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We continue our extracts from ‘The Burgh Pipers of Scotland', a chapter in W L Manson's The Highland Bagpipe, published in 1901, starting with the author's evocation of Geordie Syme, the famous piper of Dalkeith who is immortalised as this Society's emblem, as well as some of his successors.


OLD GEORDIE Syme, the town piper of Dalkeith, was a famous piper in his day. The exact period when he flour- ished cannot now be ascertained, and little is known of him, even in tradition. The piper of Dalkeith was a retainer of the house of Buccleuch, and there was a small salary attached to the office, for which in Geordie's time he had to attend the family on all particular occasions and make the round of the town twice daily - at five am and eight pm. Besides his salary, he had a suit of clothes allowed him regularly. This consisted of a long yellow coat lined with red, red plush breeches, white stockings, and buckles in his shoes.

Geordie was much taken notice of by the gentry of his time. It is not known when he died. His successor in office was Jamie Reid, who lived long to enjoy the emoluments of position and about whom there are some interesting local traditions. Jamie was succeeded by Robert Lorimer, and at his death his son was installed in his office, which he held as late as 1837, probably much later. The practice of playing through the town was discontinued about 1821, the custom being considered by the inhabitants a useless relic of bygone days. A long sarcastic poem, printed and circulated about that time, is believed

to have helped greatly to finally abolish the practice.


Geordie Syme - ‘a famous piper in his time’ - as immortalised by the Edinburgh caricaturist John Kay in 1789


The editor adds: One suspects that the poem referred to by Manson was a scurrilous parody of the long established poem about Habbie Simson by Robert Sempill of Beltrees, The Life and Death of the Piper of Kilbarchan.

The verses below give an idea of the Dalkeith version …

O Lorimer! Thou wicked wag,

I wish thee, and thy dinsome bag Were twal feet ‘neath a black peat-hag

Wet as the Severn,

Or pipin' to the Laird o' Lag

In Belzie's Cavern.

E'r daylight peeps within my chaumer Is heard thy vile unearthly clamour,

Wauks the gude wife- the young ones yammer Wi 'ceaseless din;

I seize my breeks, an' outward stammer Compell'd to rin.