MacCrimmon's Lament (1)

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MACCRIMMONS LAMENT [1] (Cumha MhicCriomain). AKA and see "Cha Till Mi Tuille" (Never More Shall I Return), "Cha Till MacCruimen (Macrimmon Will Never Return)." AKA and see "Cha Till MacCruimen." Scottish, (very) Slow Air/Pibroch (4/4 time). Scotland, Isle of Skye. A Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA'BB'. A note in Keith MacDonald's Skye Collection (1887) gives that the setting of this tune is particular to the Island of Skye. Neil (1991) identifies the piece (which originally was in Gaelic, though has a rhyming English version also) as a bagpipe lament and a pibroch (píobaireachd [1]) theme which can be found in numerous versions, originally composed to honor the head of the legendary Macrimmon family [2]. One story (related by Neil) goes that it was the work of a Macrimmon sister, written on the eve of her brother's departure for the camp of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the mid-18th century. Another story (from Pulver and Collinson, 1975) is that the MacCrimmons did not support the Jacobite cause and that "MacCrimmon's Lament" was composed by Domhnall Bàn MacCrimmon when he left Skye, the chorus of the song predicting that he would never return. The luckless piper was the only person on either side killed at the rout of Moy in 1745, when he was traveling in the company of the MacLeods and Lord Loudon who had hoped capture the Prince. The story goes that their plan, well executed up to a point, was foiled by the bravery and cunning of five or six men who were retainers of Lady MacKintosh of Moy Hall, with whom the Bonnie Prince Charlie was staying. It came to the Lady's attention that a body of men were moving to waylay him, and she entrusted Charlie's defense to this nameless smith, who stationed his few comrades in concealed stations along the line of advance. The men would in turn fire their muskets and call upon the (non-existent) Camerons, Frasers, MacDonalds and other clans to advance, sending Loudon's forces into a panic. The luckless MacCrimmon (sometimes spelled McCrummen) was the only casualty.

Donald Báin was one of the two sons of Patrick Og MacCrimmon, the other being Malcolm MacCimmon, also a famous piper. So great was Donald Bain's reputation, however, that when he was captured by the Jacobites at the Battle of Inverurie, two months before his death, pipers in the Jacobite army (many of whom had been trained by Donald himself) went on strike and refused to play until he was given his freedom.

The Macrimmon family, through several generations, achieved the inherited position of pipers to the lairds of MacLeod of Dunvegan in the Isle of Skye, from 1570 to 1825. They were famous as composers and exponents of the art of pibroach playing, and some say the form originated with them, though the origins of piobraireachd are obscure. They were also associated with a school of piping whose founding has been credited to Patrick Macrimmon (Padruig Mor) around 1664, and which existed until 1770. It was situated in Boreraig in Skye (where the MacCimmons held land, just across the water from Dunvegan castle) and attracted pipers from all over the Highlands. The story is told that the course at one time lasted seven years (Collinson, 1975; Neil, 1991).

Source for notated version: Miss Jessie Macleod Gesto (Isle of Skye) [Skye].

Printed sources: MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 182. Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 160, p. 207 (appears as "Cha Till MacCruimen").

Recorded sources: See also listing at:
Read Virginia Blankenhorn's study "Traditional and Bogus Elements in 'MacCrimmon's Lament'" [3] (in Scottish Studies: The Journal of the School of Scottish Studies University of Edinburgh, 22, 1978).




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