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Glengarry's Lament

 

Alastair Ranaldson MacDonell was the 15th Chief of Clan Ranald and 22nd from the founder of the MacDonald of the Isles line. A notoriously extravagant Chieftain, he left his estate with an enormous debt when he died in 1828. He was a thoroughly bad Chieftain who cleared his tenants at the turn of the 19th century and then tried to stop them from emigrating. Three shiploads emigrated anyway.

 

He was a Chieftain who typified the Highland landlords whom the 19th century British Home Secretary Sir William Harcourt called “ruthless and avaricious”.

 

The tune was composed by his piper, Archibald Munro. It is said that the lament was played at his grave side by six pipers. Quite a feat in that MacDonell died quite unexpectedly as the result of an accident! If true, it suggests that the tune may have been an unnamed tune, known locally and adapted for the occasion. A full-scale traditional Highland funeral with feasting's and ceremonies over several days ensued.

 

The idea of six pipers saluting a fallen Chieftain at his grave side is not an uncommon theme in the heather myths of Gaeldom. There seems to be a thread that links six pipers in tribute to fallen Chieftains, generally, however, to persons of great renown.

 

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