Archibald MacArthur, Piper to Reginald MacDonald of Staffa

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by John Kay, Edinburgh

Postcard of Archibald MacArthur, Piper to Reginald MacDonald of Staffa.
© National Museums Scotland

Archibald MacArthur, Piper to Reginald MacDonald of Staffa

Caricature-portrait of Archibald MacArthur by the Edinburgh artist, John Kay (1742-1826). Archibald MacArthur (c.1770-1834) was Piper to Reginald MacDonald of Staffa and a member of the Skye family of MacArthurs who were pipers to the MacDonalds of Sleat for successive generations. The MacArthurs lived in Trotternish in North Skye, composed piobaireachd music and kept a 'school' for pipers. They enjoyed high status in Gaelic society and they held their lands free of rent in return for the services performed. They, like pre-eminently, the MacCrimmons in Skye, the Rankines in Mull and the MacGregors in Glenlyon, received piper-pupils from other parts of the Highlands and Islands generally to perfect their playing of 'Ceòl Mór' or 'Great Music', a distinction made in Gaelic for piobaireachd music.

Donald MacDonald, the Skye and Edinburgh bagpipe maker and music publisher, is said to have derived his skill and knowledge in piobaireachd from the MacArthurs and the Highland Society commissioned the collection of tunes from one of the last of the family. A manuscript collection of 30 tunes was completed about 1820 and this survived to be recently edited and published.

John Kay (1742-1826) was a barber in Edinburgh and turned his familiarity with the citizens to good account by producing caricature portraits of them. Beginning in 1784, he drew about 900 portraits which were later published as 'Kay's Edinburgh Portraits'.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-579-594-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0869: The Bagpipe Collection
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  Bagpipe Archive 3.28
Who: Archibald MacArthur (depicted)
John Kay (artist)
Reginald MacDonald of Staffa (MacArthur was piper to MacDonald)
Where: Scotland, Edinburgh (place of manufacture)
Description: Archibald MacArthur, Piper to Reginald MacDonald of Staffa.
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