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MacKay's Banner

A piobaireachd story documented by Ron MacLeod

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MacKay's Banner

The piobaireachd MacKay's Banner, Bratach Bhan Chloin Aoidh, is a tune that celebrates a banner that is thought to have been flown by Iain Aberach and his MacKay clansmen at the Battle of Drum na Coup, just south of the Kyle of Tongue in the northwest of Scotland in the year 1433. In this battle an invading Sutherland force was decimated and the fleeing survivors were harried for miles across moor and mountain. Iain Aberach was standing in for his stepbrother Niall who had been incarcerated on Vass Rock by King James I since 1427.

Aberach's banner is now in the care and custody of the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh. The inscription on the banner is Biodh treun – Biodh treun, that is, Be Valiant, Be Valiant.

One might imagine that centuries later Piper Kenneth MacKay of Tongue would have been motivated by his ancient clan motto when he stepped outside the Cameron square at the Battle of Waterloo, 1815, to inspire his comrades with the piobaireachd Cogadh no Sidh.

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