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Updated 05/07/2013


MacCrimmon's Lament

The MacCrimmons (Gaelic: MacCruimein) were a Scottish family, pipers to the chiefs of Clan Macleod for an unknown number of generations. The MacCrimmon kindred was centered at Borreraig near the Clan Macleod seat at Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.

During the Jacobite Rising in 1745 the chief of Clan MacLeod supported the Hanoverians against the Jacobites.As MacLeod's piper, Donald Ban MacCrimmon (Dòmnhall/Dòmnhull Bàn MacCruimein - bàn meaning fairhaired cf Duncan Ban MacIntyre) took an active part in the conflicts against the Jacobite forces. As hereditary piper to Clan MacLeod, he marched upon Aberdeen to seize Lord Lewis Gordon.  The force, however, was attacked and routed at Inverurie, and Donald Ban was taken prisoner.  Next morning, contrary to custom, there was no pipe music at the Jacobite quarters.  When Lor Lewis and his officers enquired the reason, they were told that so long as MacCrimmon was a prisoner there would be no pipes played.  On hearing this, Lord Lewis at once ordered that Donald Ban should be set free.  Not long afterwards, however, MacCrimmon met his fate at the Rout of Moy on February 17, 1746.  He was one of the party sent out by Lord Loudon from Inverness to seize Prince Charles as he lay unguarded at Moy Hall.  The raid was turned into a route by the strategy of Lady Mackintosh and the courage of the blacksmith of Moy with two or three clansmen, and in the confusion and flight Donald Ban was slain.  After his death, his sister is believed to have written the words to go with the haunting tune believed to have been composed by Donald Ban when he had a premonition of his impending death.

The MacCrimmon piping dynasty is honored in the form of cairn built in 1933, at Borreraig. This cairn, which overlooks Loch Dunvegan across to Dunvegan Castle, was paid for by clan societies and donations from around the world. The Gaelic inscription on the cairn reads in translation as: "The Memorial Cairn of the MacCrimmons of whom ten generations were the hereditary pipers of MacLeod and who were renowned as Composers, Performers and Instructors of the classical music of the bagpipe. Near to this post stood the MacCrimmons' School of Music, 1500 – 1800".

In the last century, with a revival in clan interest, the modern chiefs of Clan MacLeod have instated two MacCrimmons as hereditary pipers to the chief.


O’er Coolin’s face the night is creeping,
The Banshee’s wail is round us sweeping;
Blue eyes in Duin are dim with weeping,
Since thou art gone and ne’er returnest.

No more, no more, no more returning;
In peace nor in war is he returning;
Till dawns the great day of doom and burning,
MacCrimmon is home no more returning.

The Breeze of the bens is gently blowing;
The brooks in the glens are softly flowing;
Where boughs their darkest shades are throwing,
Birds mourn for thee who ne’er returnest.


Its dirges of woe the sea is sighing,
The boat under sail unmov’d is lying;
The voice of waves in sadness dying
Say, thou art away and ne’er returnest.


We’ll see no more MacCrimmon’s returning;
In peace nor war is he returning;
Till dawns the great day of woe and burning,
For him, there’s no more returning.