Hector MacLean's Warning

For this bagpipe lesson Pipe Major Bill Robertson explains playing the piobaireachd Hector MacLean's Warning. Bill breaks the lesson down into sections with commentary for each section.

Listen to Bill's Audio Instruction
Hector MacLean's Warning - Piobaireachd

It is in Piobaireachd Society Book 2 and is of Primary construction as in the diagram below. I think this is what could be called ‘not a popular Piobaireachd” with pipers, perhaps because it is played mostly on the lower hand and does not a have a particularly appealing opening urlar/ground.

Download the Music Notation for Hector MacLean's Warning

Click to download the tune notation for Hector MacLeans Warning

Lesson Pointers for Hector MacLean's Warning

Of note in the urlar is the “rundown” which appears in the first line second bar and elsewhere in the urlar and later variations. It may be played two ways. The first recommended way is the MacDonald Rundown where the E is relatively long followed by a rather open forefinger lazy D grace note to very short but clear B and low A to long low G with its D grace note. The other way would be as for a normal type cadence with the longer B. Both explained in the audio file. In the last bar of each line of the urlar the E with the tied high G grace is played quite long before the first low G which is subtly shorter than written and on to the relatively longer low A.

Touches of each two bar phrasing are helpful especially in the variation Dithis, its doubling, and the doublings of the taorluath and crunluath. A Crunluath a mach could be played because of the fair number of B's and C's, although optional and not called for in the Piobaireachd Society score.

Overall the 'singer, not the song' saying might apply.

Additional Information

Hector MacLeans Warning celebrates events in the latter half of the 16th century. The times were tumultuous and murderous, rife with clan warfare and behavior not likely to win good citizen awards.

For example, Hector's grandfather, Lachlan Cattanach (hairy or rough), is reputed to have abandoned his first wife, a daughter of the Earl of Argyll, on a tidal rock in the expectation that the incoming tide would do her in. As it turned out, unknown to Hector she was rescued by kinsmen who happened to be passing by. Lachlan was more than a little surprised when the Earl presented his daughter immediately after Lachlan had personally offered his condolences on her death. It was shortly afterwards that Lachlan Cattanach was murdered in Edinburgh by Campbell of Cawdor, brother of the lady who was marooned on the rock still known as ‘The Lady's Rock’.

Grandson Hector was little better. His patronymic was Eachainn MhicAilean nan Sop. Like his father Ailean nan Sop and his grandfather Lachlan Cattenach, Hector well-deserves being remembered as a scoundrel and murderer. The word Sop can be translated as ‘a wisp of straw” (some say firebrand or torch). Hector's father, Ailean, may have got the designation because of his uncivil habit of lighting straw at the mouths of caves to smoke out victims who were attempting to hide from him. Not a very nice character – but not unique for his time and, apparently, an evil model for his son Hector.

Hector tried by guile to have his nephew and Clan Chieftain, Lachlan Mor, killed so that he might succeed to the Chieftanship. He was caught out, taken prisoner, and put to death on the Isle of Coll by Lachlan Mor in 1578.

The composer of this tune and the precise inspiration are unknown.

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