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THE PIPER’S WARNING
While Highlanders were fighting in the wars of Europe as mercenaries, they were also fighting each other at home. In 1615 the Campbells captured Dunivaig Castle on Islay and later ambushed a party of Macdonalds acting as scouts for a force of clansmen bent on retaking it. The Campbell’s decided to hang the Macdonalds. They left a piper who had been with scouting party until last. He was given permission to play a lament for his clansmen before being hanged. The piper deliberately played a false note and this alerted the main force of Macdonalds who were waiting nearby to the fact that the Campbells still held the castle. The Macdonalds evaded the second ambush set by the Campbells and escaped. Legend disagrees about the fate of the piper. One version says that the Campbells stabbed him to death because they recognised the false note was a warning to the main force of Macdonalds. Other accounts have it that the piper only had his fingers broken, or alternatively cut off, as a punishment. What is known is that the pibroch written to commemorate the incident “A Cholla mo run” is always played with an obvious false note. 

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