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Title: The piping tradition of South Uist
Author: Dickson, Joshua
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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This is a history of piping in South Uist. Pipe music has formed part of the island's rich musical tradition for centuries, and although it remains just one piece of a much larger whole, South Uist has enjoyed a reputation in particular for its pipers. There are many reasons for this. Traditional Gaelic social culture is fundamentally musical, and folklorists from Alexander Carmichael to J.L. Campbell often portrayed South Uist as the Highlands' last storehouse of Gaelic tradition. South Uist remained largely untouched by the evangelical asceticism which swept away piping traditions elsewhere in the Hebrides following the Disruption. Clanranald's patronage of pipers survived longer into the nineteenth century than that of most other Highland families, South Uist being home to the bearers of the office. And the world of twentiethcentury mainstream competition was enriched when the Piobaireachd Society brought literate instruction to the island's ear-learned pipers in 1909. For these and other reasons, to study the island's piping is to study its religious life, its community life, its history of emigration, its oral tradition of singing and storytelling and its place in the wider framework of Clanranald and Highland custom. The first half of the thesis addresses local piping within the context of these issues: Chapter 1 introduces the overall goals of the work, the research methods used and the musical terms found throughout; Chapter 2 addresses the oral/aural tradition and looks at piping's place in local song, story and ceilidh, Chapter 3 goes back to the seventeenth century and contrasts catholic and protestant influences in South Uist to explain how piping has been profoundly affected by religious considerations, both in Uist and throughout the Hebrides; Chapter 4 traces the island's major emigrations, forced and unforced, to call attention to emigrant pipers from Uist to the New World; and Chapter 5 addresses the place of South Uist pipers in the world of Clanranald and Highland culture: from eighteenth-century patronage and a strong martial tradition to the functions of the village piper and the survival of a pre-Piobaireachd Society style of ceòl mór. The second half takes a broadly chronological look at the piping tradition as it has developed through the twentieth century. Chapter 6 examines the state of piping at the turn of the century and the period of Piobaireachd Society instruction from 1909; Chapter 7 looks at various prominent piping families in Uist; Chapter 8 charts the development of the Askernish games from 1898 to the present day; Chapter 9 addresses the Great War and its effect on local tradition; and Chapter 10 looks at local aesthetics and musical transmission, focussing primarily on the island's aural tradition and how it survived as long as it did the twentieth century's era of mainstream literacy. The thesis concludes with general remarks on the state of piping in Uist today and suggestions for further research. Above all, this is intended to be a record of the history, functions and implications of South Uist piping from the internal Gaelic perspective. Interviews with informants were conducted in Gaelic, lesser-used but important Gaelic manuscripts were consulted, and consideration is given to the context of traditional Gaelic social culture. It therefore fills a gap in Scottish ethnology and piping history often neglected through a lack of impetus among Gaelic-speaking scholars.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available