With the help of the staff at the Archives and Local History Centre at the John Gray Centre in Haddington, Pete Stewart curated a display of materials from the archive. Here he talks about the items on display.

When I first visited the Archives in Haddington I told them about the proposed gathering of the LBPS in the Town House and enquired whether it would be possible to bring a small group of people across the road to look at the original watercolour of the Town Piper and Drummer, which I knew they had in their possession since I had seen it when the Local History Library was in its old premises [as recorded by Collinson in his book, though I suspect that he never visited the location himself]. Their response was not just affirmative but included the suggestion that it be put on display in the glass cabinet that stands in the entry to the Local History Centre and Archives. This was the beginning of a project which culminated on the day of the collogue with the visit by far more attendees than I had imagined. For those who were unable to be there, here is a brief description of the display and its contents.
In addition to the watercolour I was a aware that East Lothian Museums also held in storage an oil painting which Collinson said was of the Town Piper James Livingston. When I had first visited and was shown the painting I immediately realised that this was in fact a portrait of dear old Geordie Syme, despite what it said on the label that had been attached to the painting when the Museum acquired it, and which seems to have dated from 1902, if I recall correctly. I’m glad to say that this portrait was also made available for the display and that the Museum may now be convinced to alter their description; to persuade them of this I placed the famous engraving of Geordie by John Kay, from which the Society’s logo is derived,  immediately above the oil painting.
I had also, earlier this year discovered that Haddington possessed not only these two unique objects of piping history but also what may well be the oldest depiction of a bagpipe in Scotland [see p. 16]. I first learnt about this while reading a history of the Haddington pipe band, which told me that there were two bagpipers depicted in the Church of St Mary’s, though no-one at the church itself seemed to know anything of them. The one that was said to be inside the church is no longer discernible, but the one on the outside, whilst it is admittedly rather weather-worn, is still distinguishable as a bagpipe, if you know that it’s there, though only the bag and chanter and the piper’s right arm remain. A photo of this bagpipe faces the visitor on entering the reception area of the Centre, above the well-known watercolour of James Livingston and Andrew Simpson, Town Piper and Drummer, painted by local artist Robert Mabon, some time during the pair’s period of playing together between 1776 and 1788, probably towards the end of that period. I have been unable to unearth any more about Mabon, unless he is the same one who died as a soldier in India in 1798, whose drawing skills seem to far outweigh those of our artist. Whatever its artistic merit it remains unique in piping history in showing a Town piper and drummer actually going about their work. Three engravings exist, each slightly different; one of these tells us that it was drawn ‘ad vivem’ - ie. from life.
The remainder of the exhibition consists of two layers, the upper of which, as well as the bagpiper from St Mary’s and Kay’s engraving of Geordi Syme, displays a selection of images of pipers from the early 15th century to the early 19th including those from Skirling, Rosslyn, Threave Castle, Abercairney and paintings from Heemskerk, Sandby and an unknown early 19th century artist. Many of these have been printed in Common Stock over the years, but a full collection still awaits publication.
The lower layer of the display, in addition to the portrait of Geordie Syme, includes a Lowland pipe made by Julian Goodacre, a copy of the pipes now in the National Piping Centre Museum, probably dating from around 1776, together with a copy of the Gairdyn manuscript page that contains the music of the tune ‘Go to Berwick Johnny’.

Above: A detail of ‘Horsefair at Bruntsfield Links, Edinburgh’
by Paul Sandby, c. 1750, one of the paintings included in the display.


The Minute Book of Haddington Burgh Council, open at the entry for Jan 24, 1608, recording the appointment of Richard Skowgall as Town Drummer and Piper
[photos of the display and the Collogue by Graham Barnes