February 28, 2015

Will 100% authentic MacCrimmon tune be accepted?

Iain MacCrimmon, in a photo from the 1990s.

Over the years the story of MacCrimmon piping dynasty and piobaireachds attributed to the family have debated as history, folk-tale and even fictional myth, but the music – from wherever it originated – has lasted through its popularity in competition.

The greatest example of showcasing tunes attributed to or strongly connected with the MacCrimmons is the annual piping competitions on the Isle of Skye. In the Dunvegan Medal and Clasp at Portree, contestants are required to choose from a list of “MacCrimmon compositions,” set by the organizers, including not a few tunes that are generally never played in competition unless prescribed – such as “The Pretty Dirk” and “Lament for the Duke of Hamilton” – due to their lack of appeal, particularly when juxtaposed with great MacCrimmon-attributed ceol mor such as “Lament for the Children” and “Patrick Og MacCrimmon’s Lament.”

But in 2015 comes a quandary. Iain MacCrimmon, the certain hereditary piper to the Clan MacLeod and a direct MacCrimmon descendant, has composed a piobaireachd, “Salute to Malcolm Roderick MacCrimmon,” recently performed by his son, Calum MacCrimmon with his Highland-pipes-led Celtic band, Breabach.

The piobaireachd was composed by the elder MacCrimmon, originally from Edmonton, Canada, and for the last 23 years a resident of Scotland, for his father.

By rights, one would assume that the tune, of fine quality, would automatically be added to the list of allowed MacCrimmon compositions at the Skye events, although Iain MacCrimmon steadfastly said that he has never and will never advocate for that decision.

“I have not spoken to or heard from any of the [Skye Gathering] organizers, as I am not really personally familiar with whoever they may be,” Iain MacCrimmon said. “I must admit that I never pushed this item onto anyone, only thinking of it as a piobaireachd that I wanted to dedicate to my father.”

Convener of the piping competitions at Portree, Cailean MacLean, did not respond to several requests to comment on whether or not “Salute to Malcolm Roderick MacCrimmon” would be added to the illustrious list, or, for that matter, whether . . .



  1. This piobaireachd is deservedly in honour to a man who spent most of his life promoting and supporting the MacCrimmon legacy. His son Iain and grandson Calum have followed those steps in a most respectful, honourable and humble way. I am privileged to have spent time in the company of all three – socially and musically and feel that the acceptance of this tune should be very seriously considered.

    It took several years before a Canadian pipe band was able to break into the top five in world pipe band competition. This is testament to their innovation, talent and dedication to ‘keeping the music alive and meaningful’.

    I hope that the decision makers recognize their obligation to be relevant.

    Rod McLeod/Calgary Canada



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