Historical commentry and notes compiled by Ron MacLeod
Below are 3 transcripts for MacFarlane's Gathering. There is a common theme in all three transcripts and I have included them for your interest.
This piobaireachd is also known as Togail nam Bo, is reported to have been preserved by John MacDougall Gillies, one of the outstanding players of his day, i.e. the late 1800's and first quarter of the 1900's. Gillies wrote down the tune as sung by the mother of two brothers who had played it in 1895 before Robert MacFarlan, Provost of Dunbarton, who subsequently commissioned Gillies to notate the tune.
Archibald Campbell, Kilberry, was of the view that Togail nam Bo and MacFarlane's Gathering were different tunes, the Gathering being a lost tune that may have been composed by Andrew MacFarlane, son of Clan Chieftain John MacFarlane who fell at Flodden 215133. Kilberry wrote that Togail nam Bo was too much a copy of Too Long in this Condition to be a discrete tune and, if it was, it wasn't an orthodox piobaireachd.
Bridget MacKenzie has an interesting commentary. In her book, Piping Traditions of Argyll, pages 271⁄272, she notes that John MacDougall Gillies held to the view that the tune was one that was known in the glens of the Cowal area and if there were mistakes in the translation of the mother’s singing, they were minor. Gillies died in 1926 while Kilberry (a pupil of Gillies) was in India and their different opinions were not resolved.
Clan MacFarlane carried the sobriquet, “fiercer than fierceness itself”. However, the name Togail nam Bo, the Lifting of the Cattle, suggests that the Clan also gathered for a purpose other than war. As to the lifting of cattle, it could have been classified as an occupation for many Clans. The MacFarlanes, like their neighbours, the MacGregors, were masters at the cattle lifting; these two clans often worked together for mutual benefit. If one is left perplexed about the origin of the tune, well, that is the way of it for much of the historical background of ceòl mor.
I. History of the Clan
Skene states that the Clan MacFarlane is “the only one, with the exception perhaps of the Clan Donnachie (Robertsons), whose descent from the ancient earls of the district in which their possessions lay, can be proved by charter, and it can be shewn in the clearest manner that their ancestor was Gilchrist, brother of Maldowen, the third Earl of Lennox”
The following history is quoted from Frank Adams history as revised by Sir Thomas Innes of Learney:
“The Clan appear to have derived their name from the chief, Parlan (or Bartholomew), who lived during the reign of King David Bruce. Their territory was at the head of Loch Lomond between that loch and Loch Long, and the seat of the Chief was at Inveruglas; then afterward at Tarbert, and lastly, at Arrochar.
In 1373, the death of Donald, 6th and last of the old Earls of Lennox, without male issue, is said to have left the Chief of the Clan MacFarlane the male representation of the old Lennox family. The claim was not allowed. however, and ultimately the Earldom of Lennox was confirmed to Sir John Stewart of Darnley, who married Elizabeth, one of the daughters of the last Earl of Lennox of the old line. The resistance of the MacFarlanes to the Stewart Earls of Lennox appears to have led to serious losses of their own lands, That the MacFarlanes were not entirely deprived of their territory was in consequence of the marriage of Andrew, head of one of the cadet branches. to the daughter of John Stewart, Earl of Lennox. By this marriage Andrew MacFarlane obtained possession of the duthus territory of Arrochar. His son Sir John MacFarlane, assumed in 1493 the designation of the Captain of the Clan MacFarlane, which at that period was synonymous with Chief. Sir John, fell at Flodden, and his grandson. Duncan, 13th of the MacFarlane, at Pinkie, 1547.
The Clan MacFarlane became one of the broken clans towards the end of the sixteenth century. They appear to have been as turbulent as their neighbors, the Clan Ian Gregor, and, like them, were proscribed and deprived of lands and name. Not an acre of MacFarlane Clan territory now remains in MacFarlane possession. The last MacFarlane of MacFarlane emigrated to America during the eighteenth century.”
II. The History of the Tune.
The MacFarlane's Gathering was best known by its Gaelic name Togail nam Bo which means “the lifting of the cattle” for the MacFarlanes were well known cattle thieves. Their reputation in this regard was so great that the Michaelmas moon was known as “The MacFarlane's Lantern.” Most cattle reiving in the border country occured around the end of September. That was the time of the Michaelmas moon – and by coincidence the time of year the cattle were at their fattest. One of the verses of “Togail nam Bo” sings out:
The MacFarlanes would on occasion work jointly with the MacGregors to plan an exchange of separately lifted cattle. This way they “Could lift closer to home and yet dispose of the cattle farther away thus reducing the danger. According to Dewar the MacFarlanes raided south into Cowal while the MacGregors raided north–east into Strathearn”. Through good planning they would arrive at the same time at Inveran. The cattle were then exchanged and driven to market. If the rivers were at spate they would then hide the cattle in a glen behind Ben Vorlich ) at Loch Sloy – “Loch Sloidh” was the MacFarlane's battle cry) or perhaps in the corrie of the Snaid Burn. They also had this arrangement with other clans such as the MacDonalds of Glencoe. But the MacFarlanes and the MacGregors preferred to work only with each other because they were both skilled at their profession. Other clans tended to allow their tempers to overcome their better judgment
Sir John, the Ilth Chief, who died at the Battle of Flodden (1513) had a son named Andrew who succeeded him as Chief. Andrew was educated at Rome, but while in Italy supposedly studied the “black arts” at the famous institute in Padua. According to tradition Andrew sold his soul to the devil, and as proof it was maintained that he “threw no shadow”.
Apart from this “evil” tradition, Chief Andrew MacFarlane is also considered by many to be the composer of this piobaireachd, which places it at an early date. There are those who maintain that The MacFarlanes' Gathering is an imitation of Too Long in This Condition.
However, Too Long in This Condition is attributed to either Donald Mor MacCrimmon in 1612, or Patrick Mor in 1715, both much later dates.
To show the popularity of this air a third similar tune was composed by Thomas Linley who was lyricist for Sheridan's “School for Scandal” which had a successful run in the Drury Lane Theatre in the 1770's. Col. Thomason, who compiled Ceòl Mor, was the first to point this out. It was written for Sheridan's play: the first verse of which is:
To sum it up, The MacFarlane's Gathering is a bright and proud tune which portrays an ancient Clan's pride in carrying out its profession with daring and boldness. Indeed, they were of old called "fiercer than fierceness itself."
By Archibald Campbell.
Judging from the Oban Times reports of the weekly meetings of the Glasgow piping societies, and from reports of competitions in it and other papers, this tune is a great favourite with budding pipers of today. It was brought forward about the beginning of the present Century by the late John MacDougall Gillies as a genuine piobaireachd, known in Cowal for years and picked up by him there. In 1911, Sandy Cameron brushed it aside as a mere version ƚI am not sure that he did not say a garbled version) of “Too Long in this Condition”. It is published in the Piobaireachd Society's Book 7, and references in the following discussion will be to the setting there printed.
The name “Too Long in this Condition” first appeared in Donald MacDonald's book, of which the first edition was published between 1810 and 1820, and it was stated to have been composed by Patrick MacCrimmon after being stripped of his clothes by the English at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. Angus MacKay's M.S. adopted the same name subsequently. No.77 in Volume 2 of the Campbell Canntaireachd M.S. is called “MacFarlane's Gathering” and is precisely the same tune as “Too Long in this Condition” except that in all 3 lines of the Crunluath singling and doubling the two successive half bars “headily” and “cheddar” are “hind are” and “hinder” and there is a palpable omission of half a bar in the last phrase. The watermark on the paper of this volume 2 is dated 1814, so the book cannot have been written before that year, but there is evidence (too long to explain here) that it is a fair copy of an earlier volume. There is no written record of Gillies' “MacFarlane's Gathering” (which hereafter will be alluded to as “Togail nam Bo” to distinguish it from the Canntaireachd “MacFarlane's Gathering”) before it was published by General Thomason in his book.
The questions are:
Points to consider are:
If you have any questions or comments, please use Contact Form to contact Bill.
Copyright @ 2004 – 2014, by Greg Barnes, bagpipe-tutorials.com No reproduction permitted without permission.