305 – A Collection of Ancient Piobaireachd or Pipe Tunes by Niel MacLeod

An update by Geoff Hore 2008-2015.  The writing in black font is from A Bibliography of Bagpipe Music. The update comments are in blue font.


1      1828


p (i), title; p (ii), contents; p (iii), dedication; pp [1], 2-38, 41-43. Tunes (20).

  • National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. (Partial copy).  Covers missing. 8.3 x 5.4”. The dedication page is signed ‘Capt. A. M. Chisholm Strathglass’.
  • Ross Anderson’s website: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk
  • Geoff Hore’s Collection.  Photocopy.

There has been some dispute as to the extent of Gesto’s piping knowledge: ‘It is usually stated that he was not a piper although [he was] regarded as an authority on pipe music and knew all the piobaireachds current in Skye, with their history, and the names of their composers. On the other hand, it is said that he was a good performer and taught several young men to play, but that while with his regiment (42nd) in the Egyptian Campaign of 1801, he contracted an affection of the throat and lungs which prevented him from playing ever after.’ (Piping Times, June 1973).   See also a letter by A. MacGregor, quoted in F. C. Collinson, Traditional and National Music of Scotland, 1966, p 193. Another note, by J. E. Scott, is in the Piping Times, March 1964.

 Captain MacLeod also compiled in manuscript a set of brief notes on the titles and origins of the tunes. To judge from quotations, various different versions of the MS seem to have existed. Thus, (1) Sir John Dalyell, in Musical Memoirs of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1849, p 11) writes, ‘the author of this work furnished me with some notes and observations in manuscript on the pieces’ and he quotes one of these in regard to Tune XVI, ‘Isabel Nich Kay’. (2) J. F. Campbell, in his pamphlet ‘Canntaireachd: Articulate Music’ (Glasgow, A. Sinclair, 1880), mentions that the copy of the book which he used had a manuscript note on tune XX, ‘Kilchrist’, which he quotes. This particular copy was the property of Sir Robert Dalyell, who had inherited it, and was perhaps the same one used by Sir John. (3) A manuscript with notes on all the tunes was discovered at Skeabost House, Skye, in 1883, and printed in the Celtic Magazine for that year; it was reprinted again in the Piping Times, January 1970. (4) The Piobaireachd Society reported in 1930 that ‘there is extant a manuscript by the author of the Gesto canntaireachd entitled “Remarks by Captain MacLeod as far as he has been informed by the late John MacCrimmen, Piper Dunvegan, Isle of Sky”‘ and they quote the remark on tune XVII, ‘Lament for King James . . .’ (Piob. Soc., Vol 3, p 79). Elsewhere they also quote the remarks on tunes VI (P.S. 6 190), XVI (P.S. 6 182), and III (P.S. 10 304). In the last-named, the title of the MS is given again, with slight differences. Wherever the comparison is possible, the notes as quoted in these different sources agree in substance but differ slightly in wording or spelling.

More research has been carried out into the life of Captain MacLeod and this can be perused at http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/musicfiles/manuscripts/MacLeod-Gesto.pdf.

2     1880


p [i], title; p [ii], index; p [iii], dedication; p [iv] blank; pp [1], 2-43, tunes I-XX, in canntaireachd.

  • National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.  8.1 x 5.0″. Boards, leather. 8.1 x 5.0″. Evidently cropped during rebinding.
  • Library of Congress, Washington DC. Paper covers. 8.3 x 5. 0″.
  • University Library, Aberdeen.  (indexed ‘MacCrimmon, (J.), pipe tunes’);
  • City Library, Dundee.
  • British Library, London
  • Geoff Hore’s Collection.  Paper covers

The title on the front cover is the same as on the title-page. The dedication is the same as that of I, but it has been reset and the spelling adjusted.


  • Rev 00. (6 September 2008).
  • Rev 01 (23 July 2013).  Adds image of the title-page from edition 1.
  • Rev 02. (16 April 2015).  Format changed for bibliography.altpibroch.com.

© Geoff Hore 2015