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By Rev. W.A.P. Johman M.A.

At the eighth meeting of the Hawick Archaeological Society, 24th Nov 1913

These “transactions ” were supplied by Jim Eaton, who found ‘‘the little book in a brown cover” in a second­hand bookshop. See Common Stock Dec 2003 and June 2004 for the (slightly) abridged details of the 7th meeting.


It is within the knowledge of all of us that an important assortment of antique curios, col- lected by Mr Tom Scott, R.S.A, was exposed for sale in Edinburgh in March last, and that our Society resolved to expend a considerable sum of money in securing some articles which might go to the enrichment of our museum collection. Among other items of interest we succeeded in securing “A fine set of old bagpipes from Yarrow” regarding which Mr Scott writes, “The pipes are a most interesting addition to your museum. They belonged to the Pattisons who lived in Newark. Some of the family were great lovers of Border songs - the late Mr Pringle Pattison, of Haining, was one of them.” The possession of the trophy called attention to, and awakened, interest in Pipers and Piping. As a consequence a paper on the subject was read a month ago [CS 18.2 & 19.1], which professed to be a general historical digest, designed to lead up to the sequel of this evening which more immediately affects the Borders and Hawick.

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries seem to have been the classic period of Scottish piping. High water mark was reached about the middle of that time. Every Corporation had its piper; with cognate officials on its staff, according to the Burgh’s standing. Hawick had its officers, its piper, its drummer and, by and by, its fifer. They loved the instruments of their craft almost to worship. Hence the naturalness of Rev. W Munro’s story. “On visiting Caleb Rutherford, town’s drummer, on his deathbed, and on asking him if he had anything on his mind troubling him, got the reply, ‘Naething ava, Mr Muro, except I’m fear’d that squeaking body ‘Duke Rodger’ gets my drum.’”

Outside their distinctive duties, they became troubadours, the minstrels, strollers, and merry makers of by-gone times. The wandering habit did not tend to their sobriety, and often bred trouble for kirk and Council. Their remuneration was generally penurious, and often pre- carious, “chance money” holding the place of the “tips” of to-day, and supplementing the too copious liquid supplies of neighbouring socials. Dressed in the town livery, they lent picturesqueness to street and public function. But they did more, they transmitted to our days, in their night and morning circumambulations, the service of the “Watchman” and of the “Town Crier,” of far distant and even of Biblical epochs. In Hawick, and in burghs like ours, the non-musical boon also burdened the piper in summoning all who had cattle to know that the town herd was waiting to guide their belongings to the Common grazing ground.


But we turn to our records. May 17th 1703, “The Baylyeas [Bailies] and Counsill allowed . . six pound Scots per piece for payment of the officers, piper, and drummer’s coats at the Common-Rydeing; and allows and ordains the officers, piper, and drummer to have coats this year as formerly.”

Again, 13th May 1712, the Council instruct the town Treasurer “to furnish and provide, as cheap as he can, as much cloath of the same colour as will be four coats” for the officials named. The economical fit is still on in 1713 when “the pyper is only allowed four pounds Scots to buy him ane coatt,” or 6/8 sterling. Low as this price is it was surpassed at the Common-Riding of 1751, when the Treasurer’s cash book shows there was “paid for the of- ficer’s and piper’s coats £1 10s each,” or 2/6 sterling!

In 1785 their “Hats for the Riding,” cost 2/- sterling each, and their shoes 6/- per pair. In 1789 there was “paid for making and mounting the town’s livery coat. 5/3.” In 1796 the hats cost 3/6 each, and the shoes 7/- per pair. The cost went up rapidly for in 1814 hats and rib- bons for the officers at the Common-Riding cost 31/6, and “cloth for the officers clothing

£8 4s Scots.”

There is nothing on record revealing what the Hawick piper’s livery coat was like. That of the piper of Dalkeith - which probably would set the fashion - we have already determined in the former paper [see CS June 2004 19.1, page 14], But this uniform was only donned on festive occasions, and when he was sent for to perform at Dalkeith House.

This costume was reminiscent of the liveries worn by the musicians to the Royal house- holds of James IV and James V, the former having a black drummer in his service dressed in a yellow velvet coat, while the musicians of James V in 1532, were clothed in the Royal liv- ery “reid and yellow coittis of kersey,” satin doublets, and red bonnets.

The remuneration and perquisites of town pipers varied considerably. In Hawick from 1720- 1740 the piper enjoyed a salary of £1 10s Scots or 2/6 sterling. In 1740 this was raised to £2 6s Scots, and a “Common-Riding Hatt” costing 1/6. He had also the privilege of collecting “fra the honest men in the town” what was termed “Yuill wadges,” now known as Christ- mas box. Probably like his brother pipers in other burghs he was the recipient of “the halffe of the benefits of all heid penny brythellis within this burghe whairin the ffidler shall be em- ployed, and as weill to belong to him as iff he had bein imployed be the persones con- cerned, and for the whilk ffidler it to be comptable to him when requyred.”

At this time, 1740, it was evidently the custom to give the piper some recompense for his services at the Common-Riding, the enlivening strains from his pipes doubtless giving zest to the ceremony of “ganging throw the Common when the marches are riden.”

Seven years later, in 1747, it was found necessary to curtail the expenditure, and the Town Council, in their zeal for retrenchment, resolved that in future “the town pyper is to have no allowance for playing at Common-Riding or other such times from the treasurer, but what people shall give him out of their own pockets.”


But fortunately for the piper and other officials a wave of municipal prosperity extended to Hawick, and for their services at the Common-Riding of 1785 the burgh officials each re- ceived 1/1, the drummer 1/1 and the piper 2/-. And with this amount he seems to have been quite content; nowhere is it recorded that either he, or any of his brother musicians came out on strike. Had our forbears of a century and a half ago, known the grip the Common-Riding was to take of all classes from the Provost to the programme vendor, by the arrival of the twentieth century they would have questioned the wisdom of this cheese-paring policy.

So at least thinks Balbimie in his old Common-Riding song, “We’ll a’ hie to the Muir a- ridin’” as he dilates on the strains of the pipes in the procession through the burgh. Imagine the entrance to the town without the pipes:-

“Now Terioden blaws the chanter, As rank and file the town we wenter,

Till round the Haugh our Flag is flyin’, And some their Bits o’ Blood are try in!”

The stipends of town pipers were secured to them in various ways, that of the piper of Jedburgh being derived from the rental of the Laigh Booth being earmarked to pay him with; in another instance a small part of the burgh lands was set aside for this purpose, the land being thenceforth known as the Piper’s Croft. At Lanark the piper’s salary was largely dependent on his ability to induce some fellow-townsman to consent to become a burgess, if successful he was then entitled to the fee payable to the burgess elect.

This arrangement ensured that there should be an accession of at least one aspirant to the honour of the freedom of the burgh annually. In the cash books of the treasurer of the burgh of Hawick there appears with unfailing regularity for a long series of years, payable of 5/- feu duty on the property of a musician in town, which the sagacious magistrates of the burgh made sure of being paid by employing him to play on the fiddle at the election dinners.

The musicians of Hawick were well- known and popular all over the Borderland; the names of Adam Howieson, and his son John Howieson, Thomas and Robert Rutherford, James Moffat, and John Pringle are still spoken of as skilful performers on the violin. It was Adam Howieson who is said to have pronounced over the grave of his son an elogium at once sim- ple and appropriate:- “Here lies the master of music,” To which a neighbouring laird, pre- sent at the funeral, was heard to respond, “And a gude grip o’ the grund he has.”

John Pringle was selected by Lord Minto to lead his Lordship’s band when Governor- General of India. Both John Howieson and Pringle were composers, and to their genius we owe several melodies, still favourites in Teviotdale.


While the drum has long been an institution in Hawick, the fife is comparatively modern. It was not until the Common-Riding of 1797 that mention is made of a fifer. He seems to have been appointed as a substitute for the piper - there being no piper in Hawick from 1778 until 1802 - and for his work at the Common- Riding he was remunerated with 4/-. That he was looked upon as a burgh official is evident as “shoes for the fifer” costing 7/- were the fol- lowing year provided at the town’s expense. Along with the burgh officers and the drum- mers he received the usual gratuity of 1/- at the Common-Riding. In 1800, Walter Boyd, fifer, was paid 5/- “for fifing at the Ranting and Common-Riding .” In 1801, “Adam Gillies for fifing yesterday” (June 6th - the Common-Riding) was paid 7/6, but this amount being deemed too much, he was not engaged to perform on the King’s birthday, the music on that occasion being provided by Adam Howieson and Thomas Rutherford, fiddlers, each of whom was content with the usual fee of 5/-.

Whatever was the reason town pipers seem to have been rather a glaikit [senseless, silly] lot, and by their indifference and neglect of duty to have caused the municipal authorities much trouble. On the other hand they frequently came under ecclesiastical censure by pip- ing at untimely hours and more especially on Sundays. Thus in 1580, a man was charged with bringing with him “intil the kirk-yard twa or thrie pypers, and therby drew in grit now- mer of people to dans befoir the kirk dur, in tyme of prayeris, he being alwayis the ring- leader himselff.” “Johnne Forbes, pyper,” with a friend, was, in 1588, sentenced by the Stir- ling Kirk Session to imprisonment and to be fed on bread and water, on confessing that they had sat up all night playing at the dice until four o’clock in the morning.

It was quite a common offence for pipers to “prophane the Sabbath day in playing with pipes” - it was useless to attempt it even indoors, as James Clark found when fined twenty shillings “for having ane pyper playing in his hous in tyme of sermon upoun the Lord his Sabboth.” For “pyping at bridals” Adam Moffat, piper, was, by the Kirk Session of Ashkirk, on the 16th November 1638, ordained, “the next Sabbath to stand at the kirk door with ane pair of scheitts (sheets) about him, beirfutt and bairlegitt, and efter the pepil was in, to go to the place of repentance, and so to continue the Sabbathlie induring their willis.” About the same time the Kirk Session at St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh, sentenced “William Wallace, pyper, to stand one day upon the pillar, and thairefter to remove furth of the parochine [parish], ay and whill he be ane renewit man of his maneris; and to get leif of the presbyterie to re- toume, after they see amendiment in his lyf and conversatioun.”

As a class the “pypers” seem to have fallen greatly in public estimation; nothing was deemed bad enough for them to be capable of doing. Among other stories current is one concerning a well-known holy well famed for curing gout. A piper having stolen the offer- ings, proceeded on his way, and, being thirsty, entered an inn for refreshment, “but when he was drinking of ale, which he intended to pay for with the money he had taken away, the gout, as they say, seized on him, of which he could not be cured but at that well, having first restored the money he had formerly taken away.”


The people dancing to the music of the pipers on Sundays was one of the most frequent causes of many of the injunctions or ordinances appearing in burgh records. Two may be cited as examples. The Kirkaldy Records contains the (billowing item:- “That na personis passtyme or dans, or reill [to whirl, to romp] with dansing and pyping thru the toun on Sun- day, the time of preching or prayers, under the paine of double unlaw [a fine fixed by law]; and that nane be fund on the street at sik passtymes after ten hours at evin under the same paine.” From the Lanark Records we glean this item:- “The baillies and counsell takin into consideratioun the sin befoir God, and the abussis that has been formerlie and of lait comitit, within this burgh, by peples interteining of pyperis in promiscuis dancing, men and women togither, not onllie in the day tyme bot in the night : for remeid [remedy] whairof the baillies and counsell statute and ordeanes that no persone within this burgh suffer any pyper to play at thair houssis or yairds in tyme coming, under the paine of fourtie shillings ilk persone.”

From the following extract it would seem that in Glasgow the town pipers were entitled to meals, but under what circumstances and arrangement this was effected we have failed to discover:- “Injuction appointit to be given to Robert Spens and Fergus McClay, menstrales : (Injuction to pyperis’ in the rubrick.)

“Item, that thai attend ilk momyng and evenyng upoun thair service diligently.

“Item, that nane of thame have nather boy nor doig with thame whair thai eit thair ordiner. “Item, that thai sail nocht misbehaiff thame selffs in na houssis whair thai sal happin to eitt thair ordiner, bot to be content to sic as salbe presentit to thame be thame that thai eit with. “Item, that thai sail nocht enter in na clossis, nayther momyng nor evenyng, bot to pass throw the haill toune fra thai begyn whillthai end, and to leiff af thair extraordiner drinking sua that thai may pass honestlie throw the towne in thair service, not to leiff thair playing in gangin off the calsaye [paved area] ether to masones or drinking, and to pas sharplie throw the towne with ony cumying houssis”.

The light estimation in which pipers were regarded may be gathered from the next extract wherein we find them classed with vagabonds ; it is probable, however, that this ordinance was directed more against the itinerant piper, than to those who had regular employment and a habitation in the burgh ; for there was a real danger, that travelling musicians coming from some infected district might carry with them the germs of the pest or plague :-

“Item - it is statute and ordainit that na pyparis, fidleris, menstrales, or only other vaga- bondis, remain in the toun fra this tyme furtht during the tyme of the pest... under the paine of scurgeying and banishment”.

In many burghs it was arranged that a piper and drummer pass together through the town morning and evening with this proviso, that “when it is weit, that the Swesch (drum) - (In the Hawick burgh Records this is corrupted into Slacer, probably pronounced Slath-er) - may nocht gang” that the piper “sail gang him selfe throw with the pype morne and evenin ... and when necessaralie the pyper is absente fra the toun, the drummer is to gae

throw the toun himselfe under the pain of £40 of penaltie ... by and attour (besides) impris- onment of their personis during the Magistrate’s pleasure.”


The first reference to an official piper in Hawick occurs 28th October 1672 [see also Com­ mon Stock Vol 3 No 2 November 1987, p20 ­ Hawick ­ Teribus ye Terioden by Gordon Mooney] at a time when the relations between the Earl of Queensberry, Lord of the Barony of Hawick, and the magistrates of the burgh were decidedly strained. The Barop Bailie in 1672 was Thomas Rutherford, Town Clerk of Jedburgh, one of whose official duties was to “set the tairs” of Hawick, as representative of the Lord of the Barony.

Mr Rutherford, aware of the “bad blood” between the superior and his vassals, possibly thought that the Hawick drummer and piper might refuse to act in the face of the town’s op- position. Accordingly, he proposed taking with him to Hawick the Jedburgh drummer and piper in order that his duties in connection with the setting of the fair might be properly performed. This having come to the knowledge of the magistrates of Hawick - James Thor- brand and James Scott (Ormiston) - the Baron’s representative, was met by the bailies and requested by them “not to suffer the drummer and pyper of Jedburgh to go through the town for setting the fair ; but the town drummer and pyper of Hawick only,” to which request he consented.

The usual procedure was to first call the roll of the inhabitants of the burgh at the tolbooth, but this year - probably on account of a threatened visitation of the pest - it was called in the churchyard. The roll having been called - a special note being made of those who absented themselves, with a view to their being fined for neglect of duty - a procession was then formed, and the Baron Bailie proceeded to “set the fair,” attended by his procurator-fiscal, James Leithen, and his tacksman, William Hardy, with the two burgh officers in livery' car- rying their halberds, the drummer and piper heading them, the burgh magistrates, accompa- nied by the members of the Council, the burgesses and others, proceeded to “ryde the fair.”


Take note, the piper and drummer held a foremost place in the procession. The friction be- tween the superior and his vassals in Hawick was only terminated four years later when Drumlanrig parted with his rights in the Barony to the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch.

Two years later- 1674 - William Turnbull was elected town piper of Hawick, and directed that he was to accompany the town drummer at morn and even, and on “other solemn occa- sions” through the town.

In 1694 Thomas Beattie was appointed piper. His name appears among those of the sub- scribers to the recasting of the great bell of Hawick, and for his subscription of 14/- Scots, he was entitled to the use of the deid-bell prior to burial, and to have the great bell tolled at his funeral. Piper Beattie seems to have been unhappily mated, for, in 1695, Marion Wright, his spouse, was charged with resetting a pair of linen sheets. The piper, however, became security for her “that she shall enter and present herselfe (if in health and lyfe) within the tolbuith of Hawick when desyred and requyred, and that under the paine and penaltie of £40 Scots.” Possibly vexation at his wife’s misconduct may have told on the pyper’s self respect, but from this time he is seen to be on the downgrade.


Thus in May, 1700, he had to appear before the magistrates of the burgh, his employers, when “Thomas Beattie, pyper, was fyned, onlawed, and amerciatt [punished] in ane hundrred pund Scots, for the thrie faults underwritten :- For his night revelling, in going upon the fairs, night playeing with the great pype through the haill toune in company of some drunken persons to the great disturbance, both of strangers and townsfolk, and for breach of waird [confinement], when charged to remaine therein, and for not goeing to waird when charged be the officer therto.” Like many others whose talents became so much an object of social gratification, Thomas’ services were in great demand, and when in good company, time was apt to pass unheeded. This must have been the case in 1702, when “John Weilands was fyned conform to Acts of parliament and burgh, for keeping of company drinking in his houss with the pyper playing efter the ringing of the ten hour bell, upon Tuesday night last,” and “thomas Beattie, pyper,” in respect of his confession was likewise fined.

“James Olifer, distinctionis causa, called Jafra the piper,” was town piper of Hawick in 1717, and held the office until deposed for misconduct in 1720. It is not from the Police Court books that any information we possess concerning “Jafra the piper” is obtained, but from an altogether different source, viz. the Records of the Kirk-Session of Hawick, before which reverend court Jafra made frequent unwilling appearances :-

“1717, May 19 - James Olifer, piper, distinctionis causa, called Jafra the piper, was summoned for abusing William Riddell, shoemaker, in the street, and was told that he should not reside in the toun or parish, if he carried on not inoffensicelie, and was ordered to bring a testimony from Mr Douglas, Minister of Kirkton, failing which, he would not be tolerate to stay in the toun.

“June 23rd - The Beddal was ordered to summon Jafra the piper de novo for a relapse in drunkeness and rambling [ramble v. to dance] in the street occasioning the school boyes to follow after him through the toun.

“October 27th - James Olifer called Jafra the piper, being called upon as formerly divers times, for producing a testimonial of his deportment in the last parish wherein he resided, compeared [to appear before a court in answer to a citation] not, and seeing that he is contu- macious, the session unanimouslie agreed upon that if he produce not a testificate before 1lth November nixt, then he should be given over to the magistrates, and they to pass a sentence and order for extruding him out of toun.” It is interesting to note the measure of agreement and intimacy subsisting between the Church and the State, the civil and spiritual authorities, in the treatment of culprits in these days.

“1718 May 11th - Upon citation, William Whaton, fiddler, compeared for rambling through the toun on horseback, with boots, spurs, and red clothes, in a military posture, and James Olifer, toun officer, piper, playing before him, who having exculpat him the best way he could, by averring he did it onlie through sport, and that he was to have a pint of brandie and a gallon of ale for his riding through the toun ; whereupon the Session thought fit he should satisfie pubiickly for his trespass, for the terror of others.


“Compeared also James Olifer for playing before the said William Whaton, rideing in the manner above mentionat, acknowledged that he accidently met with the said William when he was going to Bailie Hardie’s house about business, and that he was urged and pressed by the schollars to play before William Whaton. The said James exhorted to with- draw from such extravagance when therewith trysted, and was in a most sharp manner told, if he commit like fault in time coming, he should not reside either in toun or the landward part of the parish.”

“1719 March 1st - The Beddal ordered to summond James Olifer, toun piper, for his late indecent carriage of his drunkenness.

“The above designed James Oliver compearing before the Session, for rambling in his drunkenness and troubling the Minister in his chamber, was most sharplie rebuked, having confessed guilt and sorrieness for his trespass, promised by God’s grace to walk soberlie hereafter, and was dismissed with this certification, that if he persisted in his indecent de- portment, he would be extruded out of the toun, and shall get no employment in the toun.

“1720 November 6th - The Session this day thought fitt that James Olifer, toun piper, seeing several immoralities, revellings, drunkenness, frequent cursing, blaspheming the name of God, and his uneasiness in the neighbourhood, were extracted out of the Records of the Session, and this day read over before them, beside his irregular marriage on the English side with Agnes Talefer, upon the 25th October last bypast, by James Miller, curat at Lowick, it was thought expedient that a memorial of the said James’es unchristian behav- iour should be represented to the present magistrates of this toun, and if they concurred not with the Session, the minister would make address to another judge, to extrude him, and to devest him of his service through the toun.”

Two or three points of interest are revealed in this last extract:- 1st, that Marion Wright, the piper’s spouse was dead ; 2nd, that the piper had the temerity to cross the Border and be married in an English Church ; 3rd, the threat that if the local magistrates would not depose their piper from his office, that application would be made to another judge to do so. What other judge could it be? Could the Baron Bailie overrule the decision of the magistrates in a matter of this kind? Unfortunately, a close search of the original records of the Town Coun- cil fails to reveal whether this matter was brought before the magistrates and Council or not. In this matter the influence of the minister prevailed, and poor “Jafra the piper” was sent to the right about.

He was succeeded by Robert Fouller, who was piper early in 1721, and held the office till 1732 (with the exception of the year 1726 when for some reason not stated “Jafra” acted as piper). Next came John Meader (or Mather) who was town piper from 1732 to 1741. Like his predecessors he enjoyed a salary of £1 10/- Scots, which, in 1740, was increased to £2 6/-. William Brown was piper from 1742 to 1751. Like the others he had £2 6/- salary; a “Common-Riding Hatt” costing 1/6 ; and for performing the Common-Riding, the election of the magistrates, and the King’s birthday or ranting (or merry-making) he was paid on each 2/6 sterling.


Walter Bellingden (Belinden, Ballantyne, for the name is recorded in those various forms of spelling), was appointed town piper in Hawick in 1752, and held office until his death in 1778. For some reason he was unable to act as piper in 1756-57, when William Brown again fulfilled the duties. Belinden’s salary was 10/- sterling per annum. In 1772, when get- ting aged and in indifferent health, it is pleasant to notice the thoughtful kindness of the magistrates towards-the old piper. At this time the perambulation of the town began at the council house, from which he proceeded to the West Port by way of the Auld Brig, Silver Street, Teviot Square or Sandbed, and up the Howegate and Fore Row, returning by the Back Row, Howegate, Silver Street, Tower Knowe, and High Street to East Port. This on a dark winter’s morning was not always an easy or pleasant task, as the inhabitants of the burgh had a habit of pitching all their rubbish onto the street under cover of the darkness.

There it lay about in heaps with rotten fruit, ashes, dead cats and dogs, and other offal and filth, till kindly rains swept all together into the nearest stream or river.

“Sweepings for butcher’s stalls, dung, guts, and blood, Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drench’d in mud, Dead cats and turnip tops, came tumbling down the flood.”

The streets being narrow, dark, and dirty it was indeed a really kindly action on the part of the city fathers when they determined to furnish old Wattie the piper with a lantern, to enable him to pick his way more freely and more warily and cleanly. We find that there was paid by the burgh treasurer 1/8 for “a lanteren” for the use of the piper. The condition of the streets and the consideration of the magistrates are alike noteworthy. In most places the inhabitants considered it a public right to use the thoroughfares for such unsavoury pur- poses. They resented magisterial interference. Hence the feebleness in warding off “the pest,” and in doing nothing to abate it. A higher and irresistible authority had to take in hand and to solve the subject of sanitariness, and this it did in a drastic fashion. Hence, the great fire, burns out the great plague of London, and the terrific scourge of cholera introduces the modern era of soap and water, and of “cleanliness next to godliness.”

In 1776, Bellingden was evidently in bad health as the magistrates voted him 7/- per quarter by way of old age pension. At the same time he was in receipt of his salary of 10/- per annum, for on September 4th, 1778, appears this entry :- “To Bailie Hardy, 5/-, and 5/- before to piper’s widow for his sallerie from Whitsunday 1777 to Whitsunday 1778 ... 10/-.

There was no one to succeed Bellingden apparently, for no regular piper is mentioned in the town records until 1802. Meanwhile there seems to have been but one occasion when a piper was employed, and that was at the Common- Riding of 1796, when the treasurer enters :- “Paid the piper at the Common- Riding ... 10/-.” No appointment was made to the office of town piper until April 1802 when the Council had under their consideration the following petition :- “The petition of John Kennedy, Pipe Major of the 75th Highlanders, commanded by General Sir Ralph Abercrombie :- Humbly sheweth - That your petitioner has been desired by several Respectful Inhabitants of this Town, to apply to the Magistrates


and Town Council of Hawick, to see if they are pleased to admit him into the office of Town Piper, and to do duty night and morning along with the Town Drum at the hours appointed by the magistrates and Council, which I am willing on my part to engage, upon condition that the Council allow their Petitioner three pounds in money, and the Town shoes, coat, and hat, also the half of the money collected at the New Year as Christenmass wages, along with the Town Drummer, and your Petitioner must beg to be absent one month in the year, to visit some gentleman of his acquaintance. Your Petitioner awaits your positive answer as he has to leave this place in a few days. (Signed) John Kennedy, Hawick, March I3th 1802.”

The Town Council agreed to appoint Kennedy but he could not have given satisfaction as he was discharged in January following. No reason is given, but probably he was under the impression that he was not receiving a living wage, or, more probably the licence of a roving disposition acquired in soldiering, could not be limited to a month’s holiday. At any rate, no blame can attach to the Council for non-fulfilment on their side of the contract, as is seen from the concluding monthly payments which wind up the bargain, and terminate the Burgh records of the last of the Town’s Pipers.

1802 Oct 26th To cash paid the Town Piper      20/-

“     Nov llth Paid Town Piper and his wife..... 20/-

“      Nov 30th Paid the Piper’s wife to order .. 10/-

“      Dec 18th To cash paid Piper and his wife Balance of one year’s salary 6/6

It was about this time that Dr Stoddart, who was accompanied to Hawick by Mr Walter Scott, afterwards Sir Walter, wrote “The professional pipers, formerly very common, are now rare ; but young men, for their own amusement, play much on the Lowland bagpipe, fiddle, etc. Dancing also is a favourite diversion ; and there are sometimes subscription dances for the benefit of the poorer families.”

While these records cover a period from 1672 to 1802, none exist to determine when the town-official was first appointed. But this Council note of 1649 is instructive, that “Assaults were common in that year,” and that such weapons entered into the ructions as “branke [bridle] of a naig [horse],” “ane tin pynt stope,” “ane nolt [cattle] horne,” “ane plough staff,” etc., among which “ane chanter,” comes up for notice, suggesting that the infuriated piper swinging his drone as the lusty Samson did “the jawbone of an ass.” This may be safely inferred that the seventeenth century was not far advanced, before the official formed a member of the burgh staff, and that the same force of circumstances overtook ours, after a mixed regime coeval with the departure of the piper of the House of Buccleuch.

An extract from the Church Records of Stow, dated 29th August 1632, bears on this point “The qlk [which] day Andro Pringle in Galloshiels being hyrd to haill [heal] the pyper, his wyf and bairnes of ye sickness. He produced them before the Session saying yat they were haill and feir [in perfect health], and promised hereafter if ever yt sickness fel to them again, he suld mend them on his own expenses. Qlk he subscrivit with his hand on ye pen of ye clark and witnessunder subscrivand.” But with us there has been a renaissance, for, indebted to the public spirit of the late Mrs Thomson of Rosalee, and, more recently to that of Col.


Heron Maxwell and the Discharged Soldiers’ Society, if not under municipal recognition, still practically subserving a similar end, we can gladly say “the Pipers are still with us.” And when Border Minstrelsy has so large an association with the greatest Border county whose families like that of the Ruthvens and the Potts seem to drink in piping with their mother’s milk, it will never be said of our bagpiper - “My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here.” The sea shell held against the ear calls up the noise of the loud resounding main, so, says one, “there must be something wonderful in the pipes, when in a douce coun- try minister like me, it awakens an itch for pugilism.” And another, himself no mean musi- cian, “when accompanied by the drum, the pipes set my nervous system on edge, from crown to heel, in a way I cannot describe.”

Since writing the foregoing a friend had kindly supplied me with the following extract from a letter written by the Earl of Lothian, when with the Covenanting troops at Newcastle, Feb- ruary 18, 1641. It was in reply to an application by his father, the earl of Ancrum, for a “sober Fidler”. “I can not out of our armie furnish you with a sober Fidler. There is a fellow heare plays exceeding well, but he is intolerably given to drink, nor have we many of these people. Our armie has few or none that carie not armes. We are sadder and graver than ordi- narie soldiers, only we are well provided of pypers. I have one for every companie in my regiment, and I think they are as good as drumms.”



  • “To sett the Fair.” or “to ryde the fair,” meant the discharge of a duty of high public im- Fairs were ordained by charter, statute, or ancient custom. Those of York, the old- est in the country, date back to the time of William the Conqueror, and probably far beyond. They were under the governance of the City Sheriffs, who rode in their scarlet gowns, ac- companied by their sergeants at mace, attended with their livery men, when proclamation in the name of the King was duly made. The Mayor was clerk of the market. Ours [Hawick] was a chartered privilege, involving the Lord baron through his representative. In Langholm the form was “to cry,” i.e. to proclaim “the fair.” the proclamation being of a very old and ludicrous character, as given by Hyslop in his volume of “Langholm as it was.” It will be observed that the maintenance of the burgh rights was a duty binding on every burgess under pains, and penalties, and that it was a public riding if not the Common-Riding. (In Langholm the crying of the fair and the Common-Riding were one function).