The Piobaireachd Society
Patron HM The Queen

Articles of interest about Piobaireachd.

The following articles are of interest to the piobaireachd student and come from various sources. The Society is grateful to all those who have kindly made them available to Piobaireachd Society members only. If you are not a member you can join here.

We acknowledge the contribution of Jimmy MacIntosh and the EUSPBA’s ‘Voice’ magazine, and also that of Colin MacLellan who has agreed to the publication of selected articles from his father’s ‘International Piper’ magazine.

There are also further articles of considerable academic and historical interest on Ross Anderson’s Music Page.

There are also further articles of considerable academic and historical interest on Ross Anderson's Music Page.

Campbell Canntaireachd volume 3?

Video 1  Video 2 Video 3

The Search for the Lost Volume of the Campbell Canntaireachd

The two manuscript volumes known as the ‘Campbell Canntaireachd’ contain 168 pieces of classical bagpipe music (piobaireachd) written by Colin Campbell, piper in Nether Lorn, Argyll, in the late eighteenth century. They disappeared in 1816 and were rediscovered in 1909. A considerable number of the tunes have been published since then, and are now part of the mainstream repertoire of piping.

There is evidence however that a 3rd volume existed. It has never been found, and the search for it has now been going on for nearly 200 years.

The Campbell Family

Three generations of Campbell pipers are known: Donald, his son Colin, and Colin’s son John.  Donald, born c. 1727, became piper to MacDonald of Glenalladale. After the 1745 Jacobite Rising, he ended up under the patronage of a different laird, Campbell of Carwhin, who settled him on a farm near his house at Ardmaddy, at the western extremity of the Breadalbane estate (the Earls of Breadalbane had their seat at Taymouth).

In 1778, Colin joined the newly raised Western (Argyll) Fencible Regiment, and served under major Campbell of Airds, presumably as a piper. But he was invalided out in 1781, after which he had a croft at Ardrioch, close to Ardmaddy. Colin lived at least until 1814, but he seems to have died by 182­­­4.

We have no record of Colin’s ability as a piper, but his son John certainly became a first-class player. John was born in 1795. He attended the piping competitions in Edinburgh at least from 1815, and won the top prize in 1819. He became an employee of Walter F. Campbell of Shawfield and Islay, and by the 1820s he had charge of the upbringing of Islay’s son John Francis.

The Campbell family tree - or as much of it as we can piece together, is shown here : if you can in any way help with tracing relatives of this family, please get in touch. This family tree was prepared by Keith Sanger.

The Manuscripts

As mentioned above, the first 2 volumes are known to us, and can be viewed in the National Library in Edinburgh. It might help you to know what they look like, as the 3rd volume is likely to look very similar. There are links to a You Tube video of the Canntaireachd manuscript, at the top of this document.

The two books are on slightly different sizes of paper, bound in different ways, and it has been known for a long time that they were written at different times. Volume 1 is thought to be the earliest version and has a somewhat home-made look. The original outer cover seems to have been from a large piece of cardboard folded in four, (see a photo of this here) with an inner cover of paper which was actually cut from an old map (see photo of this map here). There are 96 pages, the whole thing secured with just one row of stitches through all the layers. The title is written on the first page of the main volume and the text begins immediately on the other side of the page. It runs continuously, with no breaks from one quire to the next, and no sign of any leaves being missing. Evidently the whole text was written in one continuous operation, perhaps not taking very long, though whether the date 1797 was the beginning or the end of the work is not clear.

Volume 2 does not have quite such a home-made look. The physical make-up is consistent with this volume having been a ready-made book of 96 leaves, bought in 1814 or later, and the text again seems to have been written in one continuous operation. A photo of Volume 2 of the Canntaireachd, open at a page of music, is here.

Many examples of what the script looks like are given on our site. There is a button called “Manuscripts and Facsimiles” on the left of every page – under that you will see the 2 volumes of the Canntaireachd. As you can see it is not “music” on the stave, as we would call it nowadays, but a series of vocal sounds. What it represents is a teacher singing to his pupil (the Gaelic word for singing is Canntaireachd)– which of course is the way the music was handed down for hundreds of years, before it was first written out on the stave in the early 1800’s. In a way the Campbell Canntaireachd is one of the earliest recorded version of this form of teaching, which is one reason why it is so important.

Is there a 3rd Volume?

If you compare the Campbell Canntaireachd to other sources of pipe music from the early 1800’s, it appears that something like a quarter to a third of the whole collection has been lost. There are number of reasons to suspect this, and if you are interested then please read the detailed reasoning written by Roderick Cannon in 2009 (see reference).

The Highland Society of Scotland arranged competitions for the writing of bagpipe music in the early 1800’s, and after that several writers (mainly pipers) provided music written on the stave. In 1816, Colin Campbell’s son John brought a volume of the Campbell Canntaireachd to the Highland Society competition, but the judges refused to accept it. John stated that there were 2 other volumes with his father at home in Argyll.

Another famous piper, Angus MacKay, (perhaps the most prolific writer of bagpipe music on the stave) said in 1841 that there was ‘a manuscript collection in three volumes written in language not in notation’. He seemed to have access to a copy of the Campbell Canntaireachd, judging by some of the work that he produced.

We have reason to believe that Colin Campbell made more than one copy of his manuscripts. One volume of the Campbell Canntaireachd was bought by Sir John MacGregor Murray in 1816. This copy has also, for some reason, been lost. The upshot of all this is that today, in the National Library of Scotland we have the original version of volume 1, and a slightly newer version of volume 2, but volume 3 is still missing.

How can we find volume 3?

Volumes 1 and 2 were discovered by chance in the house of Ann Campbell, Oban, in 1909. Ann was a niece of John Campbell, and is our last known link with the family. She never married, and had no idea of the importance of the music she possessed. If she had some volumes, it is possible that other family members preserved the others.

It is likely that, if the 3rd volume survived, it is in the hands of someone who does not know what it is. The manuscript can only be interpreted by a few people with an interest in the topic. Some work has already been done on the family tree of Colin Campbell but no living relatives have yet been traced. However the present world-wide interest in genealogy, plus the increasing amount of information on the internet, opens up new doors for widening the search for Colin Campbell’s family, and the lost volume.

Therefore, while the search has been going on slowly for many years, there is a case for using these IT developments to aid us. The following plan has been set up:

1. I have joined some genealogy websites and am actively seeking relatives of Colin Campbell. The case could be made for paying a genealogist to help with the search

2. An article for the Piping Times is being prepared. There may be other journals/papers that would run the story, and we are approaching these journals at present

3. A Radio broadcast took place on BBC Pipeline in the summer of 2009. An mp3 of this will go on our site shortly.

4. This document, and others linked to it, will be widely disseminated amongst the following communities - Geneologists,Piping enthusiastsArchivists,historians,those interested in old books and manuscripts,relatives of the Campbells of Breadalbane,relatives of Sir John MacGregor Murray, Owners of old libraries including private owners of stately homes, and National Trust properties.

5.The use of the internet to attract interest include videos of the above info being explained, with the advice to go to the Piobaireachd Society website for more info. These videos are on You Tube and are also on this site for members to view. The members section has a small collection of other videos, which we are planning to expand gradually.

6. One of the videos for You Tube is a tune from Volume 2 being played on the pipes (cheotra o hodro). This is to help explain the music, better than the written word can ever do.

7. The above recordings were done at Kilbryde Castle, still the residence of a branch of the family of Campbell of Breadalbane. You can listen to the recording at Kilbryde Castle here. A further video of the Campbell Canntaireachd itself was done at the National Library of Scotland, and is available here.

8. The rise in use of social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace) will also be used to disseminate info

9. All documents and internet links will ask for any information to be emailed back to the Piobaireachd Society website, to be collated by me there.

If you have any info which you think will help us with the search, please contact me using the contact button at the top of every page of the site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Peter McCalister


Cannon, Roderick D., (2009) The Campbell Canntaireachd manuscript: the case for a lost volume. The Highland Bagpipe, Music, History, Tradition, Joshua Dickson (Ed.) Ashgate, ISBN978-0-7546-6669