Book Review : Piping Traditions of the Inner Isles of the West Coast of Scotland by Bridget Mackenzie (Birlinn, 2012)
THIS IS THE third of a series of books by the author on the pipers and piping traditions of Scotland.
The seemingly narrow remit, however, is happily not strictly adhered to. The astonishing detail contained, the evidence of meticulous research, is greatly enhanced by frequent digressions into anecdote and local folklore. The snippets of island history, tradition and superstition are quite fascinating.
The book also is leavened liberally with an attractive, pawky, brand of humour. This serves to cleverly avoid the content descending into a mere statistical account of piping genealogy.
The early insertion of the hilarious episode of "Para Handy's Piper", from Neil Munro's " The Vital Spark" sets the tone of the book. It is an inspirational example of scottish humour ; a real gem.
Some readers may be long enough in the tooth to remember some of the legendary pipers mentioned in passing and can vouch for the accuracy of the word portraits painted and of the stories relating to the great players. A certain nostalgia, no doubt, will also be felt by my fellow piping veterans, at the quoting of so many wonderful old pipe tunes. Sadly all too few are heard in the modern era in their true form, ungarnished by the fripperies of contemporary arranging.
To sum up, it is safe to predict that the book will be desired by all piping enthusiasts and in particular those interested in the origins of music and the past masters of the instrument. Moreover, it is written in such an elegant, attractive and readable style that it should certainly appeal to a much wider readership than simply that of the piping world.
It is well worth such an accolade and is, for the author, another considerable accomplishment.