CLAN PIPE MUSIC
by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot
There are many bagpipe compositions associated with our clan. The well known pibroch, 'The Blue Ribbon' (An Ribean Gorm) is also known as the Robertsons' March. The strathspey 'Struan Robertson's Rant' (from which our branch newsletter takes its name) is another popular tune. The 'Coming of Clan Donnachaidh' (Teachd Clann Donnachaidh) is a march associated with the tradition of our clan's arrival at Bannockburn in 1314. The 'Salute to Struan Robertson' (Failte Thighearn Shruthain) was written by one of the Perthshire hereditary MacIntyre pipers of Clan Menzies to commemorate Struan's visit to Weem castle.
While researching and writing the article on General Reid and his composing the music 'Garb of Old Gaul' which became the 'Regimental Slow March' of the Black Watch regiment, I came across the pipe music to Loch Rannoch and Struan Robertson. 'Loch Rannoch' is a slow march while 'Struan Robertson' is a strathspey. The music to both can be found in the Scots Guards book referenced below.
In David Robertson's book, we learn that the music to 'Turn the Cattle, Donnachie' (Till an Crodh Donnachaidh) was composed during 1532 and is more commonly known as 'Rannoch Braes'.
There is an interesting story behind the composition of this tune. The story begins with a band of caterans (outlaws) living on the northwestern side of Loch Rannoch. This band made several successful raids on the then Earl of Atholl's lands and took much plunder and cattle. The Earl requested manpower support from our 6th chief, William Robertson of Struan and the Strathardle clansmen led by Baron Reid of Straloch. The joint forces went after the caterans and were able to recapture much of the spoils. The following summer (1532), the caterans were again attacking Glen Tilt and Strathardle, burning and harrying the whole district. Struan, Baron Reid and the Earl of Atholl again joined forces and this time managed to capture and hang the entire band of caterans, except for their leader who was beheaded. Tradition has it that while returning from the Rannoch Braes, herding the plundered cattle, our clan piper composed this march.
The words to the refrain to 'Turn the Cattle' are:
"Turn the Cows, Donnachie
Turn the Cows, Donnachie
Turn the Cows homeward,
and get a bonnie bride."
Fionn, "The Martial Music of the Clans", Scotpress, 1984, pp. 141-144.
Paterson's Publications Ltd., "Scots Guards Standard Setting of Pipe Music", Vol. 1, 1965, pp. 182, 248.
Reid, J. Robertson, "A Short History of the Clan Robertson", 1933, p. 91.
Robertson, David, "A Brief Account of the Clan Donnachaidh", 1894, p. 42.
Robertson, James, "Chiefs of Clan Donnachaidh 1275-1749", 1929, pp. 49-50.