We are a Scottish-based society enjoying strong international support, dedicated to researching and developing the Scottish bellows pipe, which includes small pipes (parallel bored chanters in various keys) and Lowland or Border pipes (conical bored chanters)

The Society began life in 1981* among a group of enthusiasts who were interested in reviving the bagpipes of the Scottish lowlands and border region. These pipes are bellows-blown with their drones issuing from a common stock and have been played in Scotland since at least the 17th Century.

mike rowan
Mike Rowan at the 30th Anniversary ceilidh
Society founder Mike Rowan writes:

"I contacted Hugh Cheap and Gordon Mooney and together we set up the first meeting in the MacEwan Halls in Edinburgh in 1981 and went on to found the Lowland and Borders Society. At that time there were 2 working sets of Lowland pipes (one turned out of aluminium by Gordon Mooney!) and no makers and no information on the history of the instrument, though there were a few dead sets in museums. Effectively the lowland pipes were dead. As the first chairman I also set up the first competition award - the Mains Castle medal - where I lived at the time.

Since then the Society has spread across the world: Mike Rowan adds: "Forming the society was one of the things in my life that I am most proud of. To see so many members round the world and so many hugely talented young musicians roaring away on the small pipes is wonderful."

There are two distinct instruments within the tradition: the larger Border or Half Long pipe, which is characterised by a conical (or tapered) bore chanter, and which produces a sound not unlike a Highland bagpipe on a quieter scale. These were the instruments of the Toun Pipers, employed in many lowland towns to play on civic occasions. The other pipe is the Scottish Smallpipe, characterised by a straight (cylindrical) bore chanter. It is quieter and more suited for indoor use - ideal for playing along with other instruments.

The tradition of playing both the instrument(s) and the music became extinct in the last century in Scotland - there were no hereditary pipers left, no-one to pass on the music through the oral/aural tradition and so the new generation had to look to the Northumbrians for help in making reeds and instruments in the early days. The playing style, however, is much closer to the Highland tradition, using the same fingering technique and open-ended chanter as Highland pipes. (It may be noted though, that some players do employ the closed fingering technique, producing a quite distinctive sound and style).

A wealth of border music does exist on both sides of the divide and recent research has turned up an important manuscript - the William Dixon Collection of 1733 - of early cross-border music which has been republished by Matt Seattle greatly enriching the current repertoire. Much music written for fiddle or Highland Bagpipe can also be successfully adapted to fit well on bellows pipes. Over recent years, the Society has grown from being a group of like-minded friends, to being a truly international organisation with members in many far flung places.

There are now a number of well established professional makers producing pipes of the highest quality and the instrument has been adopted by numerous folk groups. Initially at the instigation of Hamish Moore, the Society has also staged a number of high profile concerts which have drawn players from as far away as Cape Breton, Sardinia, Brittany, Central France and Hungary, as well as the cream of Scottish talent

*A note from Jeannie Campbell:


"The Society was conceived in early 1981 but the official founding was 16th April 1983. The announcement at the time says 'After a couple of years of activity on an informal basis, the emergent Lowland and Border Pipers' Society was formally instituted at an enthusiastic and encouraging meeting in the College of Piping, Glasgow on Saturday April 16th.'" You can read her article on the history of the LBPS: LBPS History (PDF file format).