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With the annual LBPS competition a thing of yester- day’s memory, Julian and I sat and chatted in his kitchen, throats lubricated with a goodly supply of tea...


When did you actually join the Society?


Probably 1985. I'd just started professional pipemak- ing. I think Gordon Mooney was the Chairman, and Jim Gilchrist Editor of Common Stock.

Perhaps Mike Rowan was Chairman. There was loads of enthusiasm and things were fairly ad hoc, and dare I say it, chaotic. I joined the committee possibly in 1987. A bit later Manuel Trucco arrived from Italy, and we started having committee meet- ings in Manuel’s house. He became the secretary and possibly the treasurer, and started pulling things into some kind of shape. He was bounding with

enthusiasm and put a lot of energy into it and we realised that one of the things holding the Society back from getting financial help from the Scottish Arts Council was that we were not structured properly, with a constitution. We spent one winter - Manuel, Eion MacIntyre and myself - pulling together a constitution, and then called an Extraordinary General Meet- ing during the 1998 competition in which the Society membership accepted the constitution as we presented it. The constitution has worked very well; we have only once tinkered with it since. I appointed myself at some stage as Society Archivist, and I still retain that. I have a tin box with LBPS posters and photographs and documents- I’m always looking for as much early material as possible.

Will you keep that on when you leave the committee?

I should very much like to, if the committee is happy with


Our audio archive ...

is not catalogued at



that. Our audio archive all goes into the School of Scottish Studies, and I’m very pleased by that but I would like it all properly catalogued. It is not catalogued at present. At some of the early Collogues the talks were not taped, which I regret, because we have had excellent talks over the years.


The early AGMs were not well attended because they were an event in themselves. The worst AGM was when only Jeannie and Gordon Mooney turned up. It was dubbed our AGD

- our Annual General Duet! We cottoned onto the tactic that if we sandwiched it into the middle of a Collogue we'd get a lot of people coming to it, and it would go speedily if we timed it for twelve o'clock, with lunch being at one! We have found that very successful.

During your time on the committee the Society has developed several regular functions in the year - would you tell us a bit about them..

Originally we had a meeting every two months. After Hamish became Chairman we decided rather than having bimonthly meetings in the School of Scottish Studies, some of which were very poorly attended, to concentrate our efforts on four events a year. Once Hamish became chairman things really began to move, because he’s a mover and a shaker. He doesn’t only come up with brilliant ideas, he sees them through. And he really dragged the committee along. We'd been toddling along quite happily and suddenly whoosh! He was charging along with ideas. He did an enormous amount of good for the Society. The deci- sion to concentrate our efforts on four main functions - the Burns night, the Collogue, the competition and the teaching weekend - this was a new event; perhaps we hadn’t had it then in Melrose -I can’t remember. And over the years we gave publicity to David Hannay’s teaching week in Galloway, and now that has become established we’ve taken that under the LBPS wing this year.

Not all the members reading this will be aware of your recent personal loss - and I won- dered if you would like to say something on that score?

Well this time two years ago - maybe a little more - my wife Sharon developed cancer of the duodenum, which is a very rare form of cancer. It took a while for them to diagnose it.

Finally in July 2001 she was rushed into hospital - the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary - where she had a six and a half hour operation. Her recovery was very slow. Sharon’s physical peak last year was around Easter. I wasn't actually at the LBPS competition, it was organising itself, while we were having a wonderful canal holiday with my brother John and his wife Stephanie. But the cancer returned, this time in her liver. She was offered chemotherapy, but refused it. We felt things were too far gone and in August she was told she had a couple of months to live.

It was a most wonderful last two months. I was very supported by family and friends and the community, and the local medical profession. It was very wonderful, very special. The committee just lifted all the LBPS work from my shoulders. Her sister Sue, who is a nurse, had come over from the USA and we nursed her. And Sharon died at home on October 18th.

So it has been a big change. Our son Liam had got himself a place at the international school Atlantic College in south Wales, so now I am living on my own. I knew I wanted to carry on the business and carry on living the way I did, so I'm continuing pipemaking and living on my own. I don’t know what more to say . The support I’ve had from customers and pipers has been amazing. People who hardly know me, or people who have got pipes on


order, when they heard about it they said just take your time and all the rest of it. I really appreciate this.

I believe that at the next AGM you are planning to step down as Chairman and committee member. Has your recent bereavement played a part in this decision?

No. The decision as to when to leave the committee came two or three years ago. I had discussed this with Sharon. One of the things knowing that she had just two months to live meant we could talk over a vast amount about our life together and also my plans as well for the future. So she knew that I was going to be giving up at the next Collogue. I wanted to devote more time to other areas of my life. Being on the committee takes up a lot of time. The committee puts in a vast amount of work as well as the driving and telephone calls - we all enjoy it, but it does take up quite a few days a year. And 1 want to devote more time to other things in my life. I'm certainly not turning my back on the Society, and I look forward to attending events.

Is the group The Goodacre Brothers still in existence?

The Goodacre Brothers have been on the back burner for the last few years. We’ve been playing, on and off, for 17 years. There have been lulls when we haven’t been doing any work, and the recent lull was aggravated when my brother's pipes were stolen: his Leices- tershire smallpipes and his Border pipes were stolen from the back of his car. Happily I was able to replace his Border pipes within 56 hours of the theft, because I had a set in stock.

His Leicestershire smallpipes though, were unique in many ways, and because they were the second set I made, I didn't have plans in those days. But I'm well on the way now to making him another set of a similar specification. And we intend - we hope to play at the Collogue this Year in November, and that will be the first gig we’ve played since we played in North Hero Vermont in 2000.


With any tune ... I have to really love it to start remembering it.


Although you play music, you don’t actually read music

- and yet you’ve produced music books and played in a group. How do you learn the tunes and preserve them in your memory for the next occasion?

Yes. With any tune, whether it’s mine or not, I have to really love it, absolutely love it, to start remembering it.


I use a tape recorder for capturing the tunes that come into my head. It’s handy for me to have a tape recorder near at all times. And I have hundreds of little snippets - not all of them tunes - on masses of tapes which I have indexed. There are some good tunes there which I would hardly recognise if you played them to me at the moment. I have not learnt them yet! What I need to do is go through them, learn one, then play it to a good friend who can then write it down for me.

Is the fact that you reed no music an accident of a matter of principle?


Statistically I should think only

a small percentage of musicians throughout the world actually can read music


It’s not a matter of principle. I think right now it would be quite handy to be able to read it. It’s not a matter of principle, but I speak up about it a lot because there are many people who feel they are not musical because they can’t read music. And that was the feeling I got at school. I now don't say “I can't


read music,” I say “I don’t read music”. And statistically I should think only a small percentage of musicians throughout the world actually can read music. But it’s a handy skill.

Who then writes down your music when you produce these music books?

The moment that changed my life musically (I'm not answering your question for a mo- ment) was after my brother John bought a penny whistle and was teaching himself to play some tunes from tapes of the Chieftains. John had studied music to play the keyboard and play the recorder, and he was telling me that he could play by ear - folk music - but every time he tried to read music it all fell apart. He told me he found it such a disadvantage being able to read music when playing traditional tunes. And that sentence changed my whole life, because it suddenly dawned on me that you don't have to read music to be able to play it. I hadn’t realised that before. It's like writing: you can see two people chatting in the street - you don't know whether they can read or write, yet they can speak perfectly.

So now you’re going to tell me how you get your dots down on paper to publish books of music.

Sometimes I play them to Pete of The Goodacre Brothers or to another friend I have down in Galloway, Mark Nixon, who is my amanuensis. I cajole him to write them down when he is in a good mood. And Mark is good sometimes at improving tunes, so he gets credits to some of them.

Let’s move away from the making of music to the making of instruments. How did you get started in your pipe making?

I was working in Castle Douglas in Galloway for nearly five years as an agricultural engi- neer and I decided to give up my job and go travelling in Africa and the Far East. And I took with me my Generation penny whistle, but I was terrified it might get stolen - so I also took with me some Araldite and some scissors, one round file and a cheap copy of a Swiss army knife, and with those I learned how to make quite passable penny whistles out of old tin cans (I still have one I made in the Philippines out of a Milo tin). And that made me realise that one could make instruments - they weren't just something you bought in shops. My brother John had always been interested in English bagpipes because he was aware, I think by reading Roderick Canon’s article in the English Folk Song and Dance Journal, that there had been bagpiping in England - apart from Northumbrian piping. So when I came back from my travels in 1981 I arrived back in Scotland with a burning ambition to make English bagpipes, and fell in love with the band Blowzabella, and they inspired me enormously with their music and playing. That was Jon Swayne’s band which featured two English bagpipes


and two hurdy-gurdy players.

I bought a lathe and started making bits of pipes and teaching myself, and then when I’d got so far my brother John had given me the idea of a smallpipen and I came up with what we later called the Leicestershire smallpipe. John and I played Leicestershire smallpipes in duets, and John started doing the arrangements. He has a rare ability to write wonderful bagpipe arrangements.

In 1985 I moved up to Edinburgh before marrying Sharon and set myself up as a profes- sional maker. I had just one design of pipe at that stage, the Leicestershire smallpipe, but I soon started making an English double pipe based on the James Talbot manuscripts from the 1690s. And it was around this time that I went to the first LBPS meeting at the School of Scottish studies. And that is when I first really became aware of Scottish smallpipes.

And you’ve been making smallpipes since that time. What woods do you use?


I’m not going to answer that just yet. Having gone to that first meeting, and thinking I wanted to make Scottish smallpipes, I then went to the museum and took measurements from one in the National Museum. So that's how I got started. OK I’ll answer your question. I’ve always been committed to using British hardwoods. I’ve never used imported timber, and that is definitely a stand I take, because I'm concerned about the use of tropical hard- woods, many of which are being felled, but not replanted. I’m well aware that some of the earliest pipes surviving - probably the earliest chanter surviving - is made out of tropical im- ported timber. Even in the 17th Century they were making pipes from imported timber, but I find the British timbers very satisfactory. I have a vacuum pressure system for injecting oil very, very deep into the woods. I source much of the wood myself and can often supply customers with a photo of the tree from which their pipe is made. One of the challenges of using British hardwood from a pipe-making point of view is they are very difficult to turn.

They flex a lot more, they bend a lot more than many of the far more dense woods. So when you are turning an A chanter in the lathe it can bow all over the place. So it's a challenge - it's a challenge. The only exception to the use of British woods that I am likely to make is for copies of 18th century highland chanters. I have bought a large roller made of Lignum Vitae from a 19th century mill ...

What sort of choice of woods would you offer for a set of Scottish smallpipes?


My standard Scottish smallpipe I’m making at the moment is in yew wood. And for the mounts I use Scottish boxwood mostly - sometimes horn. If a customer wants something a bit more special I use plum. And I’ve made them out of boxwood and a variety of different woods - thorn is very nice. All have their own special characteristics.

And your reeds -1 believe all your double reeds are made from plastic?


Yes, both chanter and drone reeds. There is only one chanter I make that uses a cane reed - the high D English Great Pipe. I've never developed a plastic reed for that yet. Apart from this I always use plastic reeds. They are very reliable. I think the reason I get such a good tone out of them is that I am actually using a less dense timber. I've found that I don't like the tone of plastic reeds in the very dense timbers.... it is a question of balance of materials.

With a cane reed in a very dense tropical hardwood you are using soft material for the reed, and a hard material for the chanter. The way I’m doing it is the other way round - the chanter is of less dense wood and plastic is a much harder material than cane. That's my theory, I don't have any science to back it up.

Was it by chance you went to plastic, or was it a conscious decision?


I started off using bassoon reeds in the smallpipes. That was a very wise decision to start my first couple of years production with, because it meant I wasn’t only just coping with de- signing, but also learning about turning, long hole drilling, leather work - as well as the business side to the business. At least reeds were ready made -1 could buy them in a shop.

But after a while I wanted to get something more reliable, and I quickly designed a very sta- ble plastic reed using yoghurt cartons. I was very fortunate in that the local yoghurt manu- facturer had just ceased production of yoghurt and I was able to buy a box of 1600 yoghurt cartons which I calculate will allow me to make 20 reeds a week until I'm 110 years old!

After that I’ll have to get a new supplier.

I believe you’re also making Border pipes.


Yes I've been making Border pipes for a long time now. Before I moved (or even thought of moving) to Peebles I went to Hugh Cheape at the Royal Scottish Museum who directed me to a set that was donated in the early 1920s, by a family that had a strong connection to Peebles. I measured them, copied them and they've been my basic design ever since for Border pipes. I then moved to Peebles, where I now have a workshop at the bottom of Elcho Street Brae. On reading back copies of Common Stock (Dec 1997) I found that the last Toun Piper of Peebles was called James Ritchie. He was appointed in 1741 and died in 1807. And there is an account by Robert Chambers about going to see James Ritchie when he [Chambers] was a little boy. They lived four or five doors away from each other.

And he describes how he played these pipes with the bellows under the left arm. Now the reason this interests me is because when I read this - re-read this -I suddenly remembered that the original pipes that I had measured were made to play left handed. And the house where Robert Chambers was brought up in is less than sixty yards away from my present workshop. So it’s quite possible I'm making a copy of a pipe that was played by James Ritchie who may have lived only yards away from where my workshop is! It is a nice tanta- lising thought.


So what proportion in say a hundred pipes going out from your workshop would be Scottish smallpipes, Border pipes etc. ?


I would say about 35% of my production is probably Scottish. I make Highland pipes as well: we haven't touched on the Highland pipes, have we? So I would say 35% would be Scottish smallpipes and Border pipes. And I would say that for every five sets of smallpipes I make one set of Border pipes - something like that. Orders come in as they come in, and I tend to get pipes made up in batches, because it suits my way of working. I have Jon Red- path who has been with me for 10 years, now, and he does nearly all my turning - he is very, very consistent, and he’s a superb turner. It works much better to make them in batches rather than ones and twos

What is your philosophy on Border pipes?


My philosophy on Border pipes? I made one or two sets to start with and at first was

slightly apologetic about how loud they were. I have


I’m going more for

the Early Music approach, of trying to copy the original


modified the design of the chanter slightly - I’ve extended the chanter, the top of the bore, to allow it to play in concert A (A = 440), because I think the original was a bit sharper than that. I used to be apologetic about how loud the drones were, until it dawned on me they were played through the town -


they are an out-door instrument. So my approach is to copy the original and enjoy it as a loud    instrument. If someone wants a quieter one to play in sessions and bands that's fine, but that's not the type I’m making. I’m going more for the Early Music approach, of trying to copy the original.

Over the past years my measuring tools have become more and more accurate, and I intend to go back to that original chanter and measure it up with Barnaby Brown and copy it in as great detail as possible to see what pitch it actually wants to play in. Because the Border pipes, as we all know, historically, were a solo instrument, or were played with a drum, so the pitch is not actually very important. So my approach here is the Early Music approach. Things have developed a lot in the last ten or 15 years. Pipemakers are now making them quieter for indoor use and use with groups. And that’s fine, that's responding to a modern need, but I want to know what those early pipes sounded like rather than changing the design. With old instruments you can measure them and then copy them in as great detail as possible, or you can measure them and then change some of the measurements to respond to modern needs. And both are quite valid approaches- I use both approaches myself. My initial approach on Scottish smallpipes was to measure one in the Museum and then before even copying it in that detail, scale the whole thing down so that it would play in a lower pitch - responding to modern needs. Most people don't want one playing in E, they wanted one playing in D. Both approaches are valid.


You were, I think, at one stage working on Border pipes with closed fingering?


My brother John has always been interested in using what I would call covered fingering, and he actually does play his Border Pipes with that. Yes, on and off for years I’ve been working on it, and I'm very near to finishing the development of a chanter that plays this way. It plays in A. Once this has been finalised, it will be an option for my Border pipes, and also the chanter will be available on my English Great pipes and I will use it on the Marwood double pipe, which is a double conical pipe which I've been working at for quite a while. One chanter and reed development can spread out into different types of my pipes!

And if you get this to the point you like and start producing it, what does the covered finger- ing do to such options as cross fingering to get C natural - F natural, G sharp high B - the options some people look for in Border pipes?


I’m not concentrating on those at all with this design of chanter. It has a flattened leading note at the top, but with more open fingering you can sharpen your top G. But that’s all I’m going for. I’m not going for anything else at this stage. It’s a different - it;s a non traditional approach. At the last Collogue we had an Asturian piper over [see CS Vol 17.2 Dec 2002] who demonstrated the Asturian style of covered fingering, and it can be a very fiery exciting one. My standard border chanter does play cross fingering well.

Moving to smallpipes, I know you’ve made some mouth-blown smallpipes. Can you tell us a little bit about them - for instance, does the fact that it is mouth- blown affect the amount of tuning that has to be done?


By using plastic reeds ... it is much easier to play and tune a mouth- blown smallpipe.


I offer all my pipes as bellows or mouth blown. In fact at the moment I’m making a bellows blown English Great pipe which I’ve never done before. Because I use plastic reeds, any of my pipes can be bellows or mouth blown. That's not going to affect the tone at all. We’ve come in a bit of a circle. The reason why bellows pipes are so stable


is because one is blowing dry air on to the reeds from the bellows. So that makes them easy to maintain and tune. By using plastic reeds that doesn’t apply so much, so it is much easier to play maintain and tune a mouth-blown smallpipe.

What you're saying, then, is that because they are plastic reeds — or plastic tongues on the drone reeds and plastic double reeds, they don’t respond to changes in moisture level in the way cane reeds do?


Yes. But, we have the fact that many of the Scottish smallpipes that have survived from the eighteenth century are mouth blown. And one way of dealing with facts like that is to say “Oh they were obviously converted at a later date to bellows blown.” This is an approach which one has to question. When history doesn’t quite go the way you want it, when the evidence isn’t quite the evidence you want, you say “Oh it has obviously changed at some later stage.” Now if you do look in all the big collections in Britain - and America actually - I think every one has got a mouth blown Scottish smallpipe. What they were doing in the 18th century with reeds I don't know. Certainly Dick Hensold plays a Montgomery smallpipe of mine, and he has reeded it up entirely with cane reeds. He is a very dry blower. He actually is the only person I have ever talked to who claims he taught himself to be a dry blower. And he claims he can actually dry a wet reed by playing it! Barnaby Brown’s Montgomery smallpipes that I made for him were originally reeded up with plastic reeds, and he is now changing to cane reeds. Most of the Montgomery pipes I make are bellows blown.

Why is Barnaby changing over?


For authenticity, I think. However he lives in Sardinia and has arundo donax growing in his garden.

Not for the sound?


I don’t know, we’ll have to talk to him about that. Dick never got plastic reeds. Barnaby has only recently made the change, so it will be interesting to talk to him about this. I certainly like offering the option of both, so if Barnaby’s reed-maker in Sardinia can come up with the reeds I will offer cane reeds as an option.

You wanted to talk a bit about Montgomery - the Montgomery pipes?


Yes. The Scottish smallpipes that we are playing today in keys of D down to A are all pipes that have been developed in the last twenty years. The smallpipes that survive in museums, mostly from the 18th century or possibly the beginning of the 19th century, are far smaller. The surviving chanters are all in the range of eight inches long, with a very small bore - one eighth of an inch.

As opposed to what?


Well my modern D Scottish smallpipe chanters have a minimum bore of three sixteenths of an inch and my A chanters are thirteen sixty fourths of an inch. The smallpipes that survive from the eighteenth century are much more petite than the modern pipes. As I said many that survive are mouth blown. They have three drones, bass, tenor and a baritone. It’s from these surviving pipes that pipe makers such as Colin Ross have taken, I think, their inspira- tion to make small pipes first of all in D, which are scaled down a little bit from early pipes which play in E. You should ask them.

Over the years pipe makers have developed them in lower and lower pitches. The most popular one is A these days, but I have developed one in G, and I’ve done one in F# as well. They play with Scottish Highland fingering with a flattened leading note top and bottom.

My first smallpipe was based on looking at one of the early ones and measuring it and scal- ing it down. After developing my range of smallpipes I then got interested in going back to the originals and measuring them. Hugh Cheape wrote an article in Common Stock [No 4.1 Jan 1989] about the Montgomery smallpipe which was then housed in the United Services Museum in Edinburgh Castle.

I went up there and measured that and copied it with the intention of copying it in as great detail possible, and seeing how it wanted to play, and what pitch it wanted to play at, rather than imposing a key on it which is what I’d done previously. There is an article in Dec 1991 Common Stock about that. What’s interesting is the leading note seems to be sharp at the top and flat at the bottom. With a sharpened leading note at the top you don’t have the prob- lems with the baritone - about what Pitch to tune it at [see Common Stock June 1999]. I make these for people who are interested in early repertoire, with the more Early Music ap- proach. It has less appeal to most Highland pipers, but Barnaby is an enthusiastic player of his!

Thank you Julian. Most interesting hearing of your views and developments. And good luck with all your future projects.