Pete Stewart reports on a chance encounter with what might be a very early bellows-blown, common-stock bagpipe in France.

While at the International Bagpipe Conference held in London in March this year, I was fortunate to meet with Belgian musette-de-court player Jean-Pierre van Hees who introduced me to the history of the chabreta or cornemuse à miroir du Limousin, an instrument which I knew little of.
These pipes were still being played in the region at the beginning of the 20th century and most of those instruments, and others that have survived in museums, are mouth-blown. However, Jean-Pierre showed me an image of a bellows-blown, instrument which is now in the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague and which he said was dated 1603. We are now trying to learn more of this bagpipe, particularly whether the bellows are original, the general opinion being that for these pipes the bellows were a 19th century ‘improvement’. The image here is from a copy of an original painting dated 1835.