The Black Chanter of Clan Chattan
The ancient Clan Chattan possess a wooden chanter (finger pipe of the bagpipes) known as ‘The Black Chanter’ or ‘Feadan Dubh’. The chanter is one of the Clan’s most cherished possessions alongside their Green Banner and is kept at Cluny Castle in Badenoch—the Seat of the Chief of Clan Chattan/MacPherson. The prosperity of the House of Cluny is supposed to depend on this chanter.
The Black Chanter is said to have originally fell from heaven. There are cracks on the pipe believed to be caused from this fall.
Legend says that the Duke of Cumberland had been warned before the battle of Culloden by an old witch, or second seer that if he waited until the Bratach Uaine (Green Flag) and the Feadan Dubh (Black Chanter) came up he would be defeated. Ewen of Cluny was present at the Battle of Prestonpans with six hundred of his Clan, and he accompanied Prince Charlie into England. On the Prince’s retreat into Scotland, Cluny with his men put two regiments of Cumberland’s dragoons to flight at Clifton, fought afterwards at the Battle of Falkirk, and was on his way from Badenoch to Inverness with his Clan to join the Prince when flying fugitives from Culloden met him with the intelligence of that sad day’s disaster. They had missed the battle.
As Colonel John Roy Stuart (Iain Ruadh Stiubhart) the famous warrior-poet of the ’45 has it in his Oran eile air lutha Chuilodair:
“Clann-Mhuirich nam buadh,
Iad-san uile bhi bhuainn,
Gur h-e m’ iomadan truagh r’a leughadh”
which may be freely translated as
“Clan Vourich of might!
When dire was our plight,
Would you had been there to aid us!”
According to tradition the Black Chanter of Clan Chattan is endowed with magical properties. Towards the end of the combat on the North Inch of Perth, we are told that there was seen an aerial minstrel hovering over the heads of the Macphersons, who after playing a few wild strains on the instrument let it drop from his hand. The Macpherson piper secured this en- chanted pipe, and even though mortally wounded poured forth the pibroch of the Clan till death effectually silenced his music. The Black Chanter was ever after held to ensure success not only to the Macphersons, but also to its temporary possessors, whenever lent to other Clans by the generosity of the Chief of the time. The Grants of Strathspey having received an affront through the cowardice of some unworthy members of that Clan and being dejected beyond measure, borrowed this magical instrument. Its bold war-notes soon roused their drooping energies and stimulated them to such valour that from that time forth it passed into a proverb that “no enemy ever saw the back of a Grant.” The Grants of Glenmoriston afterwards borrowed it in the same way, and it was only restored to “old Cluny” in the early part of the present century.