Piobaireachd stories – no joking matter!

When I wrote about Peg Kingman’s new novel “Not Yet Drown’d” earlier this month I created a new category, to include it and the Cynthia Thayer novel “A Certain Slant of Light”, since I could hardly believe that there would be more than one novel written about piobaireachd.

Turns out I should remove my tongue from my cheek. I have discovered another story about piobaireachd, this one from 1896. At this point I can only assume that what I thought would be a joke category is likely to be used some more in the future.

This story is called “The Lost Pibroch” by Neil Munro, and is the title story from a collection of short stories involving life in the Scottish Highlands. Munro grew up in the Highlands but, like so many others of his generation, left for the big city when he was barely 18. By the time he was 23 he was Chief Reporter at the Glasgow Evening News. His first successful attempt at writing fiction was the set of short stories that are the subject of this post, and after their success he scaled back his journalism and focussed on fiction for the rest of his life. He was under-appreciated in the years following his death in 1930, as his career coincided with a proliferation of over-romanticized Scottish fiction, but it has been suggested more recently that he was to some extent satirizing that same genre.

“The Lost Pibroch” seems to bear that out. More gothic than romantic, it turns about the playing of a tune that only a handful of pipers are ever able to (or should ever) play. I will not give away the plot, but the playing of the tune has unforseen consequences that appear to be in evidence in some of the later stories in the collection. If you live in North America you can download the whole volume and start reading, using Google Books. Apparently, this will not work for you outside North America (possibly because of copyright restrictions) so you will have to scour your local bookshops and libraries. Good luck!

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