In p8 of the 1840 Introduction, Bunting clearly suggests that the Féachain Gléis was
used as a prelude to Cumha Bharúin Loch Mór (the lament for the Baron of
Lochmore), known in English as Scott's Lamentation. In fact, he seems to imply that
the Prelude was actually composed by Scott. The proximity of the first notation of
Féachain Gléis to the first notation of Cumha Bharúin Loch Mór in Bunting MS29
supports the possibility that the former was a prelude to the latter. They are
certainly notated in the same gamut position.
This might not be the original role of the tune however. Careful analysis shows that
the Féachain Gléis is probably the second half of Port Priest and its later variants,
Port Robart and Fuath nam Fìdhleirean (the fiddlers' flyting). As the aforementioned
all clearly bear formal comparison with Cumha Iarla Wigton (lament for the Earl of
Wigton), the Féachain Gléis might actually have been a lament, the lost part having
been introductory in nature, less melodically clear and therefore more easily
Bunting may have called this piece a 'prelude' as he regarded it either as
preparatory to the playing of another lament or because he regarded it as the first
introductory part of a port. The Gaelic word 'port' is likely to have come from Latin
and 'portus' refers to any kind of entrance so the Gaelic 'port' might have originally
referred to a piece which contained or comprised an introductory prelude of sorts.
It may not be a coincidence that Bunting used the word 'prelude' in relation to a
piece which was probably originally definable as a 'port', nor that this 'port' ended up
with an alternative Gaelic definition or title of a 'féachaint gléis' (tuning test).