CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in Scotland

Recorded on 78-rpm discs - 3 of 4 : William McNally

Another player who was justly famous in his time was William McNally, who is also represented by four selections, recorded sometime between 1930 and 1935 (Reg Hall considers 1934-35 most likely). To judge by the sound, his instrument was rather large, had overspun basses and was played with beaters covered with cotton; the instrument certainly used a highly chromatic tuning, and all-in-all the effect is very reminiscent of a concert cimbalom, an effect reinforced by his romantic rubato and arabesques. His tracks are all solo, and at one point he even imitates the marching in and out of a pipe band.

John Leach quotes a tuning which William McNally's grandson gave him which, whilst not indicating concert cimbalom dimensions, certainly suggests a dulcimer rather larger and more chromatic than normal.

Attempts to contact the younger Mr. McNally were unsuccessful, although John Leach does have a hammer of his;

it is much shorter than those of many players, and has the refinement of contrasting striking heads, hard leather and soft felt. The four tracks were all recorded consecutively, and were all 'first take masters':


Road to the Isles

(Regal-Zonophone MR 1089)


Scottish Dulcimer Medley:

Over the Sea to Skye/The Campbells are Coming/March - Miss Drummond of Perth/ Strathspey - Reel of Tulloch


Scotland's Own Favourite, Part 1:

March of the Cameron Men/ A Hundred Pipers/Moneymusk sk/De'l Among the Tailors

(Regal-Zonophone MR 1090)


Scotland's Own Favourite, Part 2:

Loch Lomand/Stirling Castle/The Harvest Home

William McNally also recorded for Beltona, but details were not available at the time of writing.

It is apparent from careful listening that he used both plucked and struck techniques: in SC28-1, for instance, the texture of Loch Lomond is that of full chords, not arpeggios, and these could normally only be produced by plucking with several digits of each hand. Then follows a pause just long enough for him to take up his hammers for the sharper attack appropriate to the fast hornpipe which follow. This use of dynamic contrast recalls that of Leslie Evans at times. In some numbers, Over the Sea to Skye, for instance, and Road to the Isles, he is evidently hammering a one-handed tremolo (left-hand) whilst plucking alternately bass and chord with the right, a feat of considerable subtlety and skill. The idea of using both techniques at once was mentioned in the 17th century by Mersenne (p.131) and in the 19th century by McKenzie (p.293b): but 'live' examples are very rare.