Genre: Rowing Tunes

J David Hester, PhD

17 January 2015

These tunes have a very similar, tightly woven structure, possibly composed to meet the demands of piping on galleys, setting the stroke for oarsmen.  It is not that they must be mono-paced. Iin fact, pacing requirements for oarsmen require flexibility in timing – accelarando and ritardando to help guide the speed of the vessel.

Chief Characteristics

  • Minimal pitch space
  • Woven; at most, Well Woven

These tunes are also not monotonous: keeping interest and concentration is the key to “pulling together”.

PS 11 MacLean of Coll’s Galley 5-pitch, Woven
PS 55 Young George’s Salute 5-pitch, Interwoven
PS 56 Slute ot Inveraray 5-pitch, Woven
PS 57 MacCrimmon will never return 5-ptich, Woven
PS 58 The Glen is Mine 5-pitch, Woven
PS 59 The Tutor of Clanranld’s March 5-pitch. Woven
PS 60 Eòghainn nan Cath sang like that 6-pitch, Woven
PS 61 Lament for Sir James MacDonald of the Isles 6-pitch, Well Woven
PS 62 Mary’s Tune 4-pitch, Well Woven
PS 65 Lament for Iain Ciar 5-pitch, Woven
PS 66 MacIvor’s March 6-pitch, Woven
PS 67 Mary’s Praise 5-ptich, Woven
PS 68 Leaving Kintyre 5-pitch, Woven
PS 69 Hindre cheen 5-pitch, Woven
PS 70 Glencoe’s March 5-pitch, Woven
PS 93 Lament for MacDonald’s Tutor 6-pitch, Woven
PS 94 The Rout of the MacPhees 6-pitch, Woven
PS 95 Alasdair Mor MacDonald of Boisdale’s Salute 6-pitch, Woven
PS 96 Donald of Keppoch’s March 6-pitch, Woven
PS 138 Graham’s March 6-pitch, Woven
PS 140 Weighing from Land 5-ptich, Woven
PS 141 Dead’s Lament 5-pitch, Woven
PS 142 The Duke of Perth’s March 5-pitch, Woven
PS 144 Ewan Crònan 5-pitch, Woven
PS 286 The Boat Tune 6-pitch, Woven
PS 303 Hindre Cheemtra. 6-pitch, Woven

Of course, there would be significant differences between pulling on long boats and pulling on smaller boats.  For the smaller boats, the tunes in Campbell entitled “One of the Cragich” were used. (See the discussion on the Learning Living Pibroch site, here.)

PS 35 One of the Cragich: Hiharin hõdin hihorodovea
PS 36 One of the Cragich: Hiharin Hiodreen
PS 53 One of the Cragich: Hinorõdin
PS 110 One of the Cragich: Hioemtra haentra
PS 133 One of the Cragich: Hiotrotro
PS 156 One of the Cragich: Hõdin hiotra

3 thoughts on “Genre: Rowing Tunes

  1. A footnote on the idea of rowing tunes and singing to accompany the oars, which appears to have been a noteworthy practice in antiquity: there is a reference in Berchan’s Prophecies relating to the welcome reign of King Giricc (‘The son of Fortune’) 889AD “…high will be Alba of the melodious boats (eathar bhinn).”

    In contrast, Boswell in his’ A Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides’ wrote on 19 October 1773 as he was being conveyed to Staffa “Our rowers sang Erse songs or rather howled. Sir Allan (MacLean) said the Indians in America sang in the same manner when rowing.”

  2. Two tunes which ought to be considered as ‘Rowing Tunes’ are ‘Tharrin Mach Bhat Mhic CLoad’ CC v1 59(Taking out MacLeod’s boat; quite possibly the very one carved on Alaisdair Crottach’s tomb in Rodel), which has the swell of the sea in its variations; and ‘Euan aka char shein mi shudda’ (CC v2 9), which to my ear is suited for rowing, if you interpret the last note of each phrase as long.

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