Extracts from the records of the council of the burgh of Aberdeen:
January 1540

“that Andro Lausone and Jame Lausone, his broder, thair commound menstrallis
for the tyme, selbe fey it and conduycit for thair actuall and continuall gud seruice to be done be thaim, as ws wes be the menstrallis afor thaim, thair predecessouris, at ewin and mome, and vder tymmis neydfu, concerning the oune, for all the days of thair lyf, and sell half thair daily vaigis and meyt of the nychtbouris of this gud towne circularie, conforme to the auld lovabill wse and consuetud of this nobill burgh obseruyt in tymmis bygane”

In the summer of 1633, Charles I visited Perth; the city prepared an elaborate entertainment for him, as recorded in the Guild of Glovers’ minute books:

o“His Majestie being thayre set upon the wall next the wattir of Tay, quhair uppone was ane fleeting staige of tymber cled about with birks, uppone the quhilke, for his Majestie’s welcome and entrie, threittine of our brethrene of this our calling of Glovers with green cappis, silwer strings, red ribbons, quhyte shoes and bells about their leggis, **sheiring raperis in thair handis, and all uther abulzement, dauncit our sword daunce, with mony difficile knottis and allapallajesse, fyve being under and fyve above uppone thair shoulderis, three of theme dauncing through thair feet and about them, drinking wine and breking glasses...”

Perth Museum holds a costume which many have taken to be that of one of the thirteen dancers, though others have considered it to be that of a ‘morrice dancer’. An pen and wash drawing of the ‘Ancient Morrice Dancers’ Dress’, made by J G Howie around 1840, is also now in the city’s Museum and Art Gallery.
According to an article in Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, (Dec., 1937) 'the costume is very full cut and evidently was intended to hold padding' and this leads us towards an explanation of the extraordinary word 'allapallajesse'. There appears to be some connection with the French clown Paillasse). The job of the paillasse, seems to have been to counterfeit the movements of serious actors or dancers in a ridiculous way. The connection is straw - what they stuffed the mattresses with but also what the clowns stuffed their costumes with. The DSL has ‘palleyes’ and ‘palȝeayis’ for the sack stuffed with straw. Hence 'alla palȝeayis’ = like a stuffed clown'.

perth dancer
Courtesy of Perth Museum & Art Gallery



*“His Majesty being there sat upon the wall next to the water of Tay, whereupon was a floating stage of wood clad about with birch twigs, upon which, for his Majesty’s welcome and entry, thirteen of our brethren of this our calling of Glovers with green caps, silver strings, red ribbons, white shoes and bells about their legs, shearing rapiers** in their hands and all other abuliements, danced our sword dance, with many difficult knots and ?, five being under and five above upon their shoulders, three of them dancing through their feet and about them, drinking wine and breaking glasses”**The Dictionary of the Scottish Langusge has: ‘Having a cutting edge; sharp, piercing’


As has often been observed, the dance described has many of the features of the European linked-sword dances, such as that from Nuremburg, though ‘castle’ type formations, where one group of dancers stands on the shoulders of those beneath, are unusual; one such used to be performed (and may still be) in Aragon (for an image, see my The Day it Daws page 49).
There is no mention of the music played for the dance, though pictures of continental sword dances show drum and fife players (see back cover). However, this tune, which appears in Walsh’s Caledonian Country Dances 3rd edition, of 1750, has pencilled in ‘An earlier name was The Perth Glovers’ Dance’. This copy of Walsh’s book is in the collection of Alexander Wood Inglis of Glencorse (1854-1929), now in the National Library of Scotland; the remark may well be in his hand. The tune itself has the hallmark of the early 18th century, but tunes in this rhythm, if not this time signature, were familiar in the 1640’s - Blundell, for instance, has his dancers in Crosby call for the piper to pay ‘Roger of Coverly’.*

drown drowth
‘Drown Drowth’ from Walsh’s Caledonian Country Dances 3rd edition, 1750. (drowth=thirst)

drown drouth A
Drown Drowth - alternative settings for Border pipes or smallpipes


* From a song from 1641 preserved in the note-book of the Royalist soldier William Blundell of Crosby: ‘They call on their piper then jovially/ Play us brave Roger o’ Coverley’, a version in 9/4 is in Playford’s Division Viol, 1684.


The reference in the Aberdeen Records was first cited many years ago; here we explore its full significance.

“The haill communitie … conducit Johnne Cowpar to pas euerie day … throw all the rewis of the toune playand upon the almany quhissil;”
So says the entry in the Burgh Records of Aberdeen for 1574. But this was not the first mention of such a thing in a civic context. In her work Mediaeval Plays in Scotland Anna Mill included a record dating from 1532 of payment to ‘the man that playit one the almeny quhessill one the octo day’1
Now it is fairly obvious that this ‘quhissil’ is something more than what we might understand by the equivalent ‘whistle’ today. There are numerous mentions of it in Scottish records: 1501–2 To Guilliam, taubronar, to by him quhissillis;2 1555 . For thair playing on the trumpet and quhyssill;3 1559 . [To] William Thomsone, quhisler … for his laubouris in playing vpone the quhissall at the wache; [the Watch]4 1560 To John and Moreis Dowis for playing vpone the swesche and quhissill befoir the nychbouris of this burgh twa dayis quhen thai wer in armorie;5 1599 He saw her [Queen Elizabeth of England] dance … the Spaines pavie to a whissill tabourier;6 1617 To the Earle of Abircornes tabernour and quhisler for attending the youthes at the moreis dance the nycht of the fyrwarkis;7,8
The first (and possibly the last two) of these seem to refer to players of the three-holed pipe and the small drum today referred to as a tabor. The Scottish records include many payments to taubronaris, ostensibly ‘drummers’ but clearly from the context also ‘quhissillaris’. In this instance the ‘quhissillis’ that Guilliam bought were three-holed pipes. But what kind of instrument was played in 1555 alongside the trumpet, or for the night watch? And what is an ‘almeny quhissil’?
Almeny here means ‘German’, as in the French term ‘flûte allemande’; the problem word is ‘whistle’. In his Pallas Armata, written in 1671, Sir James Turner proclaimed “In some places a piper is allowed to each company: the Germans have him, and I look upon their pipe as a warlike instrument. The bagpipe is good enough musick for them who love it; but sure it is not so good as the Almain Whistle. With us any captain may keep a piper in his company, and maintain him too, for no pay is allowed him, perhaps just as much as he deserveth."9
It’s worth noting that, along with his mention of the Almain Whistle, Turner has introduced us to the quagmire that is the precise definitions of the various terms for musical instruments, particularly ‘pipe’ and ‘piper’.10 What, for instance, were the ‘pipes’ played by the English musicians at Berwick in 1333?
Atte Berwike, Be-side þe towne.
This was do with mery sowne
wiþ pipes, Trompes, & nakers þer-to;
And loude clariounes þei Blew also.
And þere þe Scottes leyen dede.11

Before stepping into this territory, however, we should explore a little more about the history of the ‘quhissil’ as a military instrument. The use of musical instruments for signalling in military contexts is ancient; amongst the earliest were animal horns, and the use of these persisted into the 16th century.
There are also clear signs of the use of the three-holed pipe, known to Virdung in 1511 as the ‘schwegel’12 , played together with the drum by the same player; the mural by Lippo Vanni in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, depicting the Sienese army in the battle of Sinalunga, 1363, shows a row of three such in mid-battle:13

siena p&t
Detail of the mural by Lippo Vanni in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, 1364

The combination of drum and the ‘transverse flute’, that Virdung calls ‘Zwerchpfeiffe’ (cross-flute) was certainly in use in a social context by 1344 since it appears in the manuscript of The Romance of Alexander’ illustrated by Johan de Grise (see next page; the artist’s grasp of the size of the fife is somewhat vague)..
By the mid-15th century the ‘fife and drum pair’ had replaced the pipe and tabor in a military context too, as a result of its use by the Swiss Eidgenossen (‘Comrades under Oath’), mercenary units formed by the various cantons that made up the confederacy that is now Switzerland.14 The use of this ‘Swiss Pair’ is well documented in the Chronicles prepared between 1470 and 1485; that by Diebold Schilling, commissioned in 1474, is a collection of three volumes of history of the canton of Bern, which altogether includes almost 2000 pages with over 600 illustrations, of which quite a few depict the drummer and fifer, both leading marches and at the centre of the ‘pike square’ formation which had made the Swiss units almost undefeatable till the introduction of artillery in the early decades of the 16th century.15 So successful had the ‘pike square’ been before then that it was quickly taken up by German and French armies.

pair in battle
Detail from p. 561 of the Amtliche Berner Chronik (Official Chronicle of Bern), Diebold Schilling, 1474-1485.

A major change did occur towards the very end of the 15th century. Up till then the drum had always been shown in illustrations as being of narrow depth, held vertically and suspended from the wrist or hand, with a diameter of perhaps 30-35cm. This is clearly seen in the many depictions included in Schilling’s Chronicle of Bern,
The result of this arrangement, which seems to have been derived from that employed in the playing of tabor and three-hole pipe (the drums are very similar in size to the tabors of the era), is that the left-hand stick is always beating from the rim of the drum and cannot have produced as much sound as the right-hand.


pair on march
Detail from the Bern Chronicle, p. 611

However, sometime towards the end of the century this arrangement changed and much bigger drums began to be used. Virdung was the first to picture this change, in 1511, though he does not give a dimension; by the middle of the 16th century these drums had grown to the limit of skins available for the heads, a diameter of up to 60cm, as seen in the many illustrations of the drum and fife players from the period. This change may well have been in response to the need to increase the volume produced when played amidst the sound of firearms which became prominent during the early part of the century. These huge drums went on being held more or less horizontally and the left hand still rested on the rim, though the drum itself could no longer be suspended from the wrist.
According to Hadden,16 larger drums first appeared in 1490, though various depictions show different sizes and proportions. Hadden shows a number of depictions of drums from the early 16th century which show the various sizes of drums, as can be seen from the images on the following page. The Scots ‘Men-at-Armes’ who played such a prominent role in French military activities during the 15th century must have encountered this use of drum and fife for signalling, though no mention of it is made in William Forbes Leith’s Men-at-Arms and Life Guards Scots in France 15th century.17

pike square five
The Five Members of the Swiss Pike Square, Daniel Hopfer, 1525

drums dancing

Left: from the Workshop of Albrecht Altdorfer, c. 1510: Right; Detail from Departure of the Helvetians, Godefroy le Batave, 15

Note that the painting by le Batave shows the pipe and drum pair playing for dancing, as do a number of others of the period; this had in fact been a function of the pair since at least the mid 15th century; the Bern Chronicles, both the earlier one by Tschachlant and that by Schilling, show the events that took place below the Castles of Leubegg and Mont in 1439:

soldiers dance

Two depictions of the same event, on the left, from Schilling’s Chronicle, and on the right that from the earlier one by Tschachlant (c. 1479). The accompanying texts read ‘‘The Bernese and their allies dance in front of the Laubegg and Mannenberg castles before they go into the storm’ - ‘In front of Laubegg castle more than a thousand men danced…’

Although the vast majority of these illustrations of the pair show them either in battle or marching, there are one or two depictions among them that show the musicians playing in other non-conflict circumstances, such as this detail from Schilling’s Chronicle page 875, in which soldiers arrive by the boatload:


The German Flute

Although the vast majority of these illustrations of the pair show them either in battle or marching, there are one or two depictions among them that show the musicians playing in other non-conflict circumstances, such as this detail from Schilling’s Chronicle page 875, in which soldiers arrive by the boatload:

The German Flute
The Dictionary of the Scots Language gives the following under the entry for Quhissil:‘Almany quhissil, a fife. Cf. 17th c. Eng. almain whistle id. (1670–71).’
Nancy Hadden tells us that “the term ‘fife’ occurs first in a French description of 1489” where “tambourins, fifres et trompettes” played at a wedding feast, but she also quotes Keith Polk’s observation that the German term Pfeiffer is ‘one of those troublesome words that can be both specific and general’ pointing out that it could refer to a shawm player and later to professional players who played a variety of wind instruments (for instance, the German city’s Stadtpfeiffer).18 In France the Phiffre Suisse, Swiss players of flutes in the French army of Charles VIII, were first recorded in 1489. The German equivalent Schweitzerpfeiff (Swiss flute), was first used in the German treatise by Agricola Musica instrumentalis deudsch, published in 1529. Both these acknowledge its early association with the Swiss. In 1514 the first unambiguous description of an instrument called ‘German flute’ appeared in France as ‘fleuste dallemant’.”19
Turning to Scottish usage, in the Dictionary of the Scots Language we find that the multiple meanings of these terms applies as much here as anywhere: under Pifer, for instance:20
‘Pifer, n. Also: piphre; pepher, -our; piffer, ‘ for both the pipe and the player, and Peif(f)erer, -are, Pyphirer for the player.
1. A player on the fife; a ‘piper’. (a) 1564–5 To the haill trompetouris and sueschouris and pephouris … in playing afoir the toun;1590 To the said tabourers and pepher the day of the upcuming of hir maiestie to the abay;1593–4 To the pyphirer for his service at the wapinschawing; 1598 To the foure swescheouris and peifferers; 1600 Extracted from the records of the City of Edinburgh:Nov 28:, ‘ordaines Patrick Eleiss to pay to the pephereris and twa extraordiner drummeris nyne merk,
The Dictionary then adds helpfully:
2. A fife or other wind instrument. (a) ‘Praise him with trumpet piphre [MS. fifre] and drumme;’ (from James VI Poems} ‘Drums trumpetis piferis hard on the nicht;’21 ‘Like the beatting upon drummes and playing upon piffers and the sound of trumpets;’
The Dictionary also includes similar entries for alternative spellings:
(Pifer-,) Peif(f)erer, -are, Pyphirer, n. Also: pepher-; piffer-, piffar-. [f. prec., in sense 2.] A player on the fife. = Pifer n. 1. — 1632 Linlithgow Burgh Records: Peiferare; 1634 Dumfries & Galloway Society; Peifferer; 1641 To the drummers and piffarers;
Two things are clear from these: there are two uses of words that are sometimes very similar, especially in the case of ‘piffer’, which is the instrument, and pifferer, which is its player. And there do not seem to be any usages recorded earlier than 1564. Nevertheless, we remain unenlightened as to what this ‘piffer’ actually is, even if the DSL is happy to call it a ‘fife’, by which at this era is meant a ‘German flute’, the transverse flute seen in the above illustrations. It may be that the entry for James VI’s usage in the manuscript of the spelling ‘fifre’ is one justification for this reading of the words.
So much for the DSL; however, a different picture emerges when we look at the Treasurer’s Accounts, where instances of use of the various forms of the words, particularly ‘pyparis’, date back much further;22
1489 x july, to Inglis pyparis, that come to the Castell get and playt to the King, xij demyss 1491 aug xxi Item, the saim tyme, to iij Inglis pyparis, viij vnicornis vijfi .iiijš. 1497 jan 1st Item,to the comoune pyparis of Abirdene, xxviijs
And it would appear we have a clue from the accounts for 1505 :
1505 March 25; giffin to thir menstrales undirwritin, that is to say, the four Italien schawmiris and the More taubronar1505; item May 3 xxelne French tanne for the four Italien piparis
Which seems to prove that these piparis were schawmiris; in this case there seems little doubt. There are also payments to multiple piparis in various towns: 1505 to the common piparis of Edinburgh xviii 1506 to Linclowden, to the piparis to part amang them 1505 to the piparis of Abirdene.23
This plural usage for Town musicians is strongly suggestive of shawm players; as far as I am aware the appointment of a town [bag]piper is always singular. Again, in 1506 we learn of payments to the twa piparis of Edinburgh, the French quhissillar, the Inglis piper with the drone, ilk man ix s.
This item has been much discussed. Two explanations seem to present themselves. Either a bagpipe with a drone was an unusual if not unique presence at the time, or the twa piparis of Edinburgh were not playing bagpipes. The droneless bagpipe (Choro) had been a real possibility in the 12th and 13th centuries; one is depicted in The Murthly Hours which has been in Scotland since the 14th century. But evidence from France suggests that ‘the drone’ was present by the end of the 13th century, in France at least, and by the end of the 15th century there were at least four depictions in Scottish buildings (Haddington, Rosslyn and Melrose). We might assume that the French quhissillar was playing the fife, and the unusual usage of ‘piper with the drone’ suggests, not just that this was a bagpipe, but that the Edinburgh Piparis were playing something else that did not have a drone, most likely shawms . This makes sense until we note that this item is the last in a list of payments made on Pache Tuesday April 8th; the list includes harpers, taubronars, trumpetis, lutars and ‘the four scawmeris’. However, these four shawm players were almost certainly the four ‘Italien menstrales’ that appear many times in the accounts over a considerable period, and as we have seen, in 1505 they were referred to as ‘piparis’.
Whilst there remains some doubt about exactly what a ‘pypar’ was in 16th century Scotland, it is clear that it certainly was not always a bagpiper.
Which brings us to the question of military usage. Scottish soldiers were well established in the French court in the period 1425-1483 during the reigns of Charles VII and Louis XI. it seems unlikely that during that time the Scots did not encounter the ‘Swiss Pair’. Unfortunately, as we have seen, Forbes-Leith, in his discussion of the history of that presence, makes no mention of martial music. Even in the best-documented history of the continental wars of the early 17th century, while we hear of ‘drums beating and banners flying’, there is no mention of any kind of pipering.24 However, we know that the ‘schues’ was already in use by 1524 in Edinburgh, according to the records of the Guild of Hammermen: ‘To the boy that played upon the schues’and we might perhaps assume that this was a recent introduction, based on the payment that Anna Mill cited dated 1529:‘To the man that playit on the new swas’However, thirty years later we hear of the drum and whistle played together at a muster of armed men in Edinburgh (‘wappen schawing’): ‘1560 For playing vpone the swesche and quhissill befoir the nychbouris of this burgh twa dayis quhen thai wer in armorie;’25
When it comes to actual military records, however, the picture is less clear. There is a record of the ‘Scots Brigade, ‘given at the Hague, the 26th June 1588’: ‘a compagnie colonelle of two hundred Scottish infantry, which shall include, besides his person and boy, a liutenant and ensign each with his poy [sic], two sergeants, two drummers, one piper, three corporals...” However, according to the same source, the regiment to be commanded by William Wallace at the same time had no piper listed.26
Another early record of a Scottish Regiment’s composition is the muster roll of the Laird of MacNaughton, drawn up in December 1627.27 It includes two men described as ‘pypers’; Keith Sanger points out that they both had lowland names. Sanger also pointed to the record dated 1643 in The Records of the Parliament of Scotland which lists the pay for various ranks: ‘That .. thair is allowit to each company ane drumer and ane pyper,’28,29
These records might be taken as conclusive evidence that where ‘pipers’ were employed in the Scots regiments of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, they were indeed playing bagpipes. However, what are we to make of the following two remarks made in a letter from James Ogilvy to the Earl of Nithsdale in 1627? Ogilvy is writing to inform Nithsdale that he has collected together a number of potential recruits for Nithsdale’s regiment: ‘Ane of them … pleyes excellentlie vpon the recorder and will be ane fyne pifferer to this compenie;’ 30 Ogilvy goes on to add: ‘I will desyr your lordship to cause by ane fyne piffer of brase to him in Edinburgh; (I will desire your lordship to have bought a piffer of brass for him in Edinburgh).Now whatever a piffer is in this instance it is certainly not a brass bagpipe; and in case we might think it to be a trumpet, the same source has this, from 1678: ‘Like the beatting upon drummes and playing upon piffers and the sound of trumpets’31 and in 1628 Montrose was in St Andrews where he paid 40sh to ‘the drummer and pifferer of the town.’32


I have tried to bring together here what evidence I can find to suggest that the various words used in the records to describe ‘pypers’ in the Scots sources, both civic and military, may refer to players of the ‘German Flute’, that is the old transverse fife as depicted in 15th and 16th century illustrations. It is also possible that this is true of military ‘pypers’, at least up until the decisions of Parliament in 1643 referred to above.
It should go without saying that I am not arguing that every entry has this meaning; references to the ‘Grite Pyp’ frequently appear in both civic and military contexts. What is more, something similar can be deduced from the early continental sources, though out of more than 300 illustrations of ‘fifers’ in the Bern Chronicles I have found only three.

piper 1piper 2
On the left above is a detail from page 417 of the Bern Chronicle written by Benedicht Tschachtlan. This is the only image of a lone piper I have found in these chronicles. The image at the right here is from Schilling’s Chronicle.
And to finish, here is Schilling’s opening illustration.

 piper 3

Adendum: After this article was completed I uncovered this entry in the Edinburgh Accounts for 1665-66 : To William Clark, tabrounor, Jhonn Dow, phiphes, for thair playing befoir the toun be the space of thre dayis … (my italics)


1. Mill, Anna. Mediaeval Plays in Scotland. ; ‘octo’ (sometimes ‘octave’) is the day a week after a festival day, such as Pache or St Cripsin’s
2. A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, ‘qhuissil’ https://dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/quhissill_n
3.Extracts from the records of the Burgh of Edinburgh. II 219)
4.Ib. III 57
5.Ib. III 63
6. Fraser, Sir William. Memoirs of the Maxwells of Pollok.; II 36. Edinburgh, 1863
7. Master of Works Accounts, 1529–1649. II 928. There are also records from the same era that make it clear that ‘quhissil’ could also refer to a small whistle; such things might be even made of gold. With gold chains to hang them around the neck – especially that of the King. By the 19th century it had become a children’s toy: Jamieson (Abd. 1808 ) has ‘Almanie whistle, a flage[o]let of a very small size, used by children’; there also records of the term used to describe a duck lure or bird whistle.
9. Turner, James, Sir. Pallas armata, Military essayes of the ancient Grecian, Roman, and modern art of war written in the years 1670 and 1671 https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo2/A63890.0001.001
10. Keith Polk; 1380-1420: DISPERSAL OF THE ENSEMBLE TRADITION https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/734c/f36ec530c1eddb33dbb537549c0cbd1d198f.pdf p. 162 ‘It is essential to understand that the term 'pfeifer' could be both specific and general, like the modern term 'horn' (for present-day players horn can mean quite specifically the French horn, or, especially for jazz musicians, almost anything that will produce a musical sound)’
11. This is from the version of THE ROMANCE OF THE BATTLE OF HALIDON HILL, A.D. 1333 quoted in The Brut, or The chronicles of England. Edited from Ms. Raw. B171, Bodleian Library, &c., by Friedrich W. D. Brie, with introduction, notes, and glossary .. Brie, Friedrich W. D., b. 1880.
12. The word swegel firs’ppears in the 12th century, applied to an image of a transverse flute.
13. Detail from Fresco by Lippo Vanni in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena. Sienese army in the battle of Sinalunga, 1363’ https://www.wga.hu/support/viewer_m/z.html
14. In fact the use of ‘fifes’ and drums in military contexts is first recorded clearly in 1347: ‘The city of Basel engaged schwegel players and drummers (separate players) for town processions and festive occasions as early as 1374.’ (Hadden p.41, though she produces no source for this statement) The schwegel is an early term for the transverse flute (as early as the 12th century); for Virdung in 1511 it was used only for the three-hole pipe; the transverse flute was termed Zwerchpfeiff (‘cross pipe’). Sebastian Virdung, Musica getutscht, 1511
15. Schilling , Diebold, Amtliche Berner Chronik, vols. I-III. Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Mss.h.h.I.1 · Bern · 1478-1483
16. Hadden, Nancy. From Swiss Flutes to Consorts: History, Music and Playing Techniques of the Transverse Flute in Switzerland, Germany and France ca. 1470-1640
17. Forbes-Leith, William . The Scots men-at-arms and life-guards in France From their formation until their final dissolution A.D. MCCCCXVIII.-MDCCCXXX.
18. See note 16;
19. Polk’s work, Instrumental Music in the Urban Centres of Renaissance Germany is at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org
20. The Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, https://dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/pifer
21 This is quoted from the margin note; the full passage reads ’there wes hard, vpone the night, beating of drums, vther tymes sounding of trympetis, playing on pifferis, and ringing of bellis … Trubles follouit.’ (Memorialls of the Trubles in Scotland and England, Spaulding, 1850; https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101057777631
22. Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland
23. According to the Extracts from the Council Register of the Burgh of Aberdeen, in 1509 these two pyparis were ‘Robert Piper and Johnne Piper, comon menstrallis,’
24. Monro, Robert, Monro, His Espedition with the Worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keys etc,; 1637. See Common Stock, December 2019, Vol. 36 No 1
25. Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, entry for ‘shwesch’ and ‘quhissill’
26. Ferguson, James, Papers illustrating the history of the Scots brigade in the service of the United Netherlands, 1572-1782; 1899, p.84 the original Dutch has ‘twee trommelslagers, een pijper’. On 19th February 1594, William Balfour was commissioned to take charge of Balfour’s regiment, reduced to 150 men but retaining the two drummers and the piper.
27. Highland papers, edited for The Scottish History Society by J. R. N. Macphail. v.1 p. 114; ‘Roll of M’Nachtane’s Soldiers schipped at Lochkerran (Campbelltown) 11th -28th December 1627’; this was a ‘company of 200 Highland bowmen’. It appears that they had been intended to join Buckingham’s expedition to relieve the French town of La Rochelle, but that had failed earlier in 1627 and what became of the regiment is not recorded. The pipers are William Steill pyper, Allester caddell pyper, also with them went Harie mcGra Harpar fra Larg
28. Sanger, Keith. ‘The pyper has gone for a soldier’; Common Stock, Vol. 24 No 1, June, 2009.
29. The records of the parliament of Scotland to 1707 https://www.rps.ac.uk/ ([1649/5/343]): The records also include the statement ‘the pay of a pyper to each companie to be 12 lib. Monethlie’,’ ([1643/6/85])
30. Fraser, Sir William. The Book of Carlaverock: memoirs of the Maxwells, Earls of Nithsdale, Lords Maxwell and Herries. Edinburgh, 1873, p. 91.
31. Calderwood, David The History of the Kirk of Scotland. Original edition 1678.
32. From a manuscript kept by Montrose’s factor between 1628 and 1629 of Montrose’s personal expenditure quoted in Memorials of Montrose and his times Volume 1 p.119 https://digital.nls.uk/publications-by-scottish-clubs/archive/80570419

 Pete Stewart



Robert Porter tells how he came to playing Scottish smallpipes

I went to board at Campbell College in Belfast in 1978 at the age of 13. Campbell had a pipe band, and my father said to me, with a twinkle in his eye: “Son you will learn to play the bagpipes.” I looked at him askance: “Why would I want to play the bagpipes, I want to learn the electric guitar?” My dad wisely replied “You may not understand what I mean just now, but if you become a piper you’ll never have to buy a drink for yourself again in your life.”
Well, it’s true that I didn’t quite then understand what he meant, but nevertheless I decided to give the pipes a go. I grasped hold of a practice chanter and I never looked back. My teacher was the band tutor Andy Wilson, who had been the Pipe Sergeant in the Royal Ulster Rifles. A number of important things happened at Campbell for me in the piping context. First, it soon became clear I had the fingers to become a really good piper, and I eventually rose through the ranks to become Pipe Major. Secondly, I met a youth called Peter McCalister, who was the Pipe Major before me, and who would eventually become a Piobaireachd specialist and win the Gold Medal at Inverness a couple of years ago. Peter soon became one of my best friends.
After Campbell I went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge to read Law. It was here that I committed what in piping terms can only be described as a gross felony. One of the fellows at Pembroke, and my Roman Law Tutor, was a man called James Campbell, the grandson of Archibald Campbell of the Kilberry Book. James was a prominent Piobaireachd judge and knew all the Kilberry tunes off by heart. He was there for me any time I wanted, but I was too interested in carousing and hellraising to focus in on serious Piobaireachd playing, so in my three years there I only had two lessons off him. As they say, “youth is wasted on the young”.
There were three pipers at Pembroke: myself, Rory MacLeod, from Skye, and Andy Hattrick, a MacCrimmon. One day Ted Hughes was to be given an honorary degree, and we were asked to pipe for the Duke of Edinburgh and him while they attended a tea party on the First Court lawn. We were introduced to Ted Hughes, who, smoothly took us through his knowledge of piping: to me, “Ireland was the original home of piping”; to Rory “Skye is the home of piping in Scotland”; to Andy, “the MacCrimmons were the best pipers of all”. I have no idea if he had been briefed, but if he hadn’t it was a perceptive tour de force.
After Pembroke I went to work in London and I became a proficient, if a little undisciplined, solo piper. I played at weddings, I played with bands in pubs, I twice played on New Year’s Eve with the Ulster Orchestra. I was doing well on one level, and everyone loved it, and indeed my dad’s prophesy came true that I would never have to buy a drink for myself; but I wasn’t doing much disciplined practice and I knew I was coasting.
When I was 27 my dad bought me a set of Uilleann Pipes for Christmas. This was an important moment for me. I strapped on the bellows and started to practice, and it was here I developed my love for the Irish repertoire and Irish session music. In particular, there were two things I immediately understood: the Uilleann Piping tradition was mostly an oral tradition rather than a written one; and in Uilleann Piping circles improvisation is applauded rather than condemned. The Uilleann Pipes are inevitably a solo instrument, so there was never any need to write the tunes down to ensure consistency and conformity.
Sadly, I felt it best to give up the Uilleann Pipes after a few years. This article is not the place to rehearse why, but for those who are interested you can find my article on the subject online by searching up Robert Porter Irish Times and finding a piece called Uillean Pipes Weren’t Worth a Knee-Capping.
I continued with my Highland Piping, but incorporating a few tricks from my Uilleann Piping experience such as playing The Dark Island with slides and vibrato (James Campbell would probably turn in his grave). One day when I was in my mid-forties I played at a Burns Night Supper, and I played like a drain. I knew I had reached a crossroads – my coasting had reached the end of the road. I either had to start practising seriously again or give up. Surprisingly, perhaps, I chose to give up, partly because, living in London, I didn’t really know where I could practise. I put my pipes in the loft, and never once played the set of smallpipes Peter McCalister had sourced for me from the late Iain Ketchin because he had thought they might in some ways be reminiscent of the Uilleann Pipes.
And that’s the way it stayed, until Lockdown. At the beginning of Lockdown, I asked myself what I was going to do with all that time, and my mind inevitably turned to the pipes. I’ll be honest and say that I did think about majoring on the Uilleann Pipes, but discretion was the better part of valour: I could dust off my piping fingers on the Scottish pipes in six months, but it would take me seven years to master the Uilleann Pipes, regulators and all.
I talked all this through with Peter McCalister, and fate was sealed when he offered to give me a weekly piping lesson where he would put me on the right track and teach me some Piobaireachd. He also suggested, if I still had a yearning for the Uilleann Pipes, that I strap on my smallpipes as a compromise, especially since I could practice them indoors without disturbing the neighbours.
So that’s exactly what I did and I have never looked back. Things moved slowly at first, but I will never forget that moment of delight when a metaphorical sluice-gate opened and all my past experience suddenly flowed back to me like a Tsunami: except now I had a strict teacher in Peter who wouldn’t let me get away with Blue Murder as I had for years in the pubs.
I explained to Peter, that, while I loved Piobaireachd, I was also influenced by the Irish repertoire and session playing, and I would need both to be happy. Peter wisely replied that this might work very well, because while Piobaireachd would give me discipline, technique and intellectual stimulus, the session playing would also allow for the improvisation and free-style playing which I obviously craved.
So I joined the LBPS and the Piobaireachd Society, and promised myself I would enter into the Intermediate Class in the 2021 LBMS Competition – I am already working on a three minute set.
I hope to have a long, productive and happy membership of the LBPS, but if there is one thing I am sad about it is that there seems to be no competition for Piobaireachd on the smallpipes. Maybe it’s something the Society might think about, for to my mind there is no sweeter sound than Piobaireachd played on a well-tuned set of smallpipes.
I used to joke that the definition of a gentleman was someone who knows how to play the pipes and doesn’t. I tried that one for ten years, and it didn’t work. To the contrary, I have wisely learned that if you know how to play the pipes the only gentlemanly thing to do is to strap on your bellows and play them to the best of your ability. And that is exactly what I intend to do.

Robert Porter

Matt Seattle recently sent to selected contacts, among them your editor, a product of his socially distanced Autumn.

Your editor has asked me to provide an account of the writing process behind the following tunes. For I don’t know how long, I’d had it in mind to compose a Gala Water Suite comprising tunes named for the places mentioned in two of the pre-Burns lyrics to Braw Lads o Gala Water (see Geordie Syme's Paircel o Tunes, tune No. 20). Living where I do (Hawick) I’m familiar with the A7 (which follows the Gala Water) and have passed close to most of them, but I’d not actually got round to stopping to look more closely at most till 9 September 2020 while on the way home from Pete Stewart’s house where we’d been rehearsing his composition The Declaration of Arbroath.

There’s an attractive wrought iron sign pointing to Nettlingflat, the beginning of the song’s journey down the Gala Water. Some of the farm buildings are just visible from the Borders Railway, but not from the road so, because I had a little time to spare, I drove up the winding track to ‘take a scour’ and began the tune, a downward spiralling reel, when I got home.

I made two further journeys, accompanied by my wife Irene who took photos along the way, to visit almost all the places mentioned in the songs, and completed the Suite, fourteen new tunes enfolded between two traditional airs, on 22 October. I’d not experienced such a concentrated burst of composition before, and can put it down to four factors: the idea had already been bubbling away in the background; the nourishment of new impressions taken in during our explorations; and the frustration of not being able to play music with others during the pandemic. The fourth is beyond description.
As for the composing process itself, I have found over a long period that there are two essentials: living in the medium - you have to be very familiar with the grammar and vocabulary of a musical language and its existing literature to compose within it, as you neither want to write nonsense nor repeat anything already written; and you need a good beginning.
This was reinforced in me by an exercise in a composing workshop I attended where everyone had to write two bars of a tune and pass them along to the next person to continue. I found it easy to continue something that had been started, but finding a good start was not so easy (I cannot, by the way, recommend this as a way of composing convincing tunes if more than two people are involved, but it’s a good way to sharpen your musical tools). How to generate a good beginning is very personal to each composer: for me there is (almost always) an inspiration outside of music which prompts me to compose, and a procedure for turning the subject into music, while for a friend a beginning often arrives ‘out of the blue’ and he may even decide afterward who or what the piece refers to. And then ... sometimes you are lucky and music ‘hits you over the head’ (some composers dream music); but I suspect that the luck will have been earned.
Every art form has techniques; learn them. Every musician has strengths, weaknesses and foibles. Speaking of guitar players, a master of the instrument once told me, “Every player has their favourite licks: the best players have the best licks”. The same applies to writing pipe tunes, and there’s maybe a fine line to tread between having a recognisable style and repeating yourself.

[Ed: of the 14 new tunes in this suite, I have chosen the first two and the last two plus one other. Many of Matt’s tunes are definitely Border pipe tunes, requiring an extended range (of which more next issue); Numbers 2 and 15 here are examples; the other 3 here can be readily played on smallpipes]

2. Nettlingflat

©Matt Seattle 9-11 Sep 2020


Nettlingflat and Heriot House both claim to be the starting point of our journey down the Gala Water we have included them both here. Nettlingflat is the northernmost of the two, with Heriot House a little way to the south and on the other side of the A7.

As the tune spirals into our southward journey, shorten the minims ad libitum to dotted crotchets, and tie the ‘missing’ quaver to the quaver in the next line along with its chord for some syncopation.

3. Heriot House

©Matt Seattle 16-17 Oct 202

                                    72 bpm

heriot house
The air for Heriot House is a more relaxed affair, and has a more casual relationship with its chordal accompaniment than is our wont; try underpinning the chords in the first six bars of strain 1 with a pedal D, and do likewise to those in strain 2 with a pedal A.

12. Appletreeleaves is Meikle Better

©Matt Seattle 11-14 Sep 2020

                               Slow and languid


14. Lothian Lads

©Matt Seattle 9-10 Oct 2020

                                Slow Boogie

lothian lads

15. Teviotdale Lads

 ©Matt Seattle 12-14 Oct 2020

                                                                                               Fast Brangle

teviotdale lads

News of Jock’s death on October 26th came as a shock to many members across the world; here we’ve included some of the memories we received. First, from Julian Goodacre

I was saddened to hear that Jock Agnew had died. He was a tireless worker for the Society, who put an enormous amount of his time and energy into encouraging other people to play bellows pipes, as well as leaving us with an amazing legacy of excellent written material.
Jock took part in Hamish Moore’s annual bellows piping course that ran for several years in the early 1980’s at Easter time as part of the Edinburgh Folk Festival. That was when I first met him and his concertina-playing partner Sam, and we became friends. Jock had retired from the Merchant Navy but had never lost his love of the sea and of sailing. He had learnt to play the Highland pipes many years previously but had recently become keen to play bellows pipes. This was early days for the bellows revival and Hamish was the first person who had ever taught bellows piping. There was a special pioneering feeling to that core group of pipers who gathered each year from different parts of the UK. Jock was very much part of this group and was so fired-up with enthusiasm by Hamish’s courses that he returned south and started a monthly bellows piping session in central London. This became an important event for many bellows pipers in the south because as well as the music sessions, Jock spent time helping novice pipers with their playing and pipe maintenance. He was big on pipe maintenance.

jock and harp

The Society always scheduled its annual competition to coincide with the Edinburgh Folk Festival and right from the start Jock would enter as many classes as possible. He and Sam regularly entered in the Duet Class, playing small pipes and concertina. One year Sam was not able to attend, and Jock, never at a loss, entered the Duet Class on his own playing small pipes with a mouth organ on a rack around his neck. Jock, being Jock, then proceeded to write an article for Common Stock on how he developed this technique! At another competition I recall him playing two sets of smallpipes simultaneously in the Duet Class. I can’t exactly recall how he achieved this, but it worked, sort of, and it was a good laugh! Jock was always up for a bit of daft amusement. And he never apologised for it.

jock at the doubleenhanced

Solo duet on two sets of smallpipes June, 2006 (only one set of bellows)

Jock became Editor of Common Stock in June 1992, taking over from Jim Gilchrist. After this it became clear that, though retired, Jock had boundless energy. Over the next 13 years he conscientiously produced 25 issues. I was an active member of the committee for most of the time he was Editor, and it was an enormous asset for us to know that each issue would be completed and posted out on time. We just let him get on with it and that left us to concentrate on other matters. He had a mental plan of the topics he wanted included in the next few issues and occasionally produced an issue devoted to a specific piping theme. He certainly had the knack of politely pressurising people into writing articles on time. I used to joke with him that I could sense an iron fist beneath his velvet glove! Certainly, his excellent results spoke for themselves.
He was the major force behind writing and collating material for More Power To Your Elbow- the Society’s definitive tutor for the bellows pipes. This was a massive undertaking which involved, not only writing and collating all the text, but also creating illustrations and overseeing the recording and production of a CD-ROM. This took him a couple of years, and is regarded as the definitive tutor.
Once Jock had made up his mind it could be very hard to make him change it. I recall that in 2003 after he had spent two years working on More Power to Your Elbow, the committee received the long awaited draft copy for our approval and we were all surprised that Jock had not included his name anywhere in the book. We tried to persuade him to put his name on the front cover but he, determined as ever, flatly refused. He did eventually and reluctantly agree to have his name, in small print, included on the inside title page.
Creating that book was a labour of love and, as if this wasn’t enough, he then worked closely with Martin Lowe to write and produce most of The Wind in The Bellows, the Society’s manual for teaching bellows pipes, which was published in 2009. On that occasion he did include his name - in the Acknowledgements on page 3.
He was a very determined man – once he began any project, he was certain to see it through to its completion. Both these books are major works; each is over a hundred pages long. Only Sam will be aware of the weeks, months and years of his life they took to complete. What a legacy he left for the Society and the Piping World!
He had clever ways of politely coaxing written contributions from people. I remember one time when he was preparing a tune book for the Society he asked me, as Chairman, to write the Introduction, a task which I kept on putting off. He must have become tired of phoning me to remind me of my promise so he went ahead and wrote the Introduction himself, emailed it to me and told me that in a week he was going to publish it with my name at the bottom unless I chose to write my own version. A remarkably successful technique - I completed it immediately! He was a canny man!
Where did he get all his energy from? He was long retired yet, as well as doing all this work for the Society and organising the London meetings, he managed to spend extended spells sailing in and around the UK. And somewhere along the line he produced a least two cassettes; Lowland Amusement (reviewed in Common Stock June 1993) on border pipes and later A Piping Hot Christmas, played by his folk group Celtic Fringe, which consisted of Jock, Sam on concertina and Alan Lake on guitar. I spoke to Sam recently and she told me that though his health had been deteriorating in his final two years, he never lost his mischievous sense of humour right to the end. When Jock and Sam first met they had had both lost their spouses in the same year, and began to find solace in each other’s company which developed into their long and loving relationship. They spent 37 happy years together. Jock died at home; Sam and his two sons and daughter were with him.
I asked Sam about Jock’s reluctance to have his name included on the cover of the two manuals that he created. She said she had also tried to encourage him with this and that his reply had always been, “It’s not about me, it’s about the pipes”.
Well Jock, I have written this and it is about you and not about the pipes. You will be missed
Julian Goodacre November 8th, 2020


Iain Macdonald
I didn't know Jock very well, we probably only met up at the Collogue, but in conversation we found we had a common interest in sailing. He let slip that he had a yacht on the south coast where he lived. I was very interested as all of my experience is on the west coast of Scotland, a very different kettle of fish from the English Channel.
Some time later out of the blue I got a telephone call, "Would you like to come for a week's sailing?" Would I!
We met up in a pub in Maldon, Jock was a bit down as he had invited a couple on the trip but the wife was very ill in hospital so it would just be the two of us.
It was then Jock announced he was a certified yacht master instructor and tester. Although I have sailed since my teens, I learned through experience, not certificates. So I was crew and Jock the tester. We had good weather and a very interesting and informative trip over to Calais and back. Jock was a strict but fair adjudicator.
There was one little incident that will stick in my mind. We were motor sailing, that is, the sails were up and the engines running. According to the rules such a vessel should hoist a cone from the fore stay. Now as I have said I have done all my sailing in Scottish waters and I have never seen anybody complying with this edict. The boat tiller was lashed. Jock was down below making sandwiches, and I trotted forward and hoisted the cone. We were sitting in the cockpit having our lunch, when suddenly, Jock,, with a horrified look on his face, yelled "What have you done?" I didn't know.
"You've rigged the cone upside down; if anyone I know sees it my life won't be worth living - for pete's sake put it right!"
Secretly I was rather amused; protocol has never been a strong point.
I don't know whether or not I would have passed, but it was a good trip and I shall remember Jock with affection.

WP 000665


John Dally (USA)
After I performed miserably at the one and only LBPS comp I ever attended, I felt horrible and embarrassed. Jock took me to the pub and we had a wee ceilidh. I don't remember the name of the pub, but it looked like it was carved out of the rock. I vaguely remember it was near the Quaker Meeting house, but why I should remember that is a mystery. Jock was very supportive of me despite my horrible mash up. We became friends and he would ask me to write something for CS every few months. He would say, we really need someone to write something about and then name the topic. I was honored he thought I was up to the task. He asked me to write reviews no one else would write and being on the other side of the world, I was happy to oblige. When he came to visit it was a real pleasure and very memorable, I knew he loved to sail, so I asked a Scottish expat who owns a 30 foot sloop to take us out into Quartermaster harbor between Vashon and Maury islands. Jock's face beamed when he was given the helm, handling the boat beautifully for several hours until we sailed back to the dock. The workshop was one of the best I've ever attended on Lowland piping. He was gracious, generous and committed to the music.
In that workshop we did a comparison of BP chanters because in the class we had pipes made by Colin Ross, Jon Swayne, Nigel Richard, Richard Evans, Ray Sloan and Hamish Moore. It was interesting to compare the relative tonal qualities as well as volume and which was the most friendly (easy to play. maintain and tune). Jock spent quite a bit of time going over the original resources that were available at the time. We discussed Gordon Mooney's seminal work at length, and various LBPS publications. In those days we knew very little about variation sets. Jock didn't spend much time on them, instead focusing on Lowland reels and jigs, and a few song airs. It would be interesting to examine those same tunes today in the context of more recent research. Jock spent a good amount of time on gracing, rhythm and ornamentation, rhythm being the most important component. Most of this discussion was put in the form of questions rather than statements of fact. Jock was quick to pull us back when we went too far into the musicological or theoretical rough.
Francis Wood (London)
It was a joy to know Jock and I am saddened to hear he has gone. I don’t think I can ever remember him not looking like the kind sailor he loved to be!
Jock was an occasional and always very welcome visitor to Northumbrian piping sessions in London. A few of us would reciprocate and go to the Lowland & Borders sessions which he hosted at Chelsea Barracks - always a pleasure!

Adam Sanderson
The first time I met Jock was by accident. I was working in London, and I wanted to get to know the Scottish Piping Society of London. I was told by the SPSL secretary that the SPSL met once a month on a Thursday at the London Scottish Regimental HQ on Horseferry Road. I made my way down there and entered the Drill Hall, my old Hendersons in their case by my side. There was a group of people sitting around a table strapping on bellows. This was a new sight to my eyes at that time, and more than a wee bit confusing. Jock introduced himself to me, and the error became clear; the SPSL secretary had given me the wrong Thursday. I prepared to leave, but Jock was very friendly and invited me to stay for a bit and listen, so I did. Jock was obviously a character. This was not only my first meeting with Jock, but also my first meeting with the Scottish smallpipes. He also gave me a copy of a Common Stock magazine, which I'd never heard of. I can't say that it was a Road to Damascus moment for me, I didn't have any great sudden impulse to take up the SSP and learn the music of the Lowlands and Borders, but I did join the LBPS later on so that I could subscribe to Common Stock, because I thought it was a great wee magazine. The more I read Common Stock, the more interested I became in Lowland and Border music, and this lead, after some years, to buying a set of smallpipes. I had some correspondence with Jock during this time as I was also obtaining back issues of Common Stock from him. This was done via letter; I seem to recall he was living in Essex. Jock was always friendly, patient and eager to help me, as he was on that Thursday night on Horseferry Road. That first meeting certainly planted some seeds of the Lowland variety and I was gently nudged along a path that was very different from my then current piping experience, but which has proven to be hugely rewarding. I remain very grateful to Jock for initiating me and placing my feet on that path.

Gordon Mooney (Canada) tells this extraordinary story about Jock:
“Jock claimed to me that he had played bagpipes at the deepest depth in the ocean while in the British Navy nuclear submarine. He brought his bagpipes on board to practice. Imagine the awful sound and reverberation in such a confined space – he must have been really popular, especially as he was a self-taught beginner at the time. He tells of much amusement using the submarine’s ship to surface transmissions, and of the terrible distortion heard by the surface ship of his piping recitals.”
[Ed; I have been unable to confirm this story, though Sam said “It was the obvious place to play them”:.

David Hannay
Jock Agnew made a huge contribution to the revival of the Scottish bellows blown bagpipes. Brought up in Galloway before going to sea with the merchant navy, he had learnt to play the highland pipes but became an enthusiast for the bellows pipes with a special interest in the border pipes and its music. He lived with his partner Sam in Essex where they played together in local sessions, and where he started a group for bellows pipes.
Jock was a talented teacher and for several years was a popular tutor on the LPBS summer schools in South West Scotland, where he once used a water gauge to encourage maintaining a steady pressure in the bag. He also taught abroad in North America. As a teacher he was always helpful and encouraging.
As well as teaching piping, Jock was an instructor for the RYA with his catamaran Tikkitak. Jock was versatile and played the fiddle, sometimes for Morris Dancing, and also wrote a book of children’s poems. In addition he was involved with a number of charities.
Jock leaves a big gap for his family and friends. He will also be remembered by many people for his enthusiasm and humour, and especially by those who play the bellows pipes of Scotland.

sgian dhu

Pete Stewart
Gordon’s story reveals Jock as something of an ‘adventurer’ in his approach to piping; and perhaps the image of him playing two bellows-blown smallpipes at the same time, as he did in the LBPS Annual competition in 2006, confirms that he was not one to be bound by strict competition rules in his piping.
He was, however, a regular competitor at the Annual LBPS competitions both on solo border pipes and in a variety of duets, including those two solo ones. In 1998 he succeeded in winning the Open Border Pipes class, happily coinciding with one year your current editor won the New Composition class

two editors

Two winning editors of Common Stock at the LBPS competition, 1998

He was also a keen composer and arranger of new and old music, and produced a book of tunes for his ceilidh group “The Celtic Fringe”.and two collections of duet pipe music, Two’s Company’ and the LBPS Suggested Duets and Harmonies. The latter book contains a composition of his which I remember him playing in a competition one year; I believe it was written in memory of his first wife.

lie [eacefull there

Those who knew Jock, or those who saw him defying convention and sitting on the edge of the Piping Centre stage to play his entry in the competition will remember him as a serious and light-hearted, opinionated and dedicated member of the bellows piping community, one who will be greatly missed, but whose contribution will continue to be a memorial to a remarkable man.

jock and samJock Agnew and ‘Sam’ Allan winning second prize in the duet for pipes and other instrument in 1997

jock on the mountain


In September this year we received the following letter from former LBPS committee member Lindsay Davidson. He included what must be a first for Common Stock, an arrangement for smallpipes of music by Bach.

“I was a member of LBPS far back in the 1990s and indeed a committee member back then. I left Scotland about 20 years ago and have only now renewed my membership.
I have been active during all those years, touring the world playing concerts with my wife on harp and with orchestras from, and in, places such as Japan and Ukraine to name a couple. I have been composing the music I need for harp, orchestral and other types of line-ups (with pipes), and included borderpipes in my PhD thesis. I have also composed a double concerto for bellows blown pipes and harp and orchestra, as well as two borderpipe concertos for solo borderpipes and orchestra, and have put a section on smallpipes (and lots of tough exercises on my teachyourselfbagpipes.co.uk website.
Not so long ago I came across Donald Lindsay's extended range chanter and have got one on order. I am aware that Julian has a design as well and am very excited to see this  development.
Whilst waiting for my new chanter to arrive, I have been looking for repertoire and for ideas as to how to provoke myself and other pipers into developing the technical comfort to be able to make proper use of the possibilities this initiative brings. I figured that making some transcriptions would be a good way to build a repertoire of things for us to play with the extended range and help open up new audiences, without taking away from the character and significance of the traditional repertoire. I attach one such arrangement, of Bach's "Air on the G string" with the hopes you may consider including it in Common Stock.”

A little research by your editor uncovered two articles by Lindsay from 1992 and 1993 including his compositions of ‘Sonatas for Smallpipes’, which he had introduced at the 1991 Collogue. These are available in the Common Stock Archive online; December 1992 and June 1993.

bach 1

bach 2

 jock and luzanne

Rosanna and Jock Agnew at the LBPS competition, 1999 (probably not playing Bach)

This year’s Collogue was the 30th; here’s Julian Goodacre’s report on the first, held in Jedburgh in 1991 (reprinted from Common Stock, June 1992, Jock Agnew’s first issue).

archive collogue

peeble coll 199201

A selection of the pipes shown at the exhibition prepared by Gordon Mooney and Julian Goodacre for the Collogue held in Peebles in 1992. A similar exhibition had been shown at the 1991 Jedburgh collogue but the archive contains only contact print sheets of that event. In the image above, a gloriously bejewelled set of pastoral pipes are top left and a set of border drones and chanter bottom left, both sets belonging to Hamish Moore. Below are more detailed views of the three sets of pastoral pipes, one in boxwood by Wm Mark, pipe-maker in Aberdeen in the late 18th century. These three sets were all borrowed from the Hawick Museum.

 peeble coll 199202

Did We Make It?

Some excerpts from the talk givenJohn opened his talk by saying that to produce music from the time of the Declaration of Arbroath was ‘quite a challenge ... we don’t have recordings, of course, and we don’t have many manuscripts either, but we’ve got quite enough for us to take this journey’. Arbroath Abbey was dedicated to Thomas a Beckett. We don’t have any music about his murder, but we do have a lament for his exile, preserved in a Scottish manuscript, the St Andrew’s Manuscript, dating from around 1230. by John Purser

 in rama ms small

Few of us watching are likely to have been able to make much music from this, but John was considerate enough to show us his transcription, pointing out the difficulties involved in deducing the scribe’s intentions regarding the rhythm of his music.

in rama

The text reads ”In Rama the English Rachel weeps, for a descendant christian Herod has covered her in ignominy. Behold, her first-born, the Joseph of Canterbury is exiled to the Egypt of France” (Thomas a Beckett was exiled in Sens between 1162 and 1165). John then played us a performance of this music, and proposed that we ‘get to it’ and produce a performance accompanied by smallpipes. Not so unlikely as you might think - John later included a performance of the ‘Os Mutorum’ which appears in the late 13th century Inchcolm Antiphoner* with accompaniment by Barnaby Brown playing the triple-pipes .
A personal favourite of your editor, from the items John introduced, was this signature music by Bishop Bentham: ‘May Walter, the writer of this book be blessed’ from the St Andrews Manuscript; with his (self?) Portrait:

bishop b

It seems extraordinary to me that not only do we have these manuscripts from eight hundred years ago, but that we have people like John who have learnt to understand them and to re-create them, however disputable the results may be. I found his talk an eye-opening journey through a very different musical world.

*Incholm is a small island in the Firth of Forth not far from the three Forth bridges


This year’s collogue was the 30th (see p. 9 for a report of the first) and it must surely have been not only the strangest, but also the best attended; certainly we can never have had attendees spread quite so far cross the world, from Holland to Seattle, Italy and possibly Mexico, though I may have misunderstood that. Judy Barker did a splendid job of welcoming both well-kent faces and new, some of whom had only joined the Society the day before.
LBPS president Gary West then gave a brief introduction, beginning with a memory of Jock Agnew and invited attendees to share memories in the ‘chat box’ during the afternoon. He then welcomed Ian Kinnear with recollections of their time at Uni together. Ian then gave his presentation with as his title the question ‘What makes a good set of pipes? His insights into just how subjective the answers might be were revealing and we hope to have a full transcript of Ian’s talk in the next issue of this journal. The presentation was followed by an extended discussion, particularly on the matter of the effect of bag shape and size, regarding which Julian Goodacre added ‘once you start messing about with bag size you’re going to go ....[long pause] broke’.
LBPS co-convenor Stuart Letford then handed control over to John Purser. Gary West had already remarked “We are delighted to have with us our foremost historian and ethnomusicologist, John Purser. John’s seminal series on BBC radio 3 of the music of Scotland and his book that goes with that was a watershed in our understanding of our musical past”. One of the themes of the day, Gary said, was the Declaration of Arbroath and John had been invited to talk about the music of the period in Scotland. Some excerpts from his presentation are included here, though we sadly can’t print the recordings that he used to illustrate his slides. Hopefully these will be available on the LBPS website.
The AGM was then held and, to the delight of the committee, Bridget Taylor agreed to stand for the office of treasurer and was enthusiastically accepted without a vote; also adopted onto the committee was Adam Sanderson and the rest of the committee were re-elected unopposed. A warm vote of thanks was made to David Hannay for his long term of service as treasurer. David, by the way, was one of at least three people at this collogue who were also present at the first LBPS Collogue in 1991.
The afternoon’s activities were rounded off with a fine set of tunes from Ailis Sutherland; It can’t be an easy gig for a solo piper to perform a set like this with no visible audience, aware that the invisible audience are all keen pipers themselves, but Ailis seemed unaware of any such problems and gave us a lively and accomplished conclusion to this unique event.
The only disappointment of the day was that the intention to show for the first time the video that was made in September, described elsewhere in this issue, of members playing at Arbroath Abbey, was thwarted. That aside, the event was held to have been a great success. Our thanks are due to the committee which set up the event and who made it a welcoming, social and informative occasion. Perhaps such meetings will become a frequent part of the Society’s activities..

In mid-September this year the LBPS Facebook Forum generated one of the most extended discussions ever; in more than ninety comments it veered through at least three major questions about the Dixon Manuscript; the topic we’re going to follow here began with the perennial question, what instrument was the manuscript intended for? That was only a beginning...

 Chris Ormston: I’ve long been of the opinion that the Dixon MS is a collection for an open-ended small pipe played using covered fingering. I don’t have an answer to the issue of the flattened seventh, but as a player of both BP and NSP I know on which it’s easier to articulate Dixon’s repertoire cleanly. There’s too much risk of crossover noises in this style of music for it to be BP music approached with modern BP fingering.
 Bill Wakefield: I agree, Chris, completely: What I think modern GHB and BP pipers have to do is change the way they think about certain notes which Dixon writes as what we call “melody notes” in contrast to “grace notes.” Strain 3 of Dixon’s Stool of Repentance has a perfect example of what I mean — and which is typical of what I think you’re talking about: the first quaver E of bar 2 effectively separates two consecutive low A’s, the final quaver of bar 1 and the second quaver in bar 2. The same thing happens in the same positions in bars 3 & 4 with the notes F and B. This is what I believe you mean by “risk of crossing noise” and it defeated me for a long time until I heard Jean’s recording of Black and Grey: Because if one simply articulates the E separating the two low As as one would articulate a E gracenote (as a modern piper would describe it) the problem is solved. And if the fingering system was in fact semi-closed, then in effect that’s what would have been done anyway — and one stays note-perfect faithful to Dixon’s prickings! . It’s still faithful to Dixon, it only changes the way one goes about it, approaches it — the way one thinks about the notes he’s written — at a time when, after all, there weren’t conventions for writing pipers’ gracenotes.
 Matt Seattle: Bill Wakefield, With respect, you have it upside down. In Stool of Repentance, Bars 1-2, Str 3, it's the Es which stand out and they are ON the beat. They need longer duration than the literal notation while the lower notes need shorter duration. None of these notes are 'grace notes' in GHB vocabulary (i.e. articulations in anyone else's vocabulary).
They are all melody notes - but some are more melodic than others. This is the big secret of Dixon.
 Bill Wakefield: Matt Seattle, I wouldn’t argue with you, Matt: I just can’t do it! Not at tempo... And so I have to find another way if I’m to do it at all... But I think I know what you mean when you say “some are more melodic than others.”. If I can keep a tempo doing this (and thinking of it in terms familiar to me) it seems preferable to losing it in a sort of amorphous string of notes which seems to be the result for me otherwise....

Another place I ran into this recently is strain 5 Hit Her Between the Legs: Again, I don’t see the problem with the beat falling on the low As in those runs of quavers — the top hand E between them serving to separate: But like say I can’t comment on what’s right or historical, only what I can and can’t do — and what therefore makes sense to me.

...so if I play this way I keep to Dixon’s notes, but it makes rhythmic sense to me in giving a strong downbeat. If it’s not for dancing, then I can more easily expand the Es and make them work as downbeats — just not, like say, at tempo....which is why I think the suggestion I made long hand, strain 5, “Hit Her...”— if only as an adaptation, as Matt and Pete would seem to insist — and fair enough. ...GHB trained players seem to have a choice between 1) false fingering in order to stay true to Dixon’s dots or 2) adapt the rhythm/execution of Dixon to stay true to their GHB fingering.
 Pete Stewart: to do as Bill Wakefield has suggested abandons what is to my mind the core rhythm of these passages, that is, the pattern created by those E's, the x-3 1-3 1|-3 1-3 1| etc.; this is perfectly playable, (and almost inevitable) when using covered fingering on a smallpipe chanter - the low A’s get lost in the drone.
 Bill Wakefield: Pete Stewart : I don’t argue with anything you say, Pete — I can only say that to my modern-fingering fingers these situations don’t sit right — that’s why I agree there must have been a different fingering system! Many people know only modern fingering for these chanters — indeed have only such chanters as accommodate modern fingering. We have to think of another/other ways to make such strains work if we want to play them at all.
[ED; this discussion was ongoing last time I looked....]


Dear Sir,
Some folks have bees in their bonnet, but I appear to have PTFE tape in mine.
In 2018 I wrote an article in Common Stock about the evils of using PTFE tape on the hemp bindings of chanters and drones. I firmly believed that I had been clear and lucid, and thus had hoped that this would have cured the Piping World of this wretched practice. However, it has come to my notice that there are still pipers who are persisting with this hazardous practice. Traditionally the hemp bindings on the tenons take advantage of the fact that the rough nature of hemp will cause a tight friction-fit in the stock.
PTFE, or plumbers tape, however is made of Teflon; a man-made material specifically designed to reduce friction to the minimum. So, by applying it, the Misguided Piper increases the possibility of a tenon slipping out of the stock with the possibility of ruining the reed. If you need to tighten these tenons you should add hemp or possibly sewing thread.
It is perfectly acceptable to use PTFE on drone slides where you take advantage of the reduced friction afforded by the tape when tuning the drones.
So, you have all been warned! And I vow that I will not issue another statement about this until 2022 at the earliest.
Yours aye,

Julian Goodacre Bagpipe Maker
(disgusted of Peebles)