c. 1854 – Angus MacKay: ‘Specimens of Canntareachd’ (SC & CK)

NLS ms 3743. Specimens of Canntareachd

This source consists of nine pages in Angus MacKay’s handwriting on paper watermarked 1853. The first six pages are widely presumed to contain transcriptions of the singing of the author’s father, ‘Iain MacRuari of Eyre, in Rarsair, Isle of Skye’, known in English as John MacKay, Raasay (c.1767 – c.1848). However, as Angus wrote the manuscript several years after his father’s death, they may more accurately reflect his own singing. These short specimens of canntaireachd are numbered 1–48 and given the abbreviation SC. All but three have been identified with confidence as the opening vocables of pibrochs found in earlier sources. In the Contents list below, MacKay’s ad hoc use of diacritical marks is simplified to “o” for the pitch B and “ó” for the pitch C.

On the last three pages, MacKay copied four longer specimens from a written source. These are not transcriptions of anyone’s singing, as is the case with specimens 1-48 and the Gesto canntaireachd; instead, they correspond to Colin Campbell’s Instrumental Book 1797, vol. 2, nos 13–16 (C2). They are distinguished here by the source code CK, which signals that the author is Campbell and the copyist is MacKay. Significant differences in the numbering and notation of these four tunes demonstrate that CK was not copied from Campbell’s surviving manuscript, C2. For example, CK uses the notational form hihara instead of hiharara, and its numbering starts at 53 not 13. The best explanation for these discrepancies is that MacKay’s source was a manuscript written in the 1780s or 90s, now lost – either a ‘first edition’ of Campbell’s volume 2 or a pre-1797 version of his collection.

Images of the 48 short SC specimens and 4 longer CK specimens are available in 3 formats. Links to multi-page PDFs are found immediately below; small and large JPEGs are found under Contents. Clicking on the PS catalogue number takes you to the tune page with a small JPEG (about 50 KB); and clicking on the title (or opening vocables in the case of untitled specimens) links to a large JPEG (about 1.2 MB). The large JPEGs are also available by clicking on the small JPEGs. These images are available for non-commercial use thanks to support from the Louis Sterne Trust.

Barnaby Brown, 18 April 2016

Complete facsimile (9 pages)
SC – 48 specimens of John MacKay’s canntaireachd
CK – 4 tunes copied from a lost manuscript by Colin Campbell
Permanent link: https://pibroch.net/sc
Online since: 2016-04-18
For commercial use of images, contact The Piobaireachd Society
Made available
with support from
the Louis Sterne Trust


SC.1  PS 210  Failte Sir Seumas
SC.2  PS 211  Failte Fear Bhorlum
SC.3  PS 202  Failte Mac Grigor
SC.4  PS 111  Failte Chlann donill
SC.5  PS 196  Failte Lady Margaret
SC.6  PS 55  Failte George Oag
SC.7  PS 173  Failte Prince
SC.8  PS 186  Failte Abercarnie
SC.9  PS 218  Failte Mananich
SC.10  PS 256  Failte Munroe
SC.11  PS 157  Failte Mharcues
SC.12  PS 99  Failte Sobeaski
SC.13  PS 243  Failte MacKenich
SC.14  PS 93  Failte Teter McDon[al]d
SC.15  PS 231  Failt Mr Martin
SC.16  PS 177  Failt Loch ial
SC.17  PS 275  Failt Lochmuidart
SC.18  PS 304  Failte Catrina
SC.19  PS 291  Battle of Glenshell
SC.20  PS 145  Ionachan
SC.21  unidentified  Pibarach Dunivag
SC.22  PS 237  Tarbh Brach derg
SC.23  PS 255  Bidagvoyach
SC.24  PS 265  Hi anana he i hi aradla ha
SC.25  PS 150  Hi ohum drin hi o didri
SC.26  PS 317  Hi anana dró o dró
SC.27  PS 16  Hi anana hi ó baróbó
SC.28  PS 6  [Hi anana] Dalla hi orobin dalla
SC.29  PS 251  Hi anana hi o u him
SC.30  PS 77  March Chlan Lean
SC.31  PS 102  Spatcharach dolgruamach
SC.32  PS 4  Riban Gorm
SC.33  PS 132  Glas Mhir
SC.34  PS 235  Bollich
SC.35  PS 75  Milduin
SC.36  PS 84  Spaidrich Bharich
SC.37  PS 67  Molidh Marie (Stiallag)
SC.38  PS 58  Slum hin an glan
SC.39  PS 308  Hanurich ort C.
SC.40  PS 230  Sard u Cadil
SC.41  PS 178  Stir a phay u
SC.42  PS 108  Bratich Bhan
SC.43  PS 244  Bentir
SC.44  PS 25  [hi anana] Ho dró vee o hiridi hu o dróu
SC.45  PS 203  Till an Crodh lichen
SC.46  unidentified  Ho dró vee o hihoodee o
SC.47  ?PS 70  Hin didri hi a didri (very similar to KB.24, Part 1 Doubling, bars 3–4)
SC.48  PS 170  Cilachrist
CK.1  PS 97  one of Argyle’s Marches
CK.2  PS 98  Leacran
CK.3  PS 99  Subbie Eskie
CK.4  PS 100  Hinotrao horodin


SC (Angus MacKay’s specimens of his father’s canntaireachd):

Frans Buisman, ‘Angus MacKay’s ‘Specimens of Canntareachd’: Text, translation and annotation’, unpublished edition, c. 1985.

Roderick D. Cannon, ‘Angus MacKay’s ‘Specimens of Canntaireachd’’, Piping Times 41, No. 5, pp. 17–25; No. 6, pp. 20–31, 38; No. 7, pp. 41–47 (February–April 1989).

CK (Angus MacKay’s transcripts from a lost MS by Colin Campbell):

Frans Buisman, ‘From chant to script. Some evidences of chronology in Colin Campbell’s adaptation of canntaireachd’, Piping Times 39, No. 7 (1987) pp. 44–49.

Roderick D. Cannon, ‘The Campbell Canntaireachd manuscript: the case for a lost volume’, in The Highland bagpipe: Music, History, Tradition., ed. Joshua Dickson, Ashgate, Aldershot etc. (2009) pp. 255–278.