Pipers had a very dangeroud job in the past centuries for not only were they playing at weddings and funerals but during skirmishes, battles and wars with nothing to defend themselves but the weapons of those by their side who had time end energy to spare. The pipers’ tunes would rally the Clan and their deaths be mourned by many.
A piper was a highly respected member of the community, his occupation often hereditary and the family was given land and dwelling for their service. On the Isle of Skye the MacArthurs were pipers to the MacDonalds and settled in the hamlet of Hungladder. They taught their skill on a knoll close by, at Cnoc a’ Phiobaire, the Piper’s Knoll.
In Kilmuir churchyard a stone was placed to remember one of the pipers. The inscription was never finished. This could be or due to the fact stated in the sign within the graveyard that the piper’s son drowned in the Minch before he could pay his father’s stone mason.
The dead piper must have had more than one son. Otherwise the hereditary line of MacArthur pipers to the MacDonalds would have ended here. But it didn’t, because they were still there in the 18th century. This other son would have paid the stone mason instead of the one who drowned to finish the stone of the father and maybe add the name of his brother.
It ssems far more likely, that abandoning the stone was due to the spelling mistake, a double “the”. But why did it find its way into the graveyard after all?
sources and further reading:
William Mackenzie: Old Skye Tales. Traditions, Reflections and Memories. Edinburgh, Birlinn; 1934