As a Plaidneck, I mess around in offbeat Highland stuff. One question that comes to mind is “Is there a Saint connected with the Highlands”. I am a very amateur piper and if there is a truly Highland Saint, what pipe tunes would suit.

Here in the great white north, we seem to pipe a lot for non-highland celebrations: Robbie Burns (a Lowlander) Day in January; St. Patrick’s Day ( and the Irish have their own quite different pipes) in March; Tartan Day (on the day of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath) in early April, and St. Andrew’s Day (both Scotland but not specifically highland) in November. We play the GHB (Great Highland Bagpipe) an outdoor instrument that we play bare fingered wearing glens (I’ve had frost bight on at least 6 fingers and both ears from such foolishness). Hopefully any Highland Saint would have his/her “day” in more suitable piping weather

A while ago, someone suggested St. Maelrubha (Mellroova ??) as a suitable individual.

Maelrubha was an early Christian working in the Highlands. He founded his settlement in what is now Applecross (Aber Crossan or Aporcrossan). The peninsula where Applecross sits was known by its Gaelic name, ‘A’ Chomraich’ (or Comaraich), “the sanctuary”. His ministry also extended into the inner Hebrides.
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St. Maelrubha’s Day has been set as August 27th. In my part of the world, late August is a great time for piping. The dog days of summer are past, flies and mosquitos are long gone but it hasn’t yet started to get cold.

So, a Highland Saint whose day falls at a time of year with decent piping weather (at least here). What’s not to like?

Are there any suitable tunes? Apparently the Great Highland Bagpipe came into being in the 1700s. Although there have been bagpipes since ancient times, the one most known it a fairly recent development. At first it was a solo instrument playing a theme and variation type of music we now call Piobearachd (Pibrock comes close to how that is pronounced) and dance music. Pipe bands came into being in the mid 1800s with the English army. Civilian bands are from the 1900s. The piping most of us hear is heavily influenced by (British) army band playing and the demands of competition shaped by lowland organizations. There is a movement to revive a dance driven style among some solo pipers – but I digress.

So what tunes to play on St. Maelrubha’s Day. There probably isn’t original pipe music from that time. However, there are some tunes associated with the area he chose to make his mission.

I’ve done a very quick search and found a few “Applecross” tunes. Three were written by a D. McNair (“Applecross Hills”; “Mrs Platt’s Farewell to Applecross” – both listed as quicksteps; “the Applecross Highlanders” – a march) plus a “Dr. Ronald MacLean of Applecross” (probably a march) by Neil A MacDonald. There is a piobearachd (“Failte Tighearna na Comaraich) by Angus Mackay and a geographic connection between Maelrubha and “Loch Maree” (a 3/4 march).

Come August, I think I’ll just play a few of these. The Highlands deserve to be recognized as not just Scotland

The Plaidneck