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From Jim Eaton Berwickshire

On my house stairway wall I have a col- lection of framed prints of Pipers, which include the Highland Piper to the Laird of Grant by Waitt, the Lowland piper by Wilkie, the Lowland piper from Glen’s book, Geordy Sime by Kay, and also the French piper who appeared on the cover of the last issue [Vol 18 No.2] of Common Stock.

This beautiful painting is by Hyacinthe Rigaud who is perhaps best remembered for his impressive picture of King Louis XIV wearing his State robes.

The subject here playing the bagpipes, with a keyed chanter, shuttle drones and square bellows, is President Gaspard de Gueiden, Attorney-General of the Aix Parliament, off-duty. His dog on the lower right hand side is obviously fascinated by the sound.

The original painting hangs at the Musee Granet, Aix-en-Provence, which is near Marseilles.



From Colin Ross Monkseaton, Northumberland

I found Ann Sessom's remarks about the relative hardness or softness of cane in the interview article [CS Vol 18 No 2] inter- esting as there cannot be the degree of difference in hardness she says. I get my cane from Medir in Spain which has to be similar to the French grown Arundo Donax and would not cause the difficulty


in gouging she mentions using my gouging block with thickness guides. 1 would be in- terested to know if other reed makers have found such a wide variation in hardness of cane.



 From Iain MacInnes


Jock Agnew has made an admirable job of transcribing the talks from the Melrose Collogue, and of editing the texts to manage- able proportions (Common Stock Volume 18, No 2). To avoid future confusion, though, could I take this opportunity to provide a more detailed transcription of the material I quoted from the George Skene manuscript of 1729, incorporating the original spelling and punctuation.

The manuscript, which is held in the National Library of Scotland, is entitled An Account of a Journey to London with the particular Rout by Thomas Burnett of Kirkhill, George Skene of that Ilk, and David Skene, his Brother-German, with one Servant and our own Horses [NLS MS 3806].

The two passages which I quoted appear in Skene’s original manuscript as follows:

At West Linton, on September 8th 1729: “we were plagu’d here wt. My La. Murray’s Chaplain, I say My Lady’s because My Lord is only her Echoe, the parson pray’d when play’d on the pipe and reckon’d us Repro- bates, pray’d audibly two or three times by break of day, and drank alone three chopins of wine. Linton as I cou’d learn is only famous for a weekly sheep mercate ”


At Penrith, on September 12th 1729:

“We see on a litle round hill 9 miles off a pillar, call’d the Beacon of Penrith, just above the town, upon wc. we steir’d it com- ing several times in view, we lighted at the Crown in Penrith, Mr. Nelson, a very good quarter, and here we got the famous piper James Bell, who plays exceeding fine upon the Small pipe closs hand but plays beyond the whole world I may say upon the Double Small pipe I do not like his play upon the big pipe he following the small pipe manner & not winding them even, thinking it a grace on the big one, tho’ he winds the small one fine, yet he has some very clever touches & graces on the Big pipe, & upon the small one a great many beautifull ones, peculiar only to himself, he brought wt. him besides his big one wc. is so flatt that it tunes to the violine, two set of Double Small pipes and two sett of single ones, each dif- ferently key’d, I bought his sharpest double one for David wc. has three burdens for wc.wt. a bellows pay’d half a guinea. He ad- mired the burdens of my pipe but did not fancy the chanter so much however I observ’d that he play’d better and sweeter on them & wt. greater variety than on his own. In a word he makes more out, of variety in all parts wt. the Double Small one, than I thought cou’d possibly have been made of any small one, he beat humphry at London & a high German, being sent for express on a wager of 1000 Libs sterl. & beat the fa- mous fellow at Newcastle & was formally crown’d King of the pipers there.”


In checking McRobert’s transcription against the original, I found it to be highly accurate, other than his omission of the words “I do not like his play upon the big pipe” in the account of Skene’s meeting with James Bell. The inclusion of these words helps make better sense of the pas- sage in question.

In our discussion at the collogue, Roderick Cannon raised the interesting possibility that Skene’s description of a big pipe “wc. is so flatt that it tunes to the violine” might in fact be a reference to an early pastoral pipe.

On the question of spelling, could I also point out that (elsewhere in the text) “folk bourdon” should read as “faux bourdon”, that Marshall College in Aberdeen is in fact Marischal College, and that Alexander Campbell’s friendly wool-gatherer and piping informant rejoiced in the name of James Cockburn rather than James Copburn.

George Skene’s account was first transcribed by Mr A.T McRobert of Aberdeen, and appeared in the Miscellany of The Third Spal- ding Club [Volume 11], in 1940.