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A Collection of the Ancient Martial Music of Caledonia - Piobaireach
Beekman Books Inc (June 1, 1975)
This well-known collection, on which more modern books have been founded, is now reprinted and is available in a fine coat with very good reproduction of the original notation of the tunes. The foreword by Seumas MacNeill, Principal of the College of Piping, gives a full account of the author and his work, which I found most interesting.
The first piper to write down the tunes in staff notation was another MacDonald - Joseph who worked in 1760 before the ban on the playing of the bagpipe was lifted. This release came in 1782, and in 1803 Joseph's work was published. Donald MacDonald, who was the son of John MacDonald, herdsman to Kingsburgh, was born in 1749 and spent his early life in N. Skye where he must have come under the influence of the last of the MacArthurs of Peingown, hereditary pipers to Macdonald of Sleat. Charles, last of that family, was Lord Macdonald's piper until 1800. Donald must have known Alan of Kingsburgh and his famous wife, Flora: and he may well have attended Flora's funeral and perhaps played a lament there in 1790.
The staff notation replaced the old system of canntaireachd used by the MacCrimmons and MacArthurs and still used at times. But that old system had its limitations, and Joseph, Donald and Angus MacKay after them, rightly decided that staff was the best method of recording tunes in book form.
This is a book any piper studying Ceol Mor should own. There are 22 tunes, some with many variations rarely played now, and many of interest to Clan Donald. (D.J.M.)