Lament for Donald of Laggan is well known as a masterpiece in miniature, composed by Patrick Mor MacCrimmon. A feature of it is the short third line.

The Campbell Canntaireachd, the earliest source, has the ground in three lines, all the same length, with the first repeated.  These are the typical “four quarters”  described by Joseph MacDonald in his Compleat Theory of 1760.  Each quarter is made up of four groups of four pulses each.

MacDonald’s text is below. It suggests that the old pipers used their fingers to count out the pulses in the tune, just as teachers do today.

“They counted upon their four fingers and measured by their ear, and when the finger and ear corresponded, all was well”.

The fingers were not always regular or exact, clearly to MacDonald’s frustration.

Here it is, played by Patrick Molard, with a staff transcription of the ground from Campbell’s vocables.

Fingers 1 Compleat Theory

Fingers 2 Compleat Theory