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Angus Macmillan Fraser recording and history

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  • Angus Macmillan Fraser recording and history

    Hello,
    I was wondering if anyone out there had a good recording of Angus MacMilan Fraser's 78 rpm record they would like to give me? Fraser was from Lost River Quebec, but sent most of his adult life in New York where he taught piping and dancing . He was a successful piper against some pretty well known competitors in the Boston area before WWI , and was acclaimed at one one time to be the North American Highland dance champion for several years.
    I wrote a short article about him about 12 years ago for the Voice but I want to update some fo the information I have presently,
    Thanks,
    Barry

  • #2
    Barry when did you do that article on Angus? Is it online?

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    • #3
      Hi Michael, I am afraid I do jave a copy of the Voice where the article appeared, but I may have the draft on my old hard drive. I can tale a look. It has been suggested by a few sources that Fraser was the subject of the tune by DC Mather "The Man fro Glengarry" written, according one source, for a piper who wasn't that good at playing . Having heard a few bars of his music last year, I can attest he was a fine player. His record at the games in the Boston area pre WWI is pretty impressive as well, I a still look for an MP3 recording of 78 record if you come across one. If I find the article I can it to you. Cheers, barry

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      • #4
        Did you not get the recording I sent long ago Barry?

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        • #5
          No I didn't receive the recording. It may have ended up in cyber space. Can you re-send to
          [email protected] I am in contact with Angus' grand niece and she was hoping to get a recording of him. It may be time for an update of the article since, from the little bit I heard on your video he was a fine player, and so the story that Mather made The Man from Glengarry for a piper who wasn't very good from Glengarry Ontario, may be way off the mark, if it was made for Fraser . thanks

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          • #6
            "The Man From Glengarry" was the title of a a very popular novel written by the Reverend Charles Gordon a.k.a. Ralph Connors in 1901. Born and raised in St. Elmo (about a mile north of where the Glengarry Highland Games are held) Gordon wrote a fictional account about the Scottish pioneers who settled Eastern Ontario. Perhaps this book was the inspiration for the reel in question.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Connor

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            • #7
              Interesting connection but there are ate least 2 sources from the Piping Times describing Mather's inspiration, one mentions Fraser, the second mentions an unidentified piper, who apparently was not very good to play. Montana attracted loads of people, in the early 20th century. One Cape Bretoner who went there and worked as a shepherd for over 20 years carried the nickname "Montana" Dan long after his return to CB. He was a great singer and some of his singing can heard on recordings of the North Shore Gaelic singers. There was a small pipe band in Butte for a while IIRC, and so numerous pipers in the State at the time.
              Barry

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              • #8
                Chronology is important in historical research. 1901 was the year that Gordon's book was published as well as the year that Mather settled in Montana. Maybe this is all just a coincidence. It is worthwhile noting, however, that the earliest volume of the Piping Times didn't appear until 1948. I'm sure that you are aware that men from Glengarry have been sojourning in the West since the end of the eighteenth century when their participation in the fur trade (principally as partners and clerks in the North West Company) became consequential. Thereafter, demographic pressure pushed younger sons west since impartible inheritance practices meant that only the eldest son acquired the family farm. These emigrants subsequently found employment in the timber trade, then mining, then railway construction, then agriculture, and now the petroleum industry. Even amidst the Pemmican War (1814-1820), Glengarry's own Alexander MacDonell of Greenfield found time to take piping lessons from one of the colonists who had settled at Red River under the patronage of Lord Selkirk. Piping has been a consistent feature of life in the county since its 1784 establishment. Maybe Mather wasn't impressed by the abilities of a piping devotee from Eastern Ontario but he would have had to admire the tradition he perpetuated since it sprang from Ontario's, and perhaps, North America's, signal Celtic heartland.

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                • #9
                  Yes chronology is important but so too are primary sources. The source of the tune title according to someone who spoke with Mather about it (and relayed it later in the PT) was that it was composed for a piper from Glengarry who wasn't very good. I do not remember any mention of Gordon's book as the source of the tune title in what I have read, but I have no way of knowing if Mather was reading books from Ontario at the time. Interesting comment about piping in Selkirk's settlement in Manitoba. I am looking for more info on Archibald Currie, who had settled on Selkirk lands, but another Archibald Currie surfaces in PEI, where Selkirk also had settlements. I wonder if some of these settlers moved around, although going from Manitoba to PEI in the 1830s would have been quite the journey. I think Bumsted is the primary source for Selkirk settlements and I am awaiting safe library conditions to check out his books .

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                  • #10
                    Point taken. I don't have any copies of the PT available so I can't comment about the veracity of any statements made therein. Mather would have been doubtlessly aware of Gordon's books since millions of copies were sold worldwide and he was the most successful Canadian author of his day despite maintaining an active pastorate in Winnipeg. The former's religious heterodoxy though would have placed him at odds with Gordon's Presbyterianism. There were at least two pipers associated with Selkirk's Red River enterprise: Donald Gunn and Hector McDonald. They were perhaps the earliest pipers in the West. Another candidate would be an unnamed piper who William McGillivray, head of the North West Company, maintained in his suite. However, he may have not had the opportunity to play beyond the confines of the concern's inland headquarters near the head of Lake Superior (Thunder Bay).

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                    • #11
                      I have been thinking about the Man from Glengarry reference you suggested and a possible link to DC Mathers
                      's reel of the same name. Angus MacMillan Fraser was from Lost River, PQ and not from Glengarry. Lost River is 61 miles North East of Ottawa. Did Mather know this and just pick a book title for a tune, or was there another piper who was actually from Glengarry (28 miles south east of Ottawa,) who met him and inspired the title . Could this be a case of a tune being composed , and when pressed for a title, he just picked one with a pleasing title from a book he recently read. Composers today sometimes insert humorous titles to their tunes, or some with meanings known only to a few. I suppose we will never know. The little bit of the recording I heard of Fraser indicated he was very proficient as a piper (he also danced) . He competed in Scotland in the early part fo the 20th century but his only successes were for dancing. Reading through newspaper results of early competitions in New York he was often placed first in piping against such well known Scottish pipers as David Ferrier.

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                      • #12
                        Lost River was well within Glengarry County's "cultural orbit" even during the horse and buggy days. Indeed, one of the themes in the book, I believe (since I read it once many decades ago and only have a vague memory of it), concerns life in the Ottawa River lumber camps. This was an experience familiar to Scots on both sides of the Ottawa who worked in the bush during the winter months to complement their meager farm incomes. Could Fraser have used Glengarry as a simplistic self-identifier because people were familiar with that part of the world because of Gordon's books? Again, I don't have a horse in this race. There is a great deal of research yet to be done about this aspect of the Scottish diaspora.

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                        • #13
                          I guess we will never know for sure who the subject was. What can be gleaned with some certainty from his recording is that Fraser was a very good piper. and tune is a very good reel.

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