PS 146 – Prelude, or Lament for Dunyvaig Castle

      Cumha Chaisteil Dhùn Naomhaig

      Glas or Gleus? A discussion recorded 8 April 2015

Primary Sources

J [Lament for Dunyvaig Castle: first 2 bars] Common Time Slowest  J:17v.1
Joseph MacDonald's treatise (c. 1760), folio 17v, example 1

C2 A Glas  C2.62: 142
K1 Cumha Casteal Dhunaomhaig / Lament for the Castle Dunyveg  K1.101: 232
KK Cumha Caisteal Dhunaomhaig / Lament for the Castle of Dunyveg  KK.81: 161

Notes on Gaelic Titles

Cumha Chaisteil Dhùn Naomhaig Cumha Casteal Dhunaomhaig / Lament for the Castle Dunyveg K1; Cumha Caisteal Dhunaomhaig / Lament for the Castle of Dunyveg KK. Lament for Dunyvaig Castle. It is unusual for a genre term like cumha to be attached to a building rather than a person. Ronald Smith suggests that it is not the building which is being lamented, but the demise of the Islay branch of Clan Donald (see his comment below, 2015-05-15). The last chief, Sir James MacDonald, 9th of Dunnyveg, died in 1626. For the background to the fall of ‘Clan Donald South’, see J. Michael Hill, ‘The Rift within Clan Ian Mor: The Antrim and Dunyveg MacDonnells, 1590-1603. The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Winter, 1993), pp. 865-879. Cf Pìobaireachd Dhùn Naomhaig (PS 201).

A’ Ghlas / A’ Ghleus / Glas / Gleus A Glase C1.49; A Glass C2.43; A Glas C2.62. The Joining / The Prelude / A Joining / A Prelude. Colin Campbell’s three titles can be resolved either to glas or to gleus and his initial “A” could be either an English indefinite article or a Gaelic definite article. A’ Ghleus is possibly the strongest of the four contenders on the basis of Campbell’s spelling “Glase” rhyming with the English word “chase” and the likelihood that Campbell would have expressed the English indefinite article as “One of the…”, given “One of the Irish Piobarich“, “One of the Deads Lament“, and “One of the Cragich” (five times in vol. 1 and four times in vol. 2); we would expect “One of the Glase”, and Campbell’s only other uses of “a” in his tune titles are as the Gaelic definite article in “Lassan Mhic a Cheaich” and as an epenthetic vowel in “Prinsah beg Sate loum a thu“. Edward Bunting also rendered gleus as “glass” in 1840, working from notes made in Belfast in 1792 – see Colm Ó Baoill’s notes on Tead a’ leithghleas (2002). The fact that all three of Campbell’s tunes use 8 of the chanter’s 9 pitches and consist of only 1 or 2 cycles strengthens the case for interpreting these as “Preludes”, or short pieces of music that 1) warm up the fingers, 2) check that the notes required are in tune, and 3) prepare the piper and the audience for something bigger. The verb gleus has general meanings of ‘prepare’ or ‘put into trim’. Bridget MacKenzie reports an explanation she heard from Eric Murray, of Rogart: “The term “aglase” was often used of the finger movement which was characteristic of the work… People used to compose these wee piobaireachds, which were not as wild or heavy as the “full” piobaireachd.” – Piping Traditions of the North of Scotland (1998) p. 261. It is possible, however, that Murray’s explanation stems from Campbell’s manuscripts, copies of which were made in 1909. These “wee” pibrochs should not to be confused with the much shorter tuning preludes called Deuchainn Ghleusaidh found in Joseph MacDonald’s treatise (f 16r) and the instructional pages of Donald MacDonald (D1) and Angus MacKay (KB) – see S. Donnelly, ‘Feaghan Geleash’. Ceol Tire, 25 (1984) pp 5-6, 11-12.

In contrast to Campbell’s three tunes, all settings of A’ Ghlas Mheur (PS 132) have 7 or 8 cycles and only 5 pitches. This weighs in favour of the other word for this tune: a’ ghlas, meaning ‘the grip…’, ‘the bond…’ or ‘the joining of the fingers’ – see Ronald Smith’s comment at (2015-03-24). The spellings “Glaisvair” and “Glais-mheur” in tune lists of 1778 and 1785, however, suggest that this title may be a corruption of A’ Ghleus Mheur, ‘The finger warm-up’ – R.D. Cannon, ‘Gaelic names of pibrochs: a classification,’ Scottish Studies, 34 (2000-2006), section 7.3, pp 40-42.

Roderick Cannon (2009), rev. Barnaby Brown 2015

Archive Recordings

1958 Joan MacKenzie (Diriri, diriri, diriri, deò) – this shares some features with Campbell’s variation (C2.62: 142)
1961 Pipe Major John D Burgess

Other Materials

2008 William Donaldson: Set Tunes Notes
2011 Barnaby Brown: Visual Canntaireachd Video 5

2014 Barnaby Brown: Campbell notation score (C2 setting)

6 thoughts on “PS 146 – Prelude, or Lament for Dunyvaig Castle”

  1. Many thanks, Barnaby, for the wider discussion of the ambiguous term ‘A Glas’. However, there is one point omitted: the inclusion of the tune ‘The Finger Lock’ (‘A Glas Mheur’) in the list of duty tunes of the Argyllshire Fencibles, 1778, in which it is used for Reveille, to waken the sleeping soldiers. (pg. 217, Music of the Scottish Regiments, David Murray). Allan MacDonald, in his Treatise, also records the words of a drinking song to this air (including the refrain ‘Ol, ol, ol,ol’ – drink, drink, drink, drink, which fit the opening motif).
    It seems to me both of these usages are germane to the discussion, since they place the name firmly in a military context, where a tune called ‘A Prelude’ was unlikely to be found, given the martial names of the others (eg. Breadalbane’s March, War or Peace).

  2. Thank you, Ronald, for these comments. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. You have catalysed substantial revisions to Roderick’s texts above. Today I completely re-worked the section on A’ Ghlas / A’ Ghleus / Glas / Gleus, and added an interview with Allan MacDonald from 8 April. This page is now much stronger!

  3. ” “A” could be an English indefinite article or a Gaelic definite article…”

    This comment assumes that Colin Campbell mixed English and Gaelic words in his nomenclature – of which there is no evidence except this assumption itself – a classic case of ‘begging the question’. All his titles are either in English or in Gaelic, and it is evident he knew how to use the Gaelic definite article ‘A’ = the.
    ‘Lassan Mhic a’ Cheaich’ contains this article, in the nickname ‘son of the squinter’.

    “gleus could mean ‘prelude’ or ‘exercise’. Cf. A’ Ghlas Mheur (132); Deuchainn Ghléusaidh, ‘a tuning prelude’ “.

    Joseph MacDonald’s treatise, which predates Bunting (above) by at least a generation and was written by a Gaelic speaker (which Bunting was not), contains examples of actual tuning preludes, which are quite different from this tune, and are called by him ‘Deuchainn Gleusd’ – note the final consonant, which firmly differentiates the word from ‘Glas’, and from ‘Gleus’ which apparently has lost the consonant. It seems a confusion between these words, based on a distortion, has led to an imaginative leap which declares them identical.

    Further indication of the inappropriateness of calling this a ‘prelude’ lies in the fact that Joseph MacDonald, in the very next section of his Treatise, ‘Timing’, has an example of what he calls an ‘adagio’ (eg. a urlar) which is this very tune, ‘Lament for Castle Dunyvaig’. The contrast between a prelude and a urlar could not be clearer.

    “It is unusual for a genre term like cumha to be attached to a building rather than a person…”

    Gaelic names are notably succinct and contain a lot of implied connotations which will be missed by anyone unfamiliar with their cultural context. In this case, ‘Castle Dunyvaig’, the building, is not being lamented. it is the symbol of a desperate struggle by the Islay branch of the Clan Donald to hold onto their lands and resist the encroachment of the Earl of Argyll, a struggle which erupted into open warfare twice in the 16th century and culminated in the massacre of hundreds of captured MacDonalds, and the extermination of the Clan Ian Mor.
    Such a tragedy had, for people of that clan, a resonance not unlike ‘Auschwitz’ today.

    It is all the more poignant that the Campbell version of this tune contains the variation which also survived as a song in the Clan Donald territory of Trotternish, albeit with words unrelated to the events.

    The book ‘Highland Warrior’ by David Stevenson contains details of the historical background to Castle Dunyveg.
    It is closely linked to the famous exploits of Allasdair MacCholla (Colkitto), also the reference of other pibrochs, including ‘The Battle of Auldearn’ and ‘The Piper’s Warning to his Master’.

  4. A possible example of traditional canntaireachd can be heard at the end of this song by Mary Morrison, Barra:

    I don’t recognize the tune, and it may be an improvisation; nevertheless, the style is that of Pibroch.
    It is sung much faster than pipers play today, and may or may not be a survival of an old style.
    Here is a rough transcript of her vocables:

    “1) indrin DRA e HE ha o ha indrin HA HE, haro Hio indrin dro I he, ha o hra indrin dro hin dro HE,

    2) hara HE indrin drin drin dro HI RE, HA ro indrin RA HE, hara ro in drin dro HI RE,

    3) horo HRA din drin dro hin dro HE, hara HE indrin, HRAA HOO indrin, TAA HOO indrin,

    4) din drin TE indrin TA indrin TO indrin din, in in drin TO indrin TA indrin TO indrin TEE,

    HeHaRAA in, drin TEE a EE.”

    A = in
    B = ho, hio
    D = ha
    E = he, e
    F = hi
    A’ = I

  5. The Campbell version of this tune contains a striking variation, descending repeatedly from high A, which has a parallel in a gaelic song recorded by James Ross for The School of Scottish Studies from Kirsty Eachainn Munro, of Bornaskitag, Skye. Bornaskitag is in Trotternish, near Uig, and thus in MacDonald territory (the Castle was theirs until taken by the Campbells). James was of the opinion that it was a pibroch originally, and came to her via the MacArthurs. Here is Joan MacKenzie singing it:;jsessionid=1BFBDF42CAF2D7CE5957B594CAB8A1E8

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