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MacLeod Of Raasay's Salute


The origin of MacLeod Of Raasay's Salute is befogged by the mists of time like many other cèol mor. Angus MacKay of Gairloch, son of lain Dall MacKay, is generally acknowledged to be the composer. The date of the composition is thought to be 1761. The MacKays of Gairloch were not related to the MacKays of Raasay.


Donald McDonald in his book links the tune to the birth of a child to lain Garbh MacLeod, VIth Chief of Raasay. However, as since proven, lain Garbh left no issue when he drowned with a brother and 15 kinsmen in 1671. Donald MacDonald recorded the tune as a Lament according to Kilberry who also noted that Sandy Cameron of the great Cameron family of pipers played the tune as a Lament.


It is generally held, however, that the tune was composed on the birth of James, the heir to John, XIth of Raasay. By 1761 Raasay had recovered from the devastation in 1745/46 that saw every dwelling burned to the ground and all domesticated animals either killed or carried off the island. By 1761, Raasay was enjoying some financial prosperity as a result of good crops, a good market for black cattle and a booming quarry business.


In other words, at that time the Laird certainly could have afforded to commission a piobaireachd. The Laird had sired six daughters before the first son and heir was born. He had given up hope and was so overjoyed at this turn of events that he is said to have commissioned the piobaireachd to celebrate the event.


Arguing against the above is the fact that the first–born son of the Laird of Raasay traditionally was known as ‘MacLeod of Rona’, not ‘MacLeod of Raasay’. Which raises a question whether the piobaireachd was composed as a Salute on the birth of the son, a Salute to a persistent sire, or, a Lament on the death of ‘Old Malcolm’ in 1761, that is, Xth Laird of Raasay and father of John. Beclouding the issue is a want of certainty about the actual birth date of the son and heir, James MacLeod.


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