- [1972:] The MacCrimmons, pipers to the MacLeods of Skye, were the most famous piping family in Scotland, and indeed in the Western world. Pupils came from far and wide to receive tuition at their college at Boreraig, near Dunvegan. Some of their great pibrochs - for example, Lament for the Children - are now accounted musical treasures by international critics and musicologists. The repression of Gaelic culture which followed the battle of Culloden seriously harmed but did not destroy their inheritance. Ironically, the MacLeods were on the Hanoverian side in the '45, and the piper who prophesied his own death before leaving for the field was killed in a skirmish against soldiers of Prince Charlie. (Hamish Henderson, notes 'Isla St. Clair sings traditional Scottish songs')
[1974:] The [MacCrimmon] family were the traditional pipers to MacLeod of MacLeod and were recognised as the finest pipers in Scotland. Under MacLeod's patronage they formed a school of piping. A MacCrimmon piper was the pride of many a Highland chief. The piper arrived as a boy and did not leave till he was a mature man. Marching tunes were regarded as a necessity and looked upon by the MacCrimmons as 'pop' music. They taught airs and mainly piobaireachd, some of which lasted as long as many symphonies. In addition they were taught sword play, dancing and the history of their clans which mainly consisted of the recitation of their lineages, the lands held and the battles fought. Before music was written this was all done by memory, hence the long training. (David Millar, Forces Folk 8/74)
[1985:] This moving, formal lament concerns the death of Donald MacCrimmon of the famous family of MacCrimmon, hereditary pipers to the MacLeods of Dunvegan, Skye. Its authorship is controversial, and it is said by some to have been written by MacCrimmon himself, foreseeing his impending death in a skirmish near Inverness in 1745. Both Gaelic text and English translation have appeared in print in the 19th and 20th centuries, most probably reworkings of existing older oral versions. (Notes Lizzie Higgins, 'What A Voice')
[1987:] At Borreraig on the Isle of Skye was raised a memorial cairn on which was inscribed in Gaelic: "The Memorial Cairn of the MacCrimmons, of whom ten generations were the hereditary pipers of MacLeod, and who were renowned as Composers, Performers, and Instructors in the Classical Music of the Bagpipe. Near this spot stood the MacCrimmon School of Music, 1500-1800." Hamish Henderson describes this song as "a folksong variant of a 19th century translation from the Gaelic." There is controversy as to why the poem was written, the translation I found reads:
MacCrimmon will never, will never return,
In war or in peace, he will come no more;
With riches or otherwise MacCrimmon will return not:
He will not come ever till the Gathering-day.
Hamish it was, too, who introduced me to the singing of Jeannie Robertson, from whose version this was learned. (Notes 'Jean Redpath')
[1993:] I first heard this from the singing of Dick Gaughan around 1972. (Notes Heather Heywood, 'By Yon Castle Wa'')
[1995:] MacCrimmon as a legend, as a literary device, like Robin Hood or Nasreddin Hodja, accumulates stories. We have at least six stories that tell how the MacCrimmon family "acquired the gift of piping". They are all different and they all involve fairies.
As far as battles are concerned, we have stories that tell how "MacCrimmon" personally altered the course of the Battle of Waternish, and was seen at the Battle of Worcester. And so on. The point was not that a particular piper was there, or at Moy or Inverurie, but that MacLeod levies definitely were, and the seannachies used such devices to string stories together.
After all, it would be assumed that if "our lads" were there, a MacCrimmon piper would have been there with them. These are stories, not reports from war correspondents. (John Bidwell, MacCrimmon Piping Heritage Centre, Borreraig, letter to The [Glasgow] Herald, 13 June)