The Old Woman's Lullaby

For this bagpipe lesson Pipe Major Bill Robertson steps you through playing the piobaireach The Old Woman's Lullaby.

Listen to Bill's Audio Instruction
Old Woman's Lullaby

Download the Music Notation for Old Woman's Lullaby

Click to download the tune notation for The Old Woman's Lullaby

Various Video's

Some legends about the Old Woman's Lullaby

This tune appears under several different names:

  • Seaforth's Lament
  • George Donn Mackay's Lament,

to mention only two. This is not uncommon with older tunes. Indeed it is not uncommon even today for composers of music of music to adorn an older theme according to their own image.

Haddow's comments about the background of this tune are paraphrased here: 

“One story has it that the old woman in question is said to have lived in Jura. She must have been something of a witch as by various stratagems she could get men under her power. Once in her power, there was no escape except, that is, by one – a MacPhie of Colonsay who stole her magic axe which he cut the thread that held him to her in bondage. Her croon when he escaped is said to have been as follows"

Oh! MacPhie

My love and treasure

Hast thou left me

On the strand?

A second story from Haddow is about a hag of Ben Brech in the Lochaber area who would transform herself into a white hind. She had a song she would sing when milking the hinds. The piobaireachd is thought by some, to have flowed from her song”.

There is also a heather myth that carries the tune back in time to Gaelic bards and beyond to the pagan Celtic era. Some think it was originally a song to the Moon Goddess. In various mythologies the Moon Goddess is depicted as easily offended and prone to quick revenge for slights and neglect. Pity the poor wretch who offends her! Better to sing her praises and offer up a song in her honor.

In any event the tune is beautiful. It was at one time played at funerals. It was favored by the famous piper Donald Cameron, and it was played at his own funeral.

If you have any questions or comments, please use Contact Form to contact Bill.

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