The MacCrimmon family, the Hereditary Pipers of Clan MacLeod, produced many great pipers and are credited with a tremendous historical influence on the art of piobaireachd. The most influential member of the family was Donald Mor MacCrimmon. Patrick Mor, one of Donald Mor’s sons, who followed his father as Hereditary Piper, was known as a great player and composer.
Patrick (Padruig) Mor MacCrimmon was born in about 1595 in Skye of the Northwest Coast of Scotland. Not much is known about his early life. He was said to have been taught by his father, Donald Mor. He became the Hereditary piper for Clan MacLeod around 1640 after his father died, although he was said to have served as piper for the Clan Chief during his fathers absences.
His main, and most important, legacy are his piobaireachd compositions. His skill in compositions is shown in his melodies and themes. Other composers of the time tended to stick to the main keys. His compositions are known for the way they move through many different keys.
One of his first recorded piobaireachds is "MacLeod of McLeod’s Lament" written in 1626. This piece commemorated the death of Rory Mor MacLeod, the Father of the Chief John, in 1625–1626. In 1635 he composed "Salute on the Birth of Rory Mor MacLeod". This Rory Mor (Mir) was the son of Chief John and grandson of Rory Mor.
Around 1650 he wrote one of his most well know pieces. "Lament for the Children" is an amazingly moving piobaireachd commemorating a horrible event in the history of Clan MacLeod. Around this time a smallpox epidemic struck the small island community ravaging the population with disease. As the story goes, a person who had served on a trading ship came back to the community and was carrying the smallpox virus. He is thought to have spread the virus after attending church services. The epidemic spread to many of the inhabitants of the island. The epidemic claimed the lives of “hundreds” of children, including 7 or 8 of Patrick Mor’s children.
Whether it was written for all of the children or just Patrick Mor’s it is not known. Either way it is considered one of the greatest examples of the art of piobaireachd.
Patrick Mor’s other compositions include "Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay" for his fathers mentor. He also composed "Too Long in this Condition" written after an event that left him without clothes after a battle, and "I got a Kiss of the King’s Hand" written after allegedly meeting King Charles II during a trip to London.
Patrick Mor MacCrimmon died in 1670. He was followed in the roll of Hereditary Piper by his only surviving child Patrick Og Macrimmon. Patrick Og is said to have been one of the greatest teachers of the MacCrimmon line and is credited with establishing the MacCrimmon college of piping.