In Kilmuir graveyard on the Isle of Skye in Scotland there is a large gravestone lying flat on the ground, almost as if the scribe had walked away in the midst of engraving the epitaph. The inscription reads: ‘Here lie the remains of Charles MacKarter whose fame as an honest man and remarkable piper will survive this generation for his manners were easy and regular as his music and the the melody of his fingers will’
This is the burial location of Charles MacArthur, the last hereditary piper to the Clan Chief MacDonald who resided in Duntulm Castle. It is believed that the stone was commissioned by Charles’ son, Donald, and when the son drowned in the Minch while returning with a boat load of cattle from Uist, the mason stopped work in the knowledge that he was unlikely to be paid. There is no record of what the full dedication would have said. (Alternatively, if the mason was a perfectionist the realization that he had made a mistake in engraving ‘the the’ could have been reason to abandon his work.)
There is a memorial to the famous MacArthur pipers situated beside Duntulm Castle. The dedication tablet states: “This cairn is to commemorate the MACARTHURS hereditary pipers to the MACDONALDS of the Isles. During the 18th century their school of piping stood at nearby Peingown’. A Gaelic inscription translates as, The world will end but love and music endureth.
Note: Historically, a piper always marched in front of the army when going to battle to signal tactical movements to the troops. Bagpipes were commonly used throughout the centuries during Clan battles, fights against the English, and during two World Wars to lead the men ‘over the top’ of the trenches and into battle. Unarmed pipers were an easy target for the enemy and the death rate among pipers was extremely high.