An edited version of the talk given by Paul Roberts to the Bagpipe Colloquium at the Edinburgh Uni- versity Collection of Historic Musical Instruments, August 2013.

Bellows were probably invented by early metal workers, and date back at least as far as the Bronze Age. Their first musical application may have been to the Roman bagpipe: if so, the idea either disappeared or slipped under the radar for six hundred years, as there is no trace of bellows bagpipes in medi- eval imagery, though the underlying principle was well known from the organ. Still, it might not be coincidence that when the idea finally emerges into clear view it is in Italy, and attached to two direct descendants of the Graeco- Roman double-pipe.

The Phagotum was a complex double-chanter bagpipe, apparently developed in Ferrara sometime before 1521. It was cylindrically bored and therefore in conventional terminology a “small- pipe”. It holds the distinction of being the earliest known unequivocally be lows-blown bagpipe, though it seems very few were made. Significantly, of only two surviving images, one shows it as a prop in the story of Jacob and Rachel at the well watering her father’s sheep, introducing the pastoral association that is central to the story of bellows bagpipes.
This association is even more evident in the case of the Sordellina, another complex double-chanter, multi-keyed smallpipe. It seems to have evolved out of a local peasant bagpipe in 16th century Naples in direct response to the growing Pastoral cult among the edu- cated classes. From about 1550 we find numerous references to its use in Pastoral masques and plays, and in 1574 we get the first reference to a sordellina with bellows, though they probably had them earlier than this.

The extraordinary bagpipe [probably a ‘sordellina’] depicted by Claud Vignon in his portrait of the piper Francois Langlois, c.1630

By the late 1500s we start to find the first hard evidence of bellows-blown smallpipes north of the Alps. As in Italy these were a product of the expanding Pastoral cult and seem to have been developed from local peasant bagpipes. The first may have been the French Musette. Images of mouth blown Musettes go back to the 1550s, but the earliest known example of a bellows- blown Musette is an instrument from Castle Ambras in Austria which appears in an inventory dated 1596, while the earliest known image of one is the pic ture in Praetorius (1619). After this all images of Musettes seem to be bellows- blown.
Praetorious also describes several central European bagpipes, all probably Pastoral instruments. These were mouth-blown, but his “Bock” was to evolve into a bellows-blown instrument. The earliest known image of a bellows-blown Bock is a carving on the tomb of Sigismund III in Cracow, dat- ing to 1633. Indeed, there still exists a bellows Bock with an inscribed date of 1527, which would place it within a few years of our ur-bellows pipe, the Phagotum: unfortunately, it is almost certainly 18th century. However, it is another of these central European bag- pipes that is of most interest to us: the instrument Praetorious calls a “Dudey” will play a major role in our story.

The Dudey: Praetorious, Syntagma Musicum, 1619

The Dudey typically featured a simple 7 to 9 note chanter, with three drones tuned as bass baritone and tenor mounted in a distinctive cylindrical common stock. The first image to show a bellows-driven example may be a carving with no visible blowstick on the tomb of Johann Friedrich II of Saxony, dating to about 1595-98. Flemish and Dutch artists regularly painted this instrument from the 1620s onwards: surprisingly, until the 1680s they depicted only mouth-blown versions. However, nearly all show the horizontal, across- the-body, drone arrangement that is so distinctive of bellows pipes: when strapped into bellows it is hard to tune drones arranged any other way. This might indicate that bellows blown versions also existed.

The Dudey: Shepherd with Bagpipes, Peter Wtewael, c.1623

At this stage it might be a good idea to stop and consider why smallpipes, and why bellows? The Pastoral performance context was mainly indoors for masques, plays and recitals, so a loud conical bore pipe was not as suitable. Educated people may have wanted to idealize the shepherd’s life, but the pastoral cult evolved alongside another expanding cult of refined manners and personal elegance: the softer and less penetrating sound of the smallpipe fitted better with this ideal, as did the bellows, which avoided the undignified act of blowing with its distended cheeks and spittle. The dry reeds also made for a much more stable instrument, easier to keep in tune and to maintain, something more important in formal performance contexts than at a village dance.

“January” from Edmund Spenser The Shepheardes Calender, 1579. Note the broken bagpipe bottom left: the lovelorn shepherd breaking his bagpipe was a convention in Pastoral poetry.

The spread of information and ideas was fairly rapid in early modern Eu- rope, especially among the elite, and Pastoral bagpipes and the bellows idea probably arrived in Britain not long after France and central Europe. The obvious main point of entry would be London, home of the Court and Eu- rope’s leading North Sea port. The Pastoral cult is surely the indicator here: as soon as we see it in high art, we might reasonably expect the fashionable accessory of Pastoral bagpipes to follow. In Britain we see the first serious signs of the Pastoral movement with Barclay’s Eclogues of 1515, and it became a major cultural force with Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender of 1579. This closely parallels developments in Europe: if music did the same one might expect London woodwind makers to be producing Pastoral bagpipes from around the mid-1500s, and to see some adoption of the bellows idea by the 1590’s.
In fact there are several references to what sound like Pastoral bagpipes from around the mid century: for example, the five sets in a 1547 inventory of Henry VIII’s instrument collection, described as made from ivory with velvet covers. These were clearly sophisticated instruments, with the ivory suggesting smallpipes, and they slightly predate the French and central European evidence. This suggests the various bagpipers em- ployed at the Royal Court throughout the 16th and 17th centuries were playing the most fashionable forms of the instrument as dictated by the courts of Europe, and one suspects the same of the various bagpipers frequently referred to as playing in elaborate aristocratic and Royal masques. The accounts for Edward VI’s Masque of Bagpipes in 1553 actually mention the purchase of both “loud” and “soft” bagpipes, which sound like traditional conical bore pipes and a new sophisticated smallpipe: this seems to be the first of a whole raft of references to “great pipes” and “small pipes”.
However, the first definite reference to bellows powered bagpipes doesn’t come till 1617. This is in a Ben Jonson poem from a Court masque:
“The politick pudding hath still his two ends; though the bellows and bag- pipe were ne'er so good friends”
This not only tells us that Jonson and his courtly audience were familiar with bellows pipes: the poem concerns the desirability of keeping everything in its proper place, so it might imply a long- standing familiarity. Perhaps this reached back to the 1590’s, as predicted by the European evidence. “Pasquill” certainly made an association between bellows and bagpipes in his 1589 critique of Puritanism:
“I finde them fitte to preach upon Bellowes, and Bagpipes, and blowne Bladders, they are so full of ventositie, that I cannot come at their matter for winde and words.”
We can’t be certain that he understood a musical connection here, but it might not be coincidence that “bellows and bagpipes” was to reappear as a popular metaphor for wind throughout the 17th century. It appears, for example, in John Fletcher’s The Island Princess, first performed at Court in 1619, two years after Jonson’s landmark reference:
“What a blown fool has self-affection Made of this fellow! Did not the queen your mother Long for bellows and bag- pipes when she was great with you, She brought forth such a windy birth?”
The metaphor occurred again in Culpeper’s The English Physician of 1652, perhaps indicating that the bellows and bagpipe association had by now moved well beyond courtly circles:
“Cabbages are extreme windy; whether you take them as Meat, or as Medicine, yea as windy meat as can be eaten, unless you eat Bagpipes or Bellows, and they are but seldom eaten in our days”.
Certainly during the second half of the century, as the quantity and quality of the sources improve, we find a number of references which seem confirm the spread of the bellows idea. Thus the Yorkshire diarist Sir John Reresby, a regular patron of pipers, took with him on his Grand Tour “an English boy that plaid perfectly well of the bagpipe” and at Venice carnival in in 1656 he covers the shoulders of his piper with a petticoat:
“that playing as he went nothing could be perceived of that instrument save the sound, which did soe much surprize (that country not affording any of that sort of musick) that I had the whole croud after me that day and the boy have like to have been pulled in pieces to find out the thing….”
This seems to imply a bellows-blown smallpipe with no protruding blowstick or long drones to give the game away.

Nine years later, in 1665, Richard Head published his best selling picaresque novel The English Rogue. One of the adventures is a faked haunting, it includes not only an explicit reference to bagpipe bellows, but introduces the first of a series of late 17th century references to a “Scotch Bagpipe”, to which we will return:
“….at first I perceived onely the boards to crack, but presently after I heard chains rattle, and the stools flung about the room, the bed, and I in it, danced up and down, as if a Scotch Bag-pipe had been plaid upon by a Northern Witch, and the Devil the while had Danced with me, and the Bed a Morrice, (supplying the Bellows with wind.).”
Six years later we find a similar reference in Shadwell’s “The Humorists” (1671): “I shall live to see thee snuffle worse than a Scotch bagpipe that has a flaw in the bellows”.
There are also several comments which compare the bagpipe to an organ. For example, another reference in The English Rogue says: “….she sung so harmonically, that the Musick of the Sphears are no more to be compared to it, then a Scotch Bagpipe to an Organ.” Ten years later in 1676 the writer Roger North made a boat trip down the Tyne, and he tells us: “The equipments of the vessel were very stately, as a-head there sat a 4 or 5 drone bagpipe (the North Country organ) and a-sterne a trumpeter”. Although there is no direct mention of bellows, we know Head thought of the “Scotch Bagpipe” as bellows blown, and it seems North thought of bagpipes in general as bellows blown, as he later commented that if it could “stop the tone” the bagpipe would be a “a glorious instrument, and wholly relieve the breath”. These seem to be the first signs of a usage which was to become common in the 18th and 19th centuries: the term “organ pipes” for bellows pipes.
By the early 18th century references to bellows bagpipes have started to become reasonably common in England, and sometimes seem to see bellows as the norm, as in Soames Jenyns 1727 description of pipers at a maypole dance:
“On every side Aeolian artists stand Whose labouring elbows swelling winds command:The swelling winds harmonious pipes inspire,
And wake in every breast a generous fire.”

While Thomas Dyche in his Diction- ary of 1735 seems to presume that all bagpipes are bellows-blown:
“BAGPIPE (S.) a musical instrument of the wind kind, much used in Scot- land and by the northern people of England, at fairs and country merry- makings, consisting of two pipes, a larg- er and smaller, and a pair of bellows so contrived, that each pipe is filled with wind by the bellows, and the large one sounds a double octave, or deep key note to the lowest note of the small one; and this is called the drone or holding note, descants upon which are played upon the small pipe.”

Country Dancers round a Maypole. Francis Hayman, London, 1740-41 (V&A mu- seum, via Clive Matthews)

But ultimately none of these references tell us much about the actual pipes being played. In fact several types of bellows pipes were known in England by the early 18th century. We get some indication of this in the diary of Aberdeenshire laird George Skene, describing his meeting with the Cumbrian Piper James Bell in 1729. His account momentarily lifts the lid on an otherwise opaque piping subculture reaching from Aberdeenshire to Holland through northern England and London. Bell bought with him several sets of bellows pipes: a “big pipe” - apparently an unusual one - and four small pipes in different keys, including two “double small pipes”. We shall try and identify Bell’s instruments in a minute: first we need to look again at their European relatives.


Francois Langlois and Musette. He is dressed as a Savoyard shepherd (Anthony
Van Dyk, c.1637)

Francois Langlois and Sordellina, bot- tom right (unidentified, c.1630)

France was the leader of fashion and Italy the leader of culture, and the English elite were familiar with the Musette and possibly the Sordellina from an early date. According to Ausoni the Musette was popularized in both France and England by a series of virtuoso performers, including Francois Langlois, a Parisian book and art dealer. His clients included many aristocratic Englishmen, among them Charles 1st himself. The first picture, by the Court painter Van Dyk, shows Langlois playing his Musette: it was probably painted during Langlois’ visit to England in 1637. But Langlois also played the Sordellina, and was first painted playing one c. 1623, and its prominence in our second picture from c.1630, showing him surrounded by objects of culture, might suggest he considered it his main instrument.
One British Musette has actually survived and is now in the Royal Scottish Museum. It bears the inscription “The gift of Simon Robertson to Salathiel
Humphries 1695. He died January 16th 1722.” Humphries or Humphrey (period spellings were variable) was a leading London piper. He may have been of Northumbrian ancestry, he probably lived in Soho, and he died in poverty after bribing his way into Chelsea hospital. Skene tells us that James Bell beat Humphrey in a piping contest involving a wager of £1000 - from £117,000•to £2 million in today’s money, depending how calculated. This would be betting between gentleman patrons - one doubts that Bell or Humphrey saw much of it.
We also know of a Sordellina player of sorts. “Hale” - we don’t know his Christian name - was another celebrity piper of the day, though we only know of him because of this epitaph from an engraving dating to around 1710. The poem reads:
“Before three monarchs I my skill did prove
Of many lords and Knights I have the Love
There’s no musitian e’er did know the peer
Of Hale the Piper in fair Derbyshire
The consequence in part you here may know
Pray look upon his hornpipe here below”.
The appended tune appears in one period collection as the “famous” Derbyshire Hornpipe. Its fame perhaps rested on its extended range, way beyond that of a traditional bagpipe. The second picture, of apparently the same man, was discovered recently by Jane and Eric Moulder in Calke Abbey, Derbyshire: I’d tentatively date it to about 1680-90. The bagpipe is bellows blown with two multi-keyed chanters and could certainly play Hale’s hornpipe. It’s probably best described as a Sordellina, but it is very different to other pictured Sordellinas: the chanters are much longer, and set parallel rather than divergent. As the epitaph shows Hale by a lathe one suspects it was of his own design and manufacture.
Hale was apparently patronized by the Duke of Rutland at Haddon Hall and Belvoir Castle in Derbyshire, and has been described as “house piper at Had- don”. We can’t say when Hale acquired his unusual and versatile bagpipe but clearly he could have had it a long time - he looks like an old man in the picture, the epitaph tells us he played before three monarchs, and Marsden’s collection of 1705 includes an “Old Hale Hornpipe” which may refer to him rather than the Cheshire place name. Perhaps Langlois provided the inspiration in the 1630s - from Langlois to Hale involves only one intermediate step, from the King to the Duke.

Hale and his Hornpipe (British Museum)

Hale and his Sordellina? (Calke Abbey)

However, despite the important cul- tural and trading links with France and Italy, London’s links were strongest with the Low Countries and northern Germany, and it is likely that the Dudey was also known in London at an early date. There is some (very) slight evidence that the mysterious “Lincolnshire bagpipe” which suddenly appears in the record around 1590, and disappears as suddenly within a few decades, may have been the early mouth blown Dudey. The Dudey was certainly known in London in the late 17th century - by which time, it would seem, it was normally bellows blown.
Between 1692 and 1695 James Talbot of Cambridge wrote down descriptions and detailed measurements of the main wind instruments of the day, as sup- plied by leading London musicians. This included three bellows blown smallpipes which probably belonged to the Royal collection. One, a “bagpipe “Fr [ench]”, was a musette. But two more, both described as “Bagpipe, Scotch”, match Skene’s description of Bell’s two smallpipes, the “single” and the “double”.
The first “Bagpipe Scotch” clearly describes a Dudey. It is, however, a distinctive form of the instrument, the one that that was to re-emerge in the late 18th century as the “Northumberland Bagpipe”. It is bellows blown, not mouth blown like Praetorius’s instru- ment, and the chanter is pitched in the musette key of G, rather than Praetori- us’s Eb. The chanter is also closed, often considered a unique feature of the Northumbrian instrument. In fact, no single feature of this configuration was unique: we have already noted what may be a bellows-blown Dudey in Germany 100 years earlier, and from the 1680s continental artists sometimes show them too. Skene specifically tells us that smallpipes were made in different keys, and continental illustrations also show differently-sized chanters. And analysis of Praetorius’ drawing and notes suggest his Dudey may have had a closed chanter too.
The “Bagpipe Scotch 2nd Sort” features a double bored chanter and a single drone: as such it is superficially similar to several eastern European bagpipes, but on closer examination it can be seen to be an ingenious variant of the first “bagpipe Scotch”. The chanter plays the same G mixolydian scale, but the second bore replicates the first four notes and so supplies a variable drone or simple chords as required. For this reason the full three drones of the Dudey aren’t necessary and the single drone simply adds the missing baritone 5th.



“The Scotch Bagpipe”: late 17th century Northumbrian Smallpipe (Black Gate Museum, Newcastle, 1961)


Bell’s Double Smallpipe? Julian Goodacre’s reconstruction of the
Talbot double-pipe

It seems likely that in Talbot’s two “Bagpipes Scotch” we see James Bell’s “single” and “double” small pipes and Head and Shadwell’s “Scotch Bagpipe”. But why should a smallpipe with such common and widespread European rel- atives be identified as “Scotch”? And why would Londoners get their Dudeys from Scotland? The trade route be- tween the Low Countries and London was busier and shorter than between either place and Scotland, and the Lon- don woodwind industry was the biggest in Britain.
Throughout the 17th century first Northern England and then Scotland became seen as the archetypal locus of all that was rustic and old-fashioned, as the true home of innocence, simplicity, and the pastoral, and equally of the mirror image: barbarity, crudity and the backwards. Thus first the word “North- ern” and then “Scotch” developed a metaphorical usage. It would seem that in contexts like music and popular culture they often seem to prefigure the word “folk”, and can’t always be taken literally. One aspect of this is a certain geographical vagueness: “Scotch” in particular sometimes seems to incorporate “Northern English”. So perhaps “Scotch bagpipe” actually meant some- thing very like “Pastoral bagpipe”.
In the late 16th century an artistic revolution began in the Low Countries. Among other things, a sub-style evolved devoted to portraying the ev- eryday life of ordinary people - what has come to be called “genre” art. This has given us literally hundreds of early modern European bagpipe images. These show a fairly standard great pipe drone configuration: two drones, either mounted in separate but parallel stocks, or in a split common stock, and angled vertically so as to rest on the piper’s bag shoulder, or point forwards away from the body. However, the configuration shown for smallpipes is very different. Images of the Musette and Dudey consistently show the drones mounted horizontally, leaning across the piper’s body, while the Dudey features a distinctive cylindrical common stock with three drones.

Tavern Interior with Piper, Egbert Van Heemskerck the Elder, c.1680 (detail)

Genre art had little impact in Britain until the 1670s, when a series of crises in the Netherlands encouraged a small migration of Dutch artists to England. This kick-started the movement in Britain, and produced a remarkable series of paintings showing a great pipe configured like a smallpipe being played in the taverns of south-eastern England. Nothing remotely like this instrument had appeared in European art before. It was bellows-blown, with three drones in a common stock resting over the bellows arm. It was configured exactly like a Dudey except that it featured a second tenor instead of a baritone drone. Yet this was a great pipe: the chanter apparently a conventional conical bore chanter, from the size and comfortable finger spacing pitched around the middle of the treble clef, perhaps in the area G to Bb. These pictures appear to be the first images of the instrument nowadays usually known as the Lowland or Border bag- pipe, names invented by Scottish antiquarians in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

These paintings were produced in London and Oxford by Egbert Van Heemskerck and his son of the same name. They were painted between 1674 and about 1720, with a strong bias to- wards the 1680s and 90s. The Heemskercks virtually created and monopolized a whole new market for low-life tavern scenes in England, and their works include numerous images of lower class “minstrels”: perhaps around 15% to 20% of these musicians are bagpipers. My (very) rough esti- mates suggest they may have produced several hundred “Border” bagpipe images: I haven’t found that many, but here are a few which I suspect most of you won’t have seen before….. [for further Heemskerck images see Common Stock Vol.28, No.2, Dec.2011]
Clearly the configuration of this instrument is modelled on that of the pastoral Dudey: equally clearly the Heemskercks do not seem to show it in a pastoral context, unless as burlesque. Indeed, at first glance it’s hard to imagine it having a pastoral function - presumably it would not be quiet enough for refined indoor performance or versatile enough to play chamber music. It’s certainly possible that what these pictures tell us is that the same makers were producing both pastoral small- pipes and vernacular big pipes, and the former simply came to influence the latter.
However, “loud” bagpipes - presumably conical bore pipes - were being used in Royal masques as early as the mid-1500s, and pastoral bagpipes derived from conical bore pipes were certainly known on the continent, though they never achieved the popularity of smallpipes. So there is a very good chance that the Heemskerck bagpipe is exactly what it appears to be - a pastoral instrument which had filtered down to street and tavern. This seems to have been the ultimate fate of most pastoral bagpipes, thus Dutch imagery frequently shows both the Musette and Dudey in the hands of street and tavern pipers by the mid 17th century. Now, if this was a pastoral bagpipe, it would probably have been branded with an appropriate name. Which raises the possibility that it might date back to the 1630s, bellows and all.


In the middle decades of the 17th century there appear a sudden clutch of references to a mysterious “Lancashire Bagpipe”. The first such reference comes in 1634, in an extravagant proession preceding James Shirley’s masque The Triumph of Peace. The procession included an antimasque - a satirical burlesque featuring lower class  characters - led by “Thomas Bassett ye Lancashire Magpipe [sic] And Iohn  Seywell the Shalme rydeinge a breast together”. To head the procession and match the volume of a shawm this must surely have been a loud, and thus coni- cal bored instrument. This could easily be the instrument painted by the Heemskercks.

Tavern with Piper, Benjamin Gerritszon Cuyp c.1647-58. “Pastoral” bagpipes were initially played by leading professionals for masques, plays and pastoral entertainments, but soon filtered down the piping chain to street and tavern.

This initial appearance was within an unmistakably “pastoral” context, though one that reflected the negative side of the paradigm, parodying rather than idealizing the rustic. Bulstrode Whitelock, who organized the music, intended the “bagpipes and hornpipes” to represent “Northern Musick”, indicating that the anti-masquers were “of the Scotch and Northern quarters”. But Shirley, who wrote the masque, actually saw it as “antick” music, a word meaning “strange /wild/ludicrous” with overtones of “archaic/old-fashioned”, and he simply saw the anti-masquers as lower class - “a country fellow” “ a seaman” “a jockey” etc. These two interpretations encompass many of the basic elements of the evolving Pastoral paradigm in England - bagpipes, horn- pipes, Northern English, Scotch, lower- class, rural, old-fashioned, strange, wild, comic - though the burlesque context excludes the more positive ideas of innocence, simplicity, the natural. In this context the “Lancashire” name was perhaps metaphorical rather than literal: in the mid 1600s Lancashire was the main location of the shifting rural archetype.
Indeed, there seem to be no references that unequivocally locate the instrument’s origin in north-west England, and a second reference from the same year (1634) introduces us to a persistent ambiguity. In Heywood and Brome’s The Late Lancashire Witches a piper is bought in to replace bewitched fiddlers:
“•I have heard my Aunt say twentie times, that no Witchcraft can take hold of a•Lancashire•Bag-pipe, for it selfe is able to charme the Divell, ile fetch him.”
This might seem a clear enough indication of a genuine regional instrument, except that this play was basically a musical, and the instrument would have been spotlighted at this point. Thus its second appearance in the record is as a stage instrument, not so dissimilar to its first appearance in the anti-masque. It is hard to resist the idea that we are dealing here with a “pastoral” instrument - a great pipe that has had a fashionable makeover in the workshops of London - exactly the sort of instrument we seem to see in the Heemskerck images.
Of course, it’s not impossible that such an instrument originated in Lancashire rather than London, but north-west England in the 17th century was very much a rural backwater. We know provincial wood turners made bagpipes, but one wonders what motive they would have to develop a Pastoral instrument like this in rural Lancashire, and what facility to refine and market it. Given this, it is perhaps surprising to find the emergence in the early 18th century of a highly developed form of the Heemskerck instrument in a much lower pitch and with an extended range, which may well have had a genuine association with the north-west. This might suggest that the Heemskerck instrument really did originate there; alternatively it might suggest that the “Lancashire Bagpipe” was actually a distinctive low-pitched, extended range variant of that instrument. But it seems more likely that we are witnessing a familiar cultural circularity - Lancashire was a piping hotbed, so a new Pastoral great pipe was called the Lancashire Bagpipe; Lancashire was a piping hot-bed so it adopted that instrument and tried to develop it further. And in this instance it seems there was not only a motive for such further development, there was also a regional facility to refine and market it.


The pastoral cult was not the only motivation for the development of more advanced forms of bagpipe. From the early 1500s the bagpipe’s pre-emi- nent role in popular dance music was increasingly threatened by the new violin, whose seven octave range started to affect the structure of the music, creating new forms which bagpipes could not play.
The Phagotum and Sordellina were designed as extended range instruments; the Musette began life with a simple nine note chanter, but by the early 18th century had gained both keys and a second chanter. However, it was not until the early 19th century that Tyneside makers began to extend the range of the Dudey with keys. It seems the first British experiments in this direction were actually conducted on conical bore pipes.
In the late 17th and early 18th century several examples of apparent bagpipe music were published in London, in collections for the viol and violin. Much of this music had an allegedly northern, and especially north-western, associa- tion. The early examples tend to lie within the traditional bagpipe nine note range, but a few go higher, and when we reach the 18th century collections almost all of them go higher. This might be explained by the simple fact that they are set for violin. However, the extended range seems to be an inte- gral feature of many of these tunes, and on closer examination we find most of them go no higher than the fourth in the second octave and no lower than the low leading note. In fact they could be tailor made for the various over- blowing bagpipes available today: thus Marsden’s 1705 collection of “Original Lancashire Hornpipes” is almost entirely playable on a Swayne Border pipe.

This raises the possibility that such an instrument was known in England by the early 18th century, and it seems to be associated with the idea of “Lancashire” music. James Bell, of course, lived in north- west England, if not literally in Lancashire. Skene was particularly struck by the chanter of Bell’s big pipe, because it was “so flatt that it tunes to the violine”, which might be interpreted as meaning it was pitched in low D. But Skene makes an even stranger comment: he tells us that he didn’t like Bell’s playing on the big pipe, “he….not winding them even, thinking it a grace on the big one, tho’ he winds the small one fine”. Uneven winding is an unfortunate side effect of overblowing on conical bore pipes, something pipe makers have to work hard to overcome. Perhaps Bell’s bagpipe was able to overblow, something more easily achieved on low pitched instruments.
In fact an instrument exactly like this - a bellows driven great pipe in low D with a significant overblowing capacity - was described just 14 years later in John Geoghegan’s “Compleat Tutor for the Pastoral or New Bagpipe”, published in London in 1743.
Geoghegan’s instrument shared the same overall configuration as the Heemskerck bagpipe, and can reasonably be seen as derived from it. It was probably even more advanced than the instrument played by Bell in 1729 as it had a two octave range with accidentals, much more than was needed to play the extended range bagpipe music in the period collections. It is generally recognized as the ancestor of the later “Union” Pipes and thus of the highly complex modern Irish bagpipe: if its later history is a guide it was probably the result of an evolutionary process involving many pipers and makers over a wide area. One of them was probably Bell himself, who seems to have been a pipe maker as well as a player. Doubtless the workshops of London had some input too: Simpson, the publisher of the tutor, kept a music shop where he sold these “New Bagpipes”.

“The Pastoral or New Bagpipe”: frontispiece from Geoghegan’s Tutor, 1743

But Geoghegan was Irish, and may have been associated with a group of Anglo-Irish musicians in Dublin which included Larry Grogan, according to O’Neill the earliest known player of the Union pipes. Grogan was born in 1702, so was probably playing from about 1720 till his death in 1728: this puts his instrument in the same time frame as James Bell’s big pipes. To a contemporary the connection would be obvious. This was a time of poor roads but excel- lent sea lanes. North-west England may have been a rural backwater, but if attempts were being made there to develop an overblowing bagpipe, the region had easy access to a major city with sophisticated craftsmen perfectly capable of refining and marketing the instrument - Dublin, second city of the Empire. So while it seems likely that that the “Lancashire Bagpipe” originated in London, this London “New Bag- pipe” may well have been an authentic child of north-west England and east coast Ireland, of a maritime culture zone centred on the Northern Irish sea.


It seems that several bellows-blown bagpipes were known in 17th century England. Bellows probably arrived around the 1590s with the Musette and Sordellina, and bellows pipes were well known in courtly circles by 1617. But it was a third Pastoral bagpipe that had the greatest influence, the central Euro- pean Dudey, which spawned a whole family of distinctive British bellows pipes. In its first British incarnation in the late 1500s the Dudey may (just possibly) have been known as the Lincolnshire bagpipe, by the 1660s it had gained bellows and been branded as the Scotch bagpipe. But the Dudey also influenced the configuration of the indigenous great pipe, and the sort of pastorally configured bellows-blown great pipe we now call the Border bag- pipe was being played in south-east England by the 1680s. This may well have been the so-called Lancashire Bag- pipe, which would date the instrument back to the 1630s. Whilst this was probably a product of the London wood- wind industry, a distinctive variant which comes into view in the early 1700s, in a much lower pitch and with an overblowing capacity, does seem to have had some sort of real north-western association. But by then English bagpipes were in irreversible decline,
and in the course of the 18th century all these instruments were to retreat north- wards or westwards, to be re-branded with new identities, their early history soon forgotten.

Paul Roberts playing his prize-winning tune at the Friday Concert in Peebles