The Royal Scots Cap Badge


MacCrimmon's Sweetheart ver 2

There are almost as many stories about, and attributions of, the tune MacCrimmon's Sweetheart as there are letters in the name. A bit of an exaggeration, but not by all that much. It has been said, for example, that the tune is a tribute to MacCrimmon's pipe, to MacCrimmon's pipe bag, to a brown cow, to a brown-haired sweetheart, to a brown sea shell.

Here is a version based on a MacLeod story that goes back to the late 15th – early 16th centuries. A MacLeod Bard was known in his time as Maol Domhn Aich; he was probably of the Harris branch of Morrisons, Bards to several MacLeod Chieftains. Gaelic poetry of that period would have been chanted and accompanied by a harp. It was said that this Morrison's poetry was of such excellent quality that it was the principle source of inspiration for the MacCrimmon composer of the piobaireachd. In the shadowy world of the 16th century and earlier, who that MacCrimmon composer may have been remains shrouded in the mists for which Skye is famous. One attribution is to Iain Odhar, a likely candidate if the foregoing tale carries any truth. It is not a far stretch to think that the theme of an ancient Bard's poem could have inspired a simple piobaireachd that under–went several transitions on its misty road to the Piobaireachd Society version that we hear today.

One should not write off the possibility that a MacCrimmon was inspired to compose a piobaireachd on his brown cow. In the ancient Gaelic culture, as was common with their fellow Celts, cattle were revered. Cattle were the measure of a person's wealth and his place in his society. It should not be surprising that some ancients would have used terms of endearment to describe a favorite cow, somewhat in the manner a person might use today to describe a favorite pet – but with better cause.

This story was documented by Moladh Moraig


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