The annual Christmas meeting of the Club was hosted by Jack and Christine Lee. A small (but select) group gathered to hear the ‘great music’ played by young and old alike. What greater satisfaction can there be than to hear youngsters play, all the while hoping that one of them may persevere to eventually play cèol mòr – the ‘great music’ – at a high professional level.
Hal Senyk led off with a fine rendition of Lament for Finlay. MacMhurich Mor was of Uist. He was a man renowned for his valour at sea and on the land. Finlay was one of his seamen. The significance of the story is entangled in heather myth but it seems that on one voyage with MacMhurich Mor, Finlay was the only crewman of four to survive a ferocious storm. He bailed the boat while MacMhurich kept the helm. Finlay broke two casks to use as bailers to keep ahead of incoming water. The second bailer he used was a whisky cask which, in order to use as a bailer, he had to break out one end, spilling the precious dew into the bilge of the boat. It was probably the loss of the whisky that is lamented in this tune – but who now knows?
Cameron Ickert followed with the ground and one variation of the Desperate Battle. Brian Haddon, a young man who is progressing by leaps and bounds, played The Unjust Incarceration. Daryl Techy, another youngster showing great progress, played The Battle of Auldern.
Then came two Lee brothers – John with Fair Honey and Andrew with Clan Ranald’s Salute. An unsettled difference between John MacDougall Gillies and Kilberry left confusion about the translation of the name Fair Honey from the Gaelic. Gillies maintained that the Gaelic name was A’bheil thu bronach, meaning ‘Are You Sad’ in English. Kilberry supported the Gaelic name A’ mhil Braonach, that is ‘Fair Honey’ as translated by General Thomason. As the Gaelic name was passed down orally, the transition from the spoken Gaelic word to written Gaelic word to English leaves plenty of room for error. Culturally, the weight of the dispute would seem to rest with Gillies.
Up stepped Jack Lee to close the meeting with Lament for Ranald MacDonald of Morar, one of Jack’s favorite tunes and the tune he played this year to win the Glenfiddich piobaireachd competition. Jack commented that the competition again was held in the Great Hall of Blair Atholl Castle, probably the supreme setting for a piobaireachd competition.. However, the central heating had failed that morning and the room temperature was probably in the range of 3 to 4 degrees. To make a bad scene worse, a window was open to allow passage of a cable for the recording and streaming of the event. Jack said that he was fortunate not to play until after lunch and that after listening to earlier competitors, he adjusted his pipe to temper the effect of the cold.
Jack also mentioned another highlight of this year’s Glennfiddich. It was the final competition for one of the outstanding players over the past 30 years or more. At the end of the day, Murray Henderson announced his retirement. He was a gentleman and a wonderfully fine interpreter of cèol mòr.
The next meeting will be announced in the fullness of time.