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The Glen Is Mine

According to Angus MacKay, the composer of the The Glen Is Mine was Iain MacPhadraig MacCrimmon, piper to the Earl of Seaforth during the first half of the eighteenth century.

 

One can imagine a young Iain MacPhadraig, tramping through Glen Shiel, perhaps on the way to Sheriffmuir on a fine day. The scenery is inspiring. A good fight is on the horizon. The world is his oyster. What could be more exhilarating? The tune reflects a joy of living that young Iain was able to portray so musically.

 

However, there are unresolved differences of opinion about the origin of the tune. Others have differed about the source of the tune without, however, providing much evidence to support their case. This is not an unusual situation for piobaireachd, given an oral tradition and the relative isolation of the glens of the Western Highlands and Islands in the 18th century and earlier.

 

The music seems to be supportive of Angus MacKay's version.

The Glen Is Mine - Version (ii)

Documented By Roderick MacLeod, 1955.

 

Discussing with friends their trip to Scotland and noting their interest in Glen Shiel prompted the writing of the following, which is just an opinion, and would readily be set aside if other accurate information is forthcoming about this fine tune, composed probably about the year 1760.

 

Visitors from Vancouver who toured much of the North of Scotland returned lauding the scenery of the Highlands. They were delighted with Glen Shiel, and the beauty provided there by Nature was still a cherished possession in their hearts. This set me thinking.

 

According to the legendary notes by Fionn in Glen's Book of Piobaireachd the above tune was composed by Iain Dubh MacCrimmon when with the Earl of Seaforth he passed through Glen Shiel.

 

On first thought it would appear that the composition refers to ownership but in my opinion beauty of scenery inspired the composer to transmit in melody a happy mood rather than anything pertaining to a place when the spirit moved and skillful fingers interpreted his feelings into that fine tune The Glen is Mine.

 

Readers familiar with the Highlands, arid the nature of the country with its high hills, its straths and glens, and who have tramped its monotonous moors, know that there is nothing gives more that feeling of exultation than when rounding the shoulder of some lofty hill one suddenly sees stretched below the magnificent view of some heather clad glen with its many individual beauty spots, and this thrown on the mind's screen is a mental portrait truly one's very own.

 

Viewing some part of this glorious scene, which stretches from Loch Cluanie to Loch Duich, and looking into the heart of Nature's grandeur the mind of lain Dubh is purged of any thought of ownership but, catching the message in the beauty presented by Nature, and treating dramatically what comes under his vision, he weaves in his mind this beautiful theme as nimble fingers portray in music that fills the heart, and, addressing himself, there flows from the chanter this well known Urlar 's leam fein an gleann, 's leam, feinn na th'ann.

 

Then comes a description of the landscape and the next variations bring in a higher note as the breeze blows nearer, sound of bird-song, waterfall and gurgling river which reverberate through the glen, and in fancy follow his eye as it travels over the many beauty spots which succeed one another from the lower level in the valley and go up and up, and still higher up, hastening, in the last few measures, to reach the clear blue sky where an eagle soars over the highest hill.

 

Leamluath counts one by one the mossy stones beside the old stone bridge as the Shiel sings its way to the sea; the patches of violet, primrose and daisy on the river bank; each tree and whin-bush with its music of mavis and linnet, always pausing for the wandering breeze to carry to hills which have stood for ages the chanter's song of praise.

 

In Taorluath the murmuring river, the thicket of bramble, the cluster of hazel, the clump of birch, the sentinel ash, the wild rose and purple heather could not be painted with artist's brush more richly than Iain Dubh MacCrimmon does it in melody. Bequeathing to Bonnie Glen Shiel another loveliness, as grand as Nature bestowed, which carries its fame to every land where piobaireachd is heard.

 

In Crunluath his eyes once more explore the scene and the description gets more intense, the effects get more visible, sounds get nearer, the ingredients of the view, described in former measures, are now more condensed and, as painter puts his scene on canvas, lain puts the spirit beauty of this scene in tune and the majesty of it all unfolds before us in melody.

 

Then coming back to the Urlar he lifts his eyes to the hills and to Him whose power has all this beauty given, as once more a heart overflows and there echoes through the glen the expression of a great artiste's feelings in this agreeable strain:

The glen is mine,
It's all for me.
Its spell and charm,
Is what I see.
In this it's mine.
The Glen is mine.

 

Exit The Glen Is Mine and return to the General Piobaireachd Stories

 

 


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