In his manuscripts, Angus Fraser presents the term 'port' as the last of several
synonyms for the term 'ùrlar' (floor) which he calls 'ground' and 'theme' and which
was the basis for the 'siùbhlaichean' (movements) in piping which he called
'variations' and 'allegros'.
His spelling 'Porst' would reflect his own accent. His translation of the term is 'Tune
or Portio'. The former reflects the common meaning of the word in the writer's own
day and the ground is naturally the main tune. The latter is more enigmatic. 'Portio'
is the Latin word from which we get the English 'portion' which appeared around the
year 1300. It is therefore the Latin equivalent for the Gaelic word 'rann' (portion,
division) which is used like the English 'verse' to refer to any section of poetry. Here
'portio' may be being used to mean 'a musical division'. The rarety of such usage is
perhaps related to its origin in a Gaelic mileu.
The port certainly seems like a short portion of music in comparison to the great
marches of the Highland bagpipes and the measures of the medieval Welsh harp.
Daniel Dow's settings of Cumha Iarla Wigton and Cumha Easbaig Earra-Ghàidheal
suggest the possibility that some of the port melodies as we have them now may
have been portions of much more extended compositions which have vanished with
However, with the Féachain Gléis, we have a genuine and significant case of a port
being put to use as a prelude and not being used as a basis for further divisions.