusion. Ten or fifteen other Highlanders usually appear, who are
rewarded by a share of the money received by the sale of tickets.

Every piper must give a list of not fewer than twelve piobrachds which
he can play, from which the committee select one. At the competition
in 1829, there appeared twenty-five pipers, whose twelve tunes would
amount to three hundred, but there were only one hundred and three
different, which is certainly a small proportion, but perhaps not so sur


prising when the length of these pieces are taken into consideration, the
few that have ever been noted in musical characters, and the small tirao
that can now be devoted to the acquirement of music taught only by
the ear.

A piobrachd will be understood by those to whom " The Battle of
Prague/' and similar pieces of that class of music, are familiar. It
opens with a certain measure called the urlar, subject, or groundwork
of the piece, and by variations of this air, sometimes extending to great
length, the piece is completed. The different parts are meant to express
the various feelings according with the transaction, such as the rising
to battle, the tumultuous collision of the combatants, the cries of the
wounded, and wailing of their relations; and, finally, the exultation for
victory, or lamentation for defeat. After each part is gone through, the
opening strain is repeated, and invariably concludes the piece. This,
which is observable in poetry, is allied to the " pugnavibus ensibus,"
which introduces every stanza in the celebrated song of Regner Lod-
brog, and would seern intended to recall the mind to a certain stage in
the enterprise on which it can rest with unalloyed satisfaction.

This sort of music cannot, however, be appreciated by many, who
erroneously imagine it to be a mere voluntary, played as the taste and
fancy of the performer may dictate. The late Duke of Gordon used to
relate an anecdote, with much humor, which came under his own obser-
vation. In a town, in the north of England, a piper played a piobrachd
which wonderfully excited the attention of his hearers, who seemed
equally astonished at its length, and the wildness and apparent discon-
nexion of the parts. Unable to understand it, yet desirous of gratifying
their curiosity, one of the spectators, at the conclusion of the perform-
ance, anxiously intreated the piper to " play it in English."

When the urlar, which most generally is in common time, is played,
the siubhal, or variation, first succeeds, of which there is most usually a
doubling, and often a trebling, the time quickening, and the last, being
generally termed taorluidh, or fast movement; the urlar, like a chorus,
is then repeated, and variation second commences. I shall finish the
description from "Cean na drochait bige,"orthe Clans' Gathering, a
piobrachd composed at the battle fought by Montrose at Inverlochy, in
1645. The second variation has both doubling and trebling, after which
is the urlar, and rhen the third variation, with its doubling, trebling, and
closing strain. The fourth variation has only a doubling, arid the repe-
tition of the urlar leads to the crunluath, or round, quick, and yielding
movement, which has its doubling, trebling, and quadrupling, the latter
part, in 2. time, being in the style of music known in Gaelic by the term
cliathluath, which is " the quickest, of all runnings," and extends through
sixty-four bars, the piece closing with the opening strain additional.

It is to be observed, in explanation of the musical terms applicable to
the bagpipe, that the taorluidh is 1 time; the crunluath is also of that
time, but the crunluath fosgilt, "an open running," and crunluath



breabich, " a smart and starting running," are in common time, while
the cliathluath may be either in i, |, or |.*

A short list of some well known piobrachds and porsts, or airs, with
an account of their origin, may not be unacceptable.


Of Cogadh na sith, "war or peace," the history appears to be un-
known, but it is supposed to indicate a determination either to obtain
honorable peace, or engage in immediate war, and is peculiar to no

Piobrachd Mhic Dhonuil dhubh was the war tune of Black Donald
Balloch of the Isles, when preparing for the battle of Inverlochy, in
1427, and Cean na drochait mhoridh was composed during the battle.

Ruaig Ghlinn Bhruin was composed on the rout of the Colquhons,
by the Mac Gregors, in 1602.

Cill Chriosde was played by Glengarry's piper, when, in revenge of
the murder of Aonghas a Choile, by the men of Culloden, a number
who had taken refuge from the exasperated Mac Donalds in a place of
worship called Cill Chriosde, or Christ's church, were burned.

Craig elachadh, the Grant's Gathering, a fine piobrachd, derives its
name from their war cry, or place of rendezvous: a rock near Aviemore,
in Strathspey.

Creag dubh is, for a similar reason, the gathering of the clan Chat-
tan; but Cluny's piper, at the battle of Falkirk, in 1745, composed a
piobrachd which is very popular among the clan.

The Cruinneachadh Clan Ranuil excited the Mac Donalds of Clan
Ranald to the rising in 1715, and subsequent battle of Dumblane, or
Sherrifmuir, where the chief was slain.

Bodaich na m briogas, " the fellows with the breeches," commemo-
rates a battle in which the men of Braidalban defeated the Sinclairs of
Caithness at Wick.

Blar Druim Thalasgair was composed on the battle of Waternish, in
the Isle of Sky.

Thogail nam bo, " We come through drift to drive the prey," is the
Mac Farlane Gathering.

Spaidseareachd, and Biorlin tighearna Cholla, are those of the Mac
Leans, of Coll; arid Spaidseareachd Siosalaich Strathglais, is that of
Chisholm, of Strathglas.

The Forbes' Gathering is now known by the local words, which begin
" Ca'Glenernan, gather Glennochty," and seems the air which has been
appropriated to the " Locheil's warning" of Campbell. There is another
tune, called Glenernan, having every characteristic of a piobrachd.

* Mac Donald's Martial Music of Caledonia.

f Called also Porst tiannal. It is to be regretted that we are never likely to see the
historical accounts promised by Mr. Mac Donald, his son, who was to superintend the
work, being unfortunately dead.



Faille Phrionsa was composed by John Mac Intyre, piper to Menzies
jf Menzies, on the landing of King James in 1715. There was also a
welcome of Prince Charles to the Isle of Sky, and a Salute on his land-
ng at Moidart in 1745.

Ghlas mheur is an ancient piobrachd, composed by Raonull Mac
Ailean oig, a Mac Donald of Morar, to which there is a wild traditional
account attached.

Moladh Mari, or Mary's Praise, is an animated piece throughout.
It was composed by the Mac Lachlan family piper, and is the clan

The Mac Donalds of Boisdale have a salute composed when Alastair
More, the first of the title, took possession of his estate.

The Menzies, the Mac Kenzies, the Mac Donalds of Clan Rannald,
the Mac Gregors, the Mac Kays, the Frasers, &cc. &c. have also their
appropriate salutes.

An Groatha was composed on the baptism of Rory More, son of Mac
Leod of Dunvegan, and another salute was cMnposed at the birth of a
son of the same family in 1715.

Leannan Donald Gruamaich, " Grim Donald's sweetheart," is also
a salute of very ancient origin.


Siubhal Shemis was composed on the departure of King James in
1688. There is also a lament for Prince Charles.

Cumhadh mhic a' Arisaig, or Mac Intosh's Lament, is extremely
plaintive and expressive.

Mac Leod of Mac Leod, had not only a peculiar Cumhadh, but the
family piper composed one which is still very popular, on his own situa-
tion after the battle of Sherrifmuir, where he was left on the field strip-
ped of all his clothes. The unfortunate bard entitles it " Too long in
this condition." Pipers, as was becoming, were honored with long and
very affecting funeral dirges, one of which is on the last mentioned, who
was designated "Great Patrick." There is a " Doleful Lament" on
the death of Samuel, a celebrated piper, and another very beautiful one
for John Donn, who was a poet.

Donald Gruamach, of Slate, laments in woful and protracted strains
the loss of his brother, and the before-mentioned Mac Donald, of Morar
is commemorated in a well-known plaintive and popular coronach.

The Sister's Lament for her Brothers, one being the chief of the house
of Keppoch, who were barbarously murdered, and whom she did not sur-
vive many hours, may be supposed of a very melancholy cast, but it is
not long.



There is a Lament for a Duke of Hamilton, and another for one Bri-
an O'Duff, and Cumhadh Chlaidheamh is the aged warrior's regret that
he was no longer able to wield his sword. This last of only two parts,
is accounted a piobrachd, and, contrary to the opinion of some pipers,
I believe that many tunes which are not admitted to this class ought to
be so ranked. Some of the parts may be lost.

Fuair mi pog o laimh an High, composed on having had the honor to
kiss hands with the king, is presumed to be a salute; but can Colda mo
run, played to warn the piper's master from the danger he was in of fall-
ing into the hands of his enemies, be called a salute, or a lament? They
are piobrachds of great length and considerable merit.

There is an ancient slow air of one measure called A mhic Iain mhic
Sheumis, celebrating a battle between t^>e Mac Donalds and the Mac
Leods, and another composed on Blar leinne, or the shirt battle, fought
at Kinloch Lochy, between the Frasers of Lovat, and Mac Donalds of
Clanrannald, and so called from the parties having stripped to their
shirts. There is a fine lament, called " The Chieftains," to which words
are sung on the unfortunate death of the colonel of Glengarry's regiment,
who fell in the streets of Falkirk after the victory, by the accidental dis-
charge of the gun of one of Clan Rannald's men. The horrid murder
of the Keppoch family was lamented, besides the piobrachd, in a slow
and pathetic song of three unequal measures, called Keppach na fasich,
or " Desolate."

" The Spraith of the Lowlands now graze in the Glen" must have been
sung with joy on the celebration of many a successful descent, and " the
Fiery cross" was admirably expressive of the effects of its appearance.

Of Ossianic music, several pieces are attributed to the bard, or bear
his name, and have been sung to the poems and native songs time imme-
morial. Dan Ossian; Ossian an deigh nam Fion; Dan Fraoich; Tha
Sgeul beag agam air Fion; Dargo; Bas Dhiarmid a 'Duine; Maol Don
aidh; Oscar's Ghost; Manus, and others, may be enumerated; many of
which were collected between 1715 and 1745, by Mac Donald, Fraser,
and others.

The following is a list of the piobrachds and other military music of
the Mac Kenzies, still preserved and entered, I am assured in the or-
derly book of the 72nd regiment, the first that was raised from the clan:

Day Break

Cruinnoachdh, gathering, or turn out

Salute when the Chief comes on the Field ..

Slow Mnrch

Quick March

The Charge

While Engaged ..

Coronach played when burying the Dead ..


Tattoo .. .. .. ..

Warning half an hour before Dinner
When Dinner is on the Table


Tulloch Ard.

Failte mhic Coinnich.

An Cuilfhionn.

Caisteal Donnan.

Caber Feidh.

Blar Strom.

Cumhadh mhic Coinnich.

Siubhal clann Choinnich.

Ceann drochait Aelin.

Blar ghlinn Seille.

Cath sleibh an t' Shiora.


li is remarkable that the Gael of Ireland have no music of ihe descrip-
tion of piobrachd. That singular piece called Mac Allisdrum's March,
which has latterly been connected with Cath Eachroma, or the battle of
Aghrim, has been deemed a genuine Irish piobrachd; but the intelligent
Mr. Croker, in his " Researches," has shown that it is a Scots' compo-
sition. Alexander Mac Donald, or Allisdrum, commanded a party of
Highlanders in the Irish service under Lord Taafe, at the engagement
with the Parliament army, near Mallow, 13th Nov. 1647, where they
fought manfully, but were all cut to pieces, or, as some say, murdered
in cold blood, their skulls and bones being yet to be seen piled up in the
ruins of a neighboring abbey. This composition is still popular, and
may be partially seen in the works of Walker and Croker. After the
urlar, or air, is played, the four provincial cries are performed: the Gair
Chonnachtach, Gair Muimhneach, Gair Olltach, and Gair Laighneach;
after which the Gall na mna' san ar, lamentations of the women while
searching the Held for their husbands and relations, succeed, the whole
concluding with a loud shout, as supposed from the auditors. The
Irish certainly used our national instrument in war, at least in Derrick's
time, who says that when the pipers perceived defeat inevitable, they
sounded a retreat, and in another passage we 6nd that " the bagpipe
then insteade of tromp, did lull the backe retreate." The Scots had,
however, so much to do in the then affairs of Ireland, that he may in
this case be speaking of them. Other airs of great antiquity and beauty
they possess in sufficient number, among which may be mentioned Cumh
leinn, Ailein a ruin, Gramachree Molly, &c., and in those called Speic,
or humors, they excel.

The Welsh are also destitute of this peculiar style of music, although
they have military airs of high antiquity and interest: the " Monks'
march," and " Come to battle," are powerful. Besides warlike melo-
dies and coronachs, they have much of a peculiar cast, and their Penyl-
lion singing with the harp seems peculiarly their own. The Gorleg yr
Halen, or " Prelude of the salt," played to the renowned King Arthur,
is yet performed in the Welsh school, Gray's-inn-lane-road.

The Scots have been from the beginning of history celebrated for
musical genius, and of that sort which Geminiani declared could not
be otherwise found on this side the Alps, and as poetry and music are
inseparably connected, they were consequently renowned for both. The
knowledge which the bards possessed of these sister arts was cultivated
by the Christian priests, and a reference to Bale, Leland, Dempster,
and others, will show the very great numbers of those who excelled.
The whole nation was in fact declared to be musical, and the Scots' min-
strels were much superior to English writers, there being not one poem
which can with certainty be ascribed to an English poet previous to the
time of Chaucer.* An old author declares with much naivete, that a
great many of both sexes in the Highlands had a gift of poesy, and could

* Ellis's Metrical Romances, i. 130.


form a panegyric or satire extempore, without any thing stronger than
water to raise their fancies. They had certainly a strong propensity to
turn every thing into rhyme, which they could as easily adapt to music,
as has been before shown: many tunes, and even long pieces of music
having been composed in a short space of time, and under unpropitioua
circumstances. The harpers were so noted for this facility, that it pass-
ed into a proverb: "where would be the melodies the harpers could
not find? " A piper of St. Kilda composed a tune of the notes of a bird
called the Gawlin, which was reckoned a very fine piece of music, and
we have the swan's mournful ditty:

Luineag na h Ealui'
Gui eug i, gui eug o,
Sgeula' mo dhunach,
Gui eug i
Riun mo Here,

Gui eug o, &c.

We have even the mermaid's song, and perhaps those of other sirens
nave been composed, with the fisherman's song for attracting seals, &.c.
Music has at times produced effects on the Highlanders, in some degree,
like the lyre of Orpheus. The celebrated Mac Pherson, who has been
mentioned in the first part of this work, composed his " Farewell," and
played it, when proceeding to the place of execution; and some other
Highlanders have requested, as a last favor, permission to play their pipes.
When old Lovat was taken by Captain Campbell, of Achacrosan, it is
said that, unaffected by his situation, it afforded him the highest delight
to hear the pipers playing his family march, as he was conveyed across
the country. The bagpipes seem to charm even the brute creation.
Deer will be arrested by their sound, and stand listening with evident
pleasure; and cattle that are otherwise unmanageable, will be rendered
calm by a spring on the shepherd's pipe. The story of the piper of
Hamelin, whose instrument had such power, is well known; on one oc-
casion, he charmed an immense number of rats into a river where they
were drowned, but not receiving the stipulated reward, he speedily col-
lected as many and carried them to the same place.

About the beginning of the sixteenth century, Mac Lean, of Coll, had
been carried off by Allan Mac Lean, who received the appellation of na
sohp, or "of the wisp," in allusion to his burnings. Coll was a poet
and musician, and when in prison he composed a tune, still, I believe,
preserved, under the name of" Allan na Sohp's march," which having
sung with much grace, his stern enemy was so moved that he immedi-
ately gave him his liberty.

The following " Ode to Scotish Music, "by a poet who is now almost
forgotten, but whose merit deserves commemoration,* displays, in beau-
tiful lines, the effect of the national melodies:

* Mac Donald, better known as Matthew Bramble, the author of Vimonda, &c.


" What words, my Laura, can express
That power unknown, that magic speli
Thy lovely native airs possess,
When warbled from thy lips so well,
Such nameless feelings to impart,
As melt in bliss the raptured heart.

No stroke of art their texture bears,
No cadence wrought with learned skill,
And though long worn by rolling years,
Yet, unimpaired, they please us still :
While thousand strains of mystic lore
Have perished, and are heard no more.

Wild, as the desert stream they flow,
* Wandering along its mazy bed ;

Now, scarcely moving, deep and slow,
Now, in a swifter current led ;
And now along the level lawn,
With charming murmurs, softly drawn.

Ah ! what enchanting scenes arise,

Still as thou breath'st the heart-felt strain .

How swift exulting fancy flies

O'er all the varied Sylvan reign !

And how thy voice, blest maid, can move

The rapture and the wo of love !

There, on a bank by Flora drest,
Where flocks disport beneath the shade,
By Tweed's soft murmurs lulled to rest,
A lovely nymph asleep is laid ;
Her shepherd, trembling, all in bliss,
Steals, unobserved, a balmy kiss !

Here, by the banks and groves so green,
Where Yarrow's waters warbling roll,
The love-sick swain, unheard, unseen,
Pours to the stream his secret soul ;
Sings his bright charmer, and, by turns,
Despairs, and hopes, and fears, and burns.

There, night her silent sable wears,
And gloom invests the vaulted skies.
No star amid the void appears,
Yet see fair Nelly blushing rise ;
And, lightly stepping, move unseen
To let her panting lover in.

But far removed on happier plains,
With harps to love forever strung,
Methinks I see the favored swains
Who first those deathless measures sung ;
For, sure, I ween no courtly wight
Those deathless measures could indite.



No. 1.

3 3



33 3


3 3333


33 33 33

33 33 33 3


3 3 3 3

33 33 33 33 33 3 3 3 3 3 3

^ J J JJ- JJ| J

33 33 33 3 3 3 4 3 343 3_43


D. C.


131 1313 1313 13 13


1313 1313 1313 1313 1313

1313 1313 1313 1313 131


D. C.

1313 1313 1313 1313


1313 1313 1

313 1313 131

4 3413


4 34

34 13

34 34

D. C.

34 34 34 34 84 34 34


D. C.

3 1 3

31 31 3_L 3

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if if

i. 3


31 3 1 31 31 31


D. C.

33 333333 3

31 31 3 1 31 31 31 31 31 3

D. C

3 1 3231 323 1 3 23 1

3 2 1 3 3 2 1 3 3 2 1 3 3213 3213 3213


3213 3213 3 2 1 3 3 2 1 3 3213 3213

3 2 1 3 3213 3213 3 2 1 3 3213 3 2 1

3213 3213 3213 32 1 3 3 2 1 3


D. C.










No 3.

WMBtaflB 9BKBEohv








No. 5.

-^- 1st. ^B x ^\ -^-



No 6 T


J J3 I ^

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No. 7.




* #

NO. a.





No ! from the pastoral cot and shade

Thy favorite airs, my Laura, came,

By some obscure Corelli made,

Or Handel, never known to fame I

And hence their notes, from Nature warm,

Like Nature's self, must ever charm.

Ye spirits of fire, forever gone,
Soft as your strains, O be your sleep !
And, if your sacred graves were known,
We there should hallowed vigils keep,
Where, Laura, thou shouldst raise the lay,
And bear our souls to heaven away !

The FIOB-MHOR, or great Highland bagpipe, is different from the com-
mon sharp pipes of the Low country, and both are very unlike the Irish
or flat pipes. The first, which is accurately represented in the frontis-
piece, is by far the most noble and warlike instrument, and produces
the most clear and ear-piercing notes. The various pipes are separate-
ly inserted in the bag, and the drones or burdens are connected by rib-
ands of different colors. When the bag is inflated, they are steadily
supported over the shoulder, and the tallest displays a flag, on which is
richly embroidered the arms of the chief, colonel of a regiment, gentle-
man, or society, in whose service the piper may be. In the figure in-
troduced for illustration in the frontispiece, the arms of Scotland are the

These arms have been alluded to in page 196, and the Lion is there
shown to have been a general badge of the Celtic nations. It is
asserted by all heralds and historians of authority, that the tressure of
fleur-de-lis was added to the arms of Scotland by Charlemagne, to indi-
cate his regard for the nation; but when the Unicorns were adopted as
supporters, is not ascertained. They bear up the royal banner, and that
of St. Andrew, and stand, as here shown, on a compartment, and not
on an escrol, as often represented. For the " lacesset" in the motto, I
have the authority of Sir George Mac Kenzie and other competent anti-
quaries, and the difference from lacessit is certainly of some importance
in this very nicely regulated science. The Scots, as is well-known,
paid great attention to heraldry, and the whole achievement, as a speci-
men of their skill, must be allowed to have a good effect, even pictori-
ally. The ensign of Scotland, that is, a thistle of gold imperially crown-
ed, is represented on the title-page. The Highland Society of London
have a pipe flag of beautiful workmanship and rich effect. Those who
have no flag usually display party-colored ribands, which have a very
pretty appearance streaming in the wind. They are often presented by
the musician's sweetheart, and are of course exhibited with becoming

Several pipers carry their instruments on the right side, and some are
of opinion that it is necessary for those who have to play with others,
because it would neither look well, nor be convenient, on a march, for


pipers to have their drones all over the same shoulder. Surely, if other-
wise, it would look as awkward as if the soldiers carried their muskets
on opposite sides. We do not know the rule which prevailed in Sky,
but a learner would most assuredly be taught to use his right hand m

The pipe through which the wind is conveyed is also kept in its posi-
tion by the tension of the bag, but the performer does not allow it to
slip from his mouth, but retains it in an easy manner, the end being tip-
ped with horn to prevent its being injured by the teeth. It has a joint,
and is provided with a leather valve, which prevents the egress of air.
The Chanter, or pipe on which the tun,e is performed, is like the others
fixed in a head stock, which is sufficiently large to contain the reed.
This is formed of two thin slips of common reed or cane, fixed with much
nicety to a small metal tube, and produce the sound by vibration.
Those of the other pipes are formed of a joint of the reed, one end close,
the other open, with an oblong slit for the passage of the air, as here

The sharp Lowland pipes have the same tone as the Highland,
but are less sonorous, and are blown by a bellows, put in motion
by the arm opposite to that under which the bag is held. This is the
manner of giving wind to the Irish pipes, like which they also have
the three drones fixed in one stock, and not borne over the shoulder, but
laid horizontally over the arm. The Union pipes, that have been called
the Irish organ, are the sweetest of musical instruments; the formation
of the reeds, and the length of the pipes, increased by brass tubes, pro-
duce the most delightful and soothing melody, while by the addition
of many keys, and the capability of the chanter, any tune may be

One George Mackay was the reformer of the Scots' Lowland pipes,
but I cannot precisely tell the nature of his improvements; he, however,
studied seven years at the college in Sky.

There is a miniature sort of bagpipe, called the Northumberland, the
advantage of which is that they are conveniently portable, and are much
less noisy than the others. None of these sorts resemble the rude in-
struments of the same kind used on the continent.

The pipes are commonly formed of black ebony or lignum vitae; but
woods loss valuable, and less excellent for the purpose, are sometimes
employed. The joints are handsomely tipped with ivory or bone, and
silver ornaments and precious gems are often placed on the headstock
of the chanter. Northumberland pipes are often wholly formed of ivory,
and richly ornamented with silver. The bag is covered with cloth or
tartan, sometimes fringed, and otherwise adorned.


A stand,* or set, of Highland pipes sometimes cost a considerable
Bum, especially if made by a celebrated tradesman, of which there ure
several in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Aberdeen, and Inverness.

The drones are tuned by means of the movable joints to the E of the
chanter, the two small ones being a fifth below, and the larger an eighth,
and this preparation, called the Ludh, is what often needlessly occupies
so much time, giving rise to that saying in the Low Country applied to
one who procrastinates in a small affair: " You are langer o' tuning
your pipes nor playing your spring." To be sure, the pipes must be
put in tune; but it is the piper's duty to have them in as good order as
possible before he is called to perform, and thereby avoid that monoto-
nous noise and unmeaning rhapsody of notes which many feel so unpleas-
ant. I am afraid some pipers think there is a deal of grace in those
flourishes called " preludes of tuning,""!" f rms of which are actually
taught; but I can say, that although Scotsmen may bear with them, to
Englishmen they have no charms.

On the chanter are nine notes, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, and a
JB may also be produced by " pinching," that is, striking the thumb nail
in a peculiar manner in the hole of the upper note A; but Highland
pipers do not admit this addition, but despise its assistance as much as
they do the keys and other attempted improvements. They seem inspir-
ed with the same feeling which led the Spartans to banish Timotheus for
presuming to add to the strings of the lyre; and amusing anecdotes are
told of their concern to think that the pipes should be taught by notes,
or that they should be fettered in learning by book rules.

The C and F in the chanter scale are sharp; and if they were omitted
it would be the ancient Scotish scale of C major, agreeing with that of
the black keys of the piano, but these sharps are not noticed by the per-
former. Although the pipe can imitate different keys, they are not real,
as in other instruments.

As the tone of the bagpipes is continuous, the monotony is broken,
and the notes divided by warbling, beating, or battering, as I have heard
some call it, which is done by a sudden movement of the fingers on cer-
tain other notes. Thus, in running up the scale, the effect is given to
low G by smartly striking the hole under No. 1, or the fore-finger of the
upper hand, and on sounding A the third finger counting downwards
performs the same office. This will explain the figures inserted, accord-
ing to the plan of Capt. Menzies, in his Pipe Preceptor, to show the
warbling of Cogadh na sith, a sort of expression peculiar to the bagpipe,
and productive of that indescribable thrilling in the performance of a
good piobrachd, or of many of the other pipe tunes.

There is an ancient and celebrated pipe in the possession of the chief
of Clan Chattan, known as the Feadhan dubh, or black chanter, con-
cerning Avhich various curious particulars are recorded.

* The absurd term, " pair of pipes," perhaps arose from many of the poorer sort, hav-
ing formerly but two drones. It may be observed, pipers often have but two that are
furnished with reeds. i Deachin Ghleust.


It is believed to possess some charm or supernatural virtue, which
ensures prosperity to its owners and their connexions. It is this instru-
ment which Sir Walter Scott mentions as having fallen from the clouds
during the conflict on the North inch of Perth in 1396. It appears to
have been taken from the vanquished party at that fiercely contended

Three Mac Donalds, of Glenco, had, on one occasion, taken a creagh
from Strathspey, but were overtaken by a strong party of the Grants
near Aviemore, when they thought themselves out of danger; and while
asleep the two elder Mac Donalds were surprised and bound, but the
younger escaped to the woods. The Grants, on their return home, stop-
ped about two miles from the place, and while they were refreshing and
enjoying themselves in apparent security, the three dauntless heroes,
who had recovered themselves and come together, attacked their ene-
mies, sword in hand, with such daring and resolution, that they drove
them clean off with confusion and slaughter, killing seven and wounding
sixteen, and rescued the whole of the cattle! The cry of the two elder
Mac Donalds was " A mhic, a mhic, luathich do laimh 's cruadhich do
bhuille," i. e. My son, my son, quicken and harden thy blows.

The Laird of Grant, vexed in the highest degree at the shameful con-
duct of his men, compelled the delinquents, for three successive Sun-
days, to walk round the church in presence of all the rest of the clan,
carrying wooden swords suspended by straw ropes, exclaiming, " we
are the cowards that disgracefully ran away." The whole clan were
disheartened by this affair, and to reanimate them, the chief sent to
Cluny for the loan of the Feadhan dubh, the notes of which could in-
fallibly rouse every latent spark of valor. Cluny is said to have lent
it without hesitation, saying his men stood in no need of it. How long
it remained with them at this time does not appear; but after it had been
restored, the Grants again received it, and it remained with them until
1822, when Grant of Glenmorriston presented it to Ewen Mac Pherson,
Esq. of Cluny, the present worthy chief.* It is probable that the last
loan of this wonderful chanter was made to the Grants of Glenmorriston,
who had no do.ubt observed the happy effects of its possession among
their brethren in Strathspey. This clan had, however, an opinion of
their own prowess, that would seem to render it improbable they should
require such aid, and had, besides, some particular charm by which
they rendered themselves invulnerable; in which belief they fearlessly
engaged in war, and, in truth, acted like heroes; although the writer of
a MS. history of the clan, which I have seen in the King's Library,
sneeringly says, they prevented their charm from working at the battle
of Sherifmuir, by making a speedy retreat.

The Mac Phersons assuredly, whether in consequence of their fortu-
nate talisman or their own bravery, have never been in a battle which
was lost, at least where the chief was present. Before the battle of
Culloden, an old witch, or second seer, told the Duke of Cumberland,

* Hia letter to the author.


that if he waited until the bratach uaine, or green banner, came up, he
would be defeated.

The cultivation and practice of poetry and music are chief amuse-
ments of the Gael, and connected with both is DANCING. If the Scots
excel in the former, they certainly of all nations are preeminent in par-
tiality to the latter. Their passion for this pleasing and healthy exer-
cise is indeed so strong, that it seems part of their nature. The art of
dancing, which a person without a musical ear can never attain, is a
harmonious adaptation of the bodily powers to time and measure, accom-
panied with grace, ease, expression, position, &.c. ; yet the Scots have
been said to be "entirely without grace" in their dances. Their agility
may surprise, without pleasing, those who do not understand the national
system, but that a person should be able to execute the most intricate
and complex steps with the utmost ease, keeping the justest time, with-
out "a particle of grace," is surely impossible. Grace, in dancing, is
described as " fitness of parts and good attitude," and that the Highlan-
ders possess these necessary qualifications cannot be denied; indeed,
their aptitude for music is not more striking than their fondness for the
national reel.

Dancing has been practised by almost every people; it formed, in
fact, part of the religious ceremonies of almost all nations, and the gods
are not only said to have been pleased, but were themselves emulous in
the dance. Pindar represents Silenus as

" Strenuous in the dance to beat
Tuneful measures with his feet."

It was also encouraged as a useful and elegant amusement, and the
Athenians reckoned those unpolite who refused to dance at a proper
time.* Its importance as an innocent and healthful recreation rendered
it an object of attention to the legislator. Lycurgus instituted dancing
from a conviction of its utility in making the youth strong, agile, and ex-
pert in the use of their weapons, and in the evolutions of warfare. This
particular sort was accompanied with the singing of certain heroic
verses, and was performed by the old men, the youth, and children.
Homer mentions the art as a diversion at entertainments; and Merion,
one of his heroes, was known among the Grecian chiefs by a grace-
ful carriage and superior agility, acquired from his long practice of

The effect of dancing and music in a moral point of view, is certainly
considerable. Polybius attributes the hospitality and piety of the Ar-
cadians to the care with which these two arts were cultivated, the youth
being instructed in them at the public expense; and this influence he
proves from contrasting those happy people with the Cynrethians, a
neighboring nation, that neglected so salutary regulations. Dancing
promotes health, cheerfulness, and the kindly affections between the
sexes, and Locke says it ought always to be taught to children, as it

* Note in Beloes' Herodotus, vi.


gives graceful motions to all their actions, and, above all things, manli-
ness and a becoming confidence; for this effect he cannot account, but
his good opinion entirely coincides with that of the wisest of the ancients
Socrates became so sensible of the good effects of this exercise, that in
his old age he sedulously practised it; and Lucian, Plato, Aristotle,
Athaeneus, Xenophon, Plutarch, and others, have written in praise of
it. Some of the ancient philosophers were excellent dancers, and thought
it not unbecoming to perform in public; Lucian even goes so far as to
say that dancing works all the wonders ascribed to the caduceus of Mer-
cury, being able at the same time to soothe and animate the soul. Among
the Jews, it was a solemn religious discipline; and, as an exercise of di-
vine worship, was of no less importance among the Greeks and Romans.
Nor was the performance confined to the men; when Moses had con-
ducted the Israelites across the Red Sea, he and his sister Miriam per-
formed a grand chorus and accompanying dance. Pliny calls the sa-
cred dances " mediatorial."

Of the ancient Celtic dancing we find some curious particulars. The
Lusitani, says Diodorus, have a light and airy dance which they prac-
tise in peace, and which requires great dexterity and nimbleness of legs
and thighs. In war, they march, observing time and measure, arid sing
their triumphal songs when they are ready to charge the enemy.

The passion for dancing was strong in all the Celtic race, and it was
employed in the services of religion, some remains of which practice
long continued among the Welsh, who were accustomed to dance in the
church-yard. Rincefada, or field dance in Irish, shows its relation to
Rineadoir, a musician. This was performed to the Cuisley Ciuil, a
simple sort of bagpipe before described, and used to conclude all balls.
When James II. landed at Kinsale, his friends received him with the
rincefada, by which he was much gratified. The manner of its execu-
tion was thus; three persons abreast, holding the ends of a white hand-
kerchief, moved forward a few paces to the sound of slow music, the
rest of the dancers following in couples, and holding also a white hand-
kerchief between them. The music then changing to a quicker tune,
the dance began, the performers passing successively under the hand-
kerchiefs of the three, in front, and then wheeling round in semi-circles,
they formed a variety of pleasing evolutions, interspersed with occasional
entrechats, finally uniting and resuming their original places. The
Manx are much addicted to dancing jigs and reels, in which four or five
couple join to the music of a fiddle. English country dances are un-
known among them.

We are told that the military dances of the old Irish were conducted
by the Curinky, or dancing-master, a surname that yet exists in many

The ancient Caledonians had a sort of Pyrrhic dance over swords,
which is not yet entirely unknown, but the Gilli-Callum, which gener-
ally terminates a ball, is supposed to have but a faint resemblance to the
ancient sword-dance. The same observation may be applied to the dirk-


dance. Both of them are, indeed, still executed by a few, and were
exhibited in London some years ago by one Mac Glassan; but a gen-
tleman informed me that he knew a person who at the age of 106, saw
the dirk-dance performed, and declared it was not at all like that which
he had formerly known. Besides these, it is evident from the words of
an old Isle of Sky dancing song, Bualidh mi u an sa chean, " I will
break your head," that the parties in the performance went through the
evolutions of attack and defence. The chief art in the modern sword-
dance consists in the dexterity with which the dancer escapes touching
one or more swords or sticks crossed on the ground, the tune to which
it was performed being called Gilli-Callum, and that appropriate to the
dirk, Phadric Mac Combish. There was a dance called Rungmor, of
which little is now known; from the only description I could get of it
the dancer appeared in some manner to touch the ground with his
thighs, without losing his balance.

In Lochaber there was formerly a gymnasium for teaching all sorts
of athletic exercises and graceful accomplishments, the scholars eating
at a common table, being allowed a certain time for their meals, and
submitting to other regulations; but, without tuition, the Highlanders
excel in dancing. A perfect judge thus expresses himself: "This
pleasing propensity, one would think, was born with them, from the
early indications we sometimes see their children show for this exer-
cise. I have seen children of theirs, of five or six years of age, at-
tempt, nay, even execute, some of their steps so well, as almost to sur-
pass belief. I once had the pleasure of seeing in a remote part of the
country, a reel danced by a herd boy and two young girls, who sur-
prised me much, especially the boy, who appeared to be about twelve
years of age. He had a variety of well chosen steps, and executed
them with so much justness and ease, as if he meant to set criticism at
defiance;" and, speaking of the colleges of Aberdeen, where he was
long established as an elegant and accomplished teacher of dancing,
he adds, "they draw hither, every year, a number of students from the
Western Isles, as well as from the Highlands, and the greater part
of them excel in the dance; some of them indeed, in so superior a de-
gree, that I myself have thought them worthy of imitation."

After the toils of a long day, young men and women will walk many
miles to enjoy a dance, which seems to have the effect of banishing
fatigue, and, instead of adding to the sensation of weariness, it becomes
really a recreation. This delight in dancing is diffused throughout
Scotland, and the strongest efforts of the kirk to put down " promiscu-
ous dancing," with the bitter reproofs of the more rigid covenanteis,
have failed in repressing the " ungodly" exercise.

The reel and strathspey are the dances common to all the Scots, and
those of which they are most passionately fond. They are either a
quartett or trio, " a foursome or a threesome reel;" and those who are
ignorant of this species of dance "will find the principal steps used in it
plainly described by Peacock, the intelligent writer already mentioned.


It will be observed that the difference in time between the two soils of
music produces a corresponding difference in the steps or evolutions.

I shall here present the reader with a list of those most in use by the

Ceum-siubhail, pronounced kemshoole, the forward step, is the com-
mon step for the promenade or figure. Ceum-coisiche, or kemkossey,
is the setting or footing step, and is divided into three sorts: first, where
one step is equal to a bar; second, where two steps are required to a
bar; and third, where two bars are required to a step. Leum-trasd, or
cross springs, are a series of Sissonnes. Siabadh-trasd, chasing steps
or cross slips, is like the ballotte. Aiseag-trasd, or cross passes, is a fa-
vorite step in the Highlands. Ceum-Badenach is another step much
used, and requiring considerable agility. Fosgladh, or open step, and
Cuartag, or turning step, are also very becoming movements. All these,
and many more are combined in one dance, and the association depends
on the taste of the party. That called the back step, in which the feet
are each alternately slipped behind, and reach the ground on, or close
to, the spot occupied by the one just removed, is of difficult acquire-
ment, and severely exerts the muscles of the calfs of the legs. So much
dexterity can some persons display in this, that they will go through the*
setting time of the music without moving beyond a space marked by *.he
circumference of their bonnet.

SEAN TRIUS, or old trowsers, from the name of the accompanying ah,
is the native Highland hornpipe, and is danced with much grace.

I have seen two brothers of the name of Grant, who were good violin
players, exhibit feats of great agility. Part of their performance con-
sisted of dancing the Highland fling, in that style called the Marquis of
Huntley's, Strathspeys over a rope, and Gilli-Callum over a fiddle bow;
and one of them danced a Strathspey, played the fiddle, played bass on
the bagpipe, smoked, spoke Gaelic, and explained it in question and
answer at the same time!

Dancing, among the Gael, does not depend on the presence of musical
instruments. They reel and set to their own vocal music, or to the
songs of those who are near; people, whose hearts are light and respon-
sive to their native melodies, will find their limbs move in consonance to
its music, however produced.

SINGLE STICK, or cudgel play, was formerly taught the youth from an
early age, as a necessary preparation for the management of the broad-
sword, and they used in certain dances to exhibit their dexterity. They
are still partial to this amusement; in the higher parts of Aberdeen-
shire " the young farmers," says the Rev. Skene Keith, " like their
fathers, are very expert in dancing and managing a cudgel without a

The delight which the Gael had in the recitation of their traditional
history was extreme. The duty of preserving and relating their legends
was properly the province of the bards, who were supported for the
purpose, but the whole population were accustomed to acquire the sgeu


lachds, or historical narrations, and when there was no bard, the teller
of tales, sometimes called the rhymer, a character much respected, sup
plied his place.

The Irish had their cleasamhneagh, or jesters, and druith righeadh,
or royal mimics.* We find there were in the Scots' army, in 1138, buf-
foons and jesters, both male and female. A curious amusement is
described in p. 400, and it has been stated elsewhere that little dramas
and ludicrous interludes from the ancient poems, were often performed.

An idle people are naturally prone to gaming. Tacitus, speaking of
the Germans, says they were passionately given to play at games of
chance, at which they continued not only until their whole substance
was gone, but would even stake their lives, and, if they lost, would
patiently suffer themselves to be sold, calling it honor! The brother-
hood of Carrows, a sort of common gamblers in Ireland, resembled these
Germans. They did nothing else but play cards all the year round,
staking their mantles, shirts, and every thing to the bare skin, when they
trussed themselves in straw or leaves, and in that state would wait on
the highways with unabated desire, and invite passengers to play on the
green. "For defaulte of other stuffe, they pawn portions of their glibe,
the nails of their fingers and toes," and other members of their body,
which they lose or redeem, at the courtesy of the winner. "j* One of the
Irish games, called " short castle," is played by two persons, with three
counters or pebbles on a board marked by a cross and two diagonals, the
game being won by getting the three on a straight line. Chess and
drafts were favorite amusements of the Highlanders. A passage from
a poem of Mary Mac Leod, given in p. 402, mentions the delight which
her chief took in these games. Martin describes a set of" table men,"
carved with different figures, which he saw, that were made of a blue
sort of stone found in Lewis, and relates a curious occurrence of sec-
ond sight that happened when Sir Norman Mac Leod and some others
were playing at a game of tables called Falmer-more, where three of a
side cast dice in turn, for the disposition of the pieces.

Hunting, which has been already described, was a favorite diversion
of the Celts; their other amusements were chiefly of a martial charac-
ter, and on several occasions there have been opportunities of showing
their propensity to display their courage and address in single com-
bat. The amusement described in page 92, so popular among the
Germans, strikingly shows the military character of that people. The
rude Celts had no taste for the refined pleasures of other nations, their
only enjoyment being in those manly sports which cherished their M ar
like and independent spirit. For this purpose chariot-racing and otl er
sports were apparently enjoined as a religious duty, and to inspire tne
people with due ardor, the services of the bards were consecrated.
Some Frisian ambassadors, it is related, having visited Rome, they were
taken to the theatres, as the most attractive exhibitions, but, to the

* Coll. reb. Hibernica. I Campion. Riche, p. 38.



astonishment of the Romans, those men took not the smallest interest in
the amusements. The Caledonians practised a sort of tournament,
which is spoken of in old poems as " the honor of the spear," and in
their encounter, they only asked cothrum na Feinne, " the equal com-
bat of the Fingalians." Athletic exercises were the delight of the Gael,
and from the chief to the lowest clansman, they vied with each other in
generous contention, the highest individual being often the strongest and
most accomplished in feats of prowess. An anecdote is related of a
wrestler, who, presuming on his great strength and skill, had insulted a
whole clan, none of whom would venture to encounter him, except the
chief, who accepted his challenge, and succeeded in vanquishing him,
but in the exertion he burst a blood-vessel, and shortly afterwards died.
Besides Gleachd, or wrestling, the Highlanders contend for a short
stick or rachd, which they endeavor to wrench out of each other's grasp.
They also, sitting on the ground, feet to feet, and mutually holding a
stick, endeavor each by main strength to force his opponent from the

The Clach-neart, literally stone of strength, or the putting stone, ia
a favorite and ancient amusement, and consists in projecting a large
round stone to the greatest possible distance. It was formerly the cus-
tom to have one of these lying at the gate of every chieftian's house, and
on the arrival of a stranger, he was asked as a compliment to throw.
Indeed, when chiefs or gentlemen called on each other, their followers
always diverted themselves in wrestling, fencing, putting, running, 8tc.,
and sometimes resorted to the more serious amusement of breaking each
other's heads in good earnest. The throwing of the stone requires both
strength and skill, to which practice alone can give effect.

Clach cuid fir is lifting a large stone two hundred pounds or more
from the ground, and placing it on the top of another about four feet
high. A youth that can do this is forthwith reckoned a man, whence
the name of the amusement, and may then wear a bonnet.

Throwing a heavy sledge hammer is a popular trial of strength, which
often leads the blacksmith and his customers to forget their business for
some time. A fine trial of strength is by endeavoring to turn a heavy
bar of iron fairly over, by placing the foot under it.

Swiftness of foot was reckoned a very considerable accomplishment,
and was often of much importance in their military transactions. We
have seen the Highlanders able to contend with cavalry in running, and
their ability in this way had a double advantage if they put the enemy
to flight, it was not possible to escape their pursuit, and if themselves
routed, it was scarcely possible to molest their retreat. The Geal ruith,
or racing game, which comprehended the running leap, to the High-
landers so useful an accomplishment, was sedulously practised, and the
gilli ruith, or running footman, was capable of performing astonishing
feats of pedestrianism, both in distance and velocity.

Boat racing and Geal-snamh, or contests in swimming, were also.


popular, and a native of Isla was not reckoned a man if he could not
catch a seal when in the water.

A truly Highland sport is Cluich-bhal, or Camanachd, called in the
Low Country hurling or shinny, and in Ireland bandy. Great numbers
collect on a plain, chiefly about Christmas, and dividing into parties of
welve and upwards on a side, endeavor, by means of sticks, crooked
at the lower end, to drive a ball to a certain goal. This is a very
animated game, and is enlivened by numerous spectators, plenty of
whisky, and by the presence of pipers. The balls in Argyleshire are
often of wood ; in Badenach they are formed of hair, hard and firm-
ly twisted.

The Golf, called Cluich-dhesog, is a Highland game, but is more
simple than as played in the Lowlands. Two or more persons, by means
of clubs of a certain form, strike a small hard ball, the contest being to
decide either who shall reach a distant spot, or put the ball into a hole
with the fewest strokes.

Two parties kicking a ball with the feet in opposite directions is anoth-
er game, where much agility is required. Grand matches were formerly
played in the Northern counties on Fasten's even, and other festivals.
" The Christmas ba'in' of Monymusk," in Aberdeenshire, has been
described in a poem by the Rev. John Skinner, 1739, which is wor-
thy of comparison with the " Christ's Kirk on the Green," of King
James I. or the productions of Allan Ramsay.

As a humorous description of this popular diversion, which at the
above place was formerly held in the churchyard, and, as a specimen
of the singular dialect of that part of Scotland, which, to most readers,
will require a glossary to be understood, a few verses, taken at random
from the poem "*y be thought worthy of insertion.

Has ne'er in a' this country been

Sic shouderin' an' sic fa'in',

As happen'd twa three days sin' seen,

Here at the Christmas ba'in'.

At even syne the follows keen

Drank till the neist days dawin';

Sae snell that some tint baith their een,

An' could na' pay their lawin'

For a' that day.

R6b Roy, I wat he was na' dull,

He first leit at the ba',

An" wi' a rap, clash'd Geordy's skull

Hard to the steeple wa'.

Wha was aside but auld Tarn Tull,

His frien's mischance he saw,

He briend like ony baited bull,

An' wi' aye thud dang twa,

To the yird that day.

In cam' the inset Dominie,
.. ust riflin' frae his dinner,


A young mess John, as ane could see,
Was neither saint nor sinner.
A brattlin' band unhappilee,
Drave by him wi' a binner,
An' heels-o'er-gowdy couped he,
An' rave his gued horn penner

In twa that day.

A stalwart stirk in tartan claise,
Sware mony a sturdy aith,
To bear the ba' thro' a' his faes,
An' nse kape muckle skaith.
Rob Roy heard the friksome fraise,
Well browden'd in his graith,
Gowph'd him alang his shins a blaise,
An' gart him tine baith faith,

An' feet that day.

The prior's man, a chiel as stark

Amaist as giant could be,

He kent afore o' this day's wark,

For certain that it would be.

He ween'd to drive in o'er the park,

An' ilk ane thought it should be ;

What way it was he miss'd the mark,

I canna' tell, but fou't be,

He fell that day

Ere he wan out o' that foul lair,
That black mischance had gi'en him,
There tumbled an' unlucky pair
O' mawtent lowns abeen him.
It would hae made your heart fu' sair,
Gin ye had only seen him;
An't hadna' been for Davy Mair,
The rascals had outdeen him,

Belyve that day.

When Sawney saw the Sutor slain,
He was his ain half brither,
I wot mysel he was right brain,
An' how could he be ither ?
He ran to help wi' might an' main,
Twa buckled wi' him thegither,
Wi' a firm yowph he fell'd the tane,
An' wi' a gowph the tither,

Fell'd him that day.

In Monymusk was never seen,

Sae mony well beft skins.

O' a' the ba' men there was nane

But had twa bleedy shins.

Wi' streinzit shouders mony ane

Dree'd pen nance for their sins ;

An' what was warst, scowp'd hame their lane,

May be to hungry inns

An' cauld that day.


The Strath-fillan Society, lately established by Lord Gwydir, on his
Drumraond estate, in Perthshire, is for the purpose of encouraging all
sorts of games and amusements peculiar to the Highlands. The annual
meetings are held in a romantic spot, and are attended by numerous
noblemen, gentlemen, and ladies, with a large assemblage of Highland-
ers. The effect of their gaudy costume, the bagpipes, and the various
sports exhibited amid highly picturesque scenery, is extremely fine. A
beautiful lake affords the pleasure of a boat race, and a recital of Gaelic
compositions relieves the fatigue of the athletic exercises, while prizes
of bagpipes, dirks, suits of tartans, snuff mulls, SLC., send the competi-
tors home in high delight.

Two of the Druidical order are shown at the commencement of this
chapter. As the poets and musicians of the Celts, they occupy an ap-
propriate place; and as a highly interesting specimen of the peculiar
instrument which belonged to the order, the harp of Mary Queen of
Scots is here introduced.

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