1 Obama swallows pill, becomes shape-shifter (6)
4 May be found when opening your inbox, or an extra can (4, 4)
9 Cowboy’s clauses (6)
10 Legless GI begs apple, providing topic of discussion hereabouts (8)
12 & 7dn Musician discovered in inner Los Angeles pile-up (8, 5)
13 PM’s exposure of this led to composition of famous 26dn (6)
15 10ac heard in Camptown (4)
16 Soothing sounds produced by renowned hedgehog ointment (5, 5)
19 Eek! Go spare about posh musical obsessives (5, 5)
20 Pipemaker Nathaniel briefly confused in Sicily (4)
23 Great Eastern rams provide new outfits (6)
25 Figuratively revealed by Dunlevie (8)
27 Meaner, could also be more piquant (8)
28 Broken EBow in empty cab could be death-trap (6)
29 Enlist accomplice, obviously (8)
30 Shot by bletherer (6)

1 Stranded a bass? (7)
2 Uneven polish may be strange guarantee (3, 6)
3 Red rob returns 10ac species (6)
5 Wee bay reputedly vacated by piper in a huff (4)
6 Confused petrol salespersons provide stimulant (8)
7 see 12ac
8, 22 Meted out curse, disturbed aristocratic 10ac (7, 2, 4)
11 For appreciative responses look to strengthen core skills (7)
14 see 17dn
17, 14, 24 Favoured tune of mad King Hwei? Wilting Nettle! (6, 3, 7, 5)
18 Zap mango; reassemble as 10ac species (8)
19 Peak experiences possibly engendered by Geordie Syme’s Paircel o Tunes, initially (8)
21 Chopped budleia within earshot (7)
22 see 8dn
24 see 17dn
26 Dance sounds authentic (4)


Nov 30th to Dec 2nd, 2018


The teaching weekend, ably organised by Anne Duncan, was held at Hospitalfield House, Arbroath. Hospitalfield is a large, rambling, historic building, now used as an arts centre. Cool. A good place to chill out. Scott Byrne, the General Manager, took us on a guided tour of the communal rooms (or ‘spaces’, as he called them). We used two rooms for teaching and meeting up: the Warm Room (with surreal figures painted on the walls) for socialising and for Neil Clark’s classes; and the Green Dining Space (with green and gold wallpaper and a very long table covered by a green cloth) for Ian Kinnear’s classes. There were 12 of us attending as tutees, going to a mixture of classes.

the group

The weekend began on Friday with an excellent St Andrew’s Night supper of haggis, whisky and cranachan. This was followed by a playing session, and an opportunity to check our pipes with Ian and Neil. On Saturday there was a teaching session in the morning, with Ian offering ‘Robert Miller Tunes’ and Neil a session on ‘The Unknown Warrior’. Ian produced copies of some hand-written tunes by Robert Miller (a local man) from 1822, which were rather like pibroch in their ornamentation, with some unusual gracenotes; someone asked what was the tune and what the gracenote! Neil taught the slow air ‘The Unknown Warrior’ by G.S. McLennan, mainly teaching by ear. The tune was commissioned by the Government in 1921-23, to commemorate an unknown body exhumed from the Great War – the tune was to be played at the body’s reburial. The tune looks rather like a pibroch, and was perhaps meant for a lone piper. We paid special attention to cadences (EDC with a very short D). In the afternoon sessions Neil offered ‘The Unknown Warrior’ again, and Ian ‘Making the Music Your Own’. We then had another tasty evening meal, with a talk by Ian on ‘The Davidson Pipes’ – an early set of bellows blown smallpipes. This was followed by a congenial session in the Warm Room, where a large amount of wine and whisky was consumed, and some people attempted to sing.
On Sunday morning there was another teaching session, with Neil offering ‘Manx Tunes’ and Ian ‘Tuning Tone’. For the Manx tunes we played ‘Irree ny Greiney’ (The Rising of the Sun). After another lunch with delicious soup and home-made bread, there was a final concert and session in the Mortuary Chapel.
It was a very enjoyable weekend, and I hope we return to Hospitalfield – but preferably in the summer.
Helen Ross

Editor’s note: Helen’s report sent me looking for background information on Neil and Ian’s talks. The tune that Neil Clark introduced, ‘The Unknown Warrior’ comes from the 1923 publication The Piobaireachd by Ian M'Lennan. It can be found at
However, in researching this tune, I encountered a rather different setting, from the National Library of Scotland NLS Mus.D.s.19 set into abc notation by Jack Campin.. I hope to have more information on this tune in our next issue.

The Unknown Warrior1

(Victoria, Australia) A report by Brett Guyer

I didn't really know what to expect when I booked in for my first Celtic Piping Club weekend. I'd only recently made contact with the group after buying a set of smallpipes from Geoff. My plan to ease myself back into the world of piping.
I had played in pipe bands for years with many debaucherous trips away, but they always had a focus on competing and the strange notion of judging music.
I anticipated that this weekend would be more akin to an ethnic minority network, or perhaps a support group for sufferers of some psychological trauma or strange physical condition. I guess all three of these could be a way of describing anyone who has found themselves with a set of pipes under their arm more than twice.
I had the luxury of arriving late on the first night, and so avoiding the potential awkwardness at the start of any gathering of people who don't know each other that well. There was a session playing along merrily, and while there was some reluctance by anyone wanting to dominate the group, I feel it was more out of politeness and respect for each others backgrounds than any sort of pecking order. I had wondered how the varying pipes might play together, but it turns out there are many tunes that quite happily crossover. If people didn't know the tunes or they didn't suit their key, they were quite happy to sit back and just enjoy the playing. It looked like a friendly inviting group from the start.
The workshops were interesting, I learnt some things I had wondered for years, and other things it had never occurred to me to wonder about. That great dynamic of different minds and different levels of playing made sure that it was quite broad and we didn't get bogged down into any one area of nitty gritty.
My home leader was Andy on the harp. He turns out to be quite a knowledgeable teacher with a surprising understanding of the pipes. He did pull out a Frankensteinesque blasphemy of old junk that had somehow been pieced together to give the general impression of a set of pipes. One of the other pipers at the Soiree was in the other room, and said he had come through to see what sort of pipes they were as he thought they sounded quite pleasing.
Andy has a little of the rogue about him and made us all laugh along with the teaching of music theory, a potentially dry subject. It was interesting to see his take on layering the instruments to create variety in our ensemble.
I didn't change groups, so only had brief meetings with the other tutors. Angus has a great upbeat energy which made tunes led by him in the session kick along with a lively feel. Jenny, had the cards of warmth and openness along with her knowledge of music theory. It was interesting to hear her take on the psychology of playing music, and lovely to hear her sing a few songs.
I would have to say, everyone I spoke with over the weekend turned out to be a lovely person in one way or another, and I think I learnt something from everyone there, regardless of their ability or their involvement in the club. It was also great to have some experienced hands look at my pipes and give me some tips on getting them to sound better.
The highlight of the weekend would have to be the musical soiree at the local establishment. It was a charming bar with a warm quiet vibe and rustic seating perfectly suited to the smorgasbord of small acts. Being more or less forced to perform as part of a small group gave a bit of focus for the workshops. It was great to see what the other combinations of people and instruments came up with.
Well, I'm off now, having been emboldened to steal some cane from what I'm telling myself is public land. Hopefully my next letter will be written from the liberty of my own lounge room and not some cold gaol cell reserved for cane thieves and pipers.
Regardless, I'm sure I'll be back for the 8th annual Goldfields piping weekend.

 20180818 184220 small

Lochalsh Pipes


For this issue’s pipemaker interview Common Stock headed to the north-west coast to Lochalsh, on the mainland opposite the Isle of Skye, to meet with Ross Calderwood who began making Scottish smallpipes there in 2004. I was particularly interested to hear how he came to be there, doing that.
“I was born in Greenock, on Clydeside and moved to Renfrew at the age of 10. I left school in 1982. I was interested in cabinet making and fine woodwork, but growing up in Clydeside you were steered towards heavy engineering as that’s what was all around. I got an apprenticeship in an engineering and construction company. When I was 20 I moved to live in Huddersfield and began working at Sellafield. I stayed there until 2004.” Ross and I remarked that a background in engineering seemed to figure in the story of quite a few pipemakers.
I was also interested to hear about his interest in music at the time.
“I began learning the Highland pipes when I was around 7 or 8 years old, taught by Duncan Brown at Port Glasgow Boy’s Brigade band. Later on I went for pibroch lessons with Donald MacLeod. His teaching method was to sing a tune to you until you got it, with a mix of canntaireachd and his own vocables. By the time I was 16 I lost interest in Highland bagpipes and was mainly listening to psychedelic rock, but then I heard Dick Gaughan and became interested in political folk music.”
“I first heard Scottish smallpipes at Holmfirth Folk Festival, being played by Malcolm Swindell. I couldn’t believe that bagpipes could be such a sociable instrument and be part of the same folk world as people like Dick Gaughan. Visiting my dad one year he took me to a Bagpipe shop in Edinburgh and bought me a set of Scottish smallpipes around 1996.
“When I worked at Sellafield I started up a session at the Screes in Nether Wasdale with my friends Robbie Moody on fiddle and Kerry Wright on bodhran. We mainly played Irish tunes to begin with but then found an interest in local tunes from Cumberland. This session developed into a really successful night, with people travelling from all over Cumbria to play.
“I was sharing digs with a friend, Angus Soutar, who was originally from Reraig where I live now. Angus was always interested in learning the pipes when he was younger but was too busy fishing. For something to do on winter evenings I started teaching Angus the pipes. At the same time I replied to an advert in the Whitehaven News for a pipe-teacher from Ronnie Service, originally from Invergarry. He was 70 years old at the time. Angus got to the stage where he needed a set of Highland pipes. Ronnie’s hobby was woodturning, I worked in engineering, our landlord at the time was a retired joiner who had various nice bits of timber and a workshop. With everything combined we decided to make our own set.

at the lathe

“This was around the time I heard Malcolm Swindell at the Holmfirth Folk Festival. I talked to him there and found out he was also a pipemaker, mainly doing Northumbrian and Scottish smallpipes. I consider him a top pipe maker of his era. He was a contemporary of Colin Ross and one of the founders of the modern Scottish smallpipe revival, but because he had to care for his elderly mother his production wasn’t that prolific and he isn’t that well known today. I visited him at his workshop and it was his advice that led me to the use of fruitwoods and native hardwoods such as yew and holly rather than the usual imported blackwoods that were then the standard material for highland pipes. Our landlord had a lump of cherry wood so we used it to make our first set of highland pipes, copied from an existing set. We soon made another set for Ronnie and then started making smallpipes.”
“At this time I regularly went on holiday to Lochalsh with my family. We decided to move up in 2004. We set up a bed and breakfast business and during that time I made pipes as a hobby for friends and family, including my two sons.
“By 2014 our mortgage was paid off and I built a workshop in which I made pipes for friends and family. I then created a website about my pipemaking; as soon as that was live I realised that was it, I had a business, I was a pipemaker.”

So I asked Ross to say something about the pipes he makes:
“My materials are mainly indigenous hardwoods, such as holly, laburnum, fruitwoods and yew. I find that these timbers provide first class tonal qualities as well as being of outstanding beauty. I finish each set of pipes using natural materials such as tagua nut (vegetable ivory), Buffalo horn, rams horn, or light coloured woods such as sycamore and holly. The wood I use comes from several local timber suppliers which means I can tell you exactly where the tree was felled that provided the timber for your pipes.
“I make the bag of pre-treated hide which requires very little seasoning. I used to make my own bags but I now use Mark Bennet pipe bags.
“I make my own bellows which are double skinned with the outer skin being leather and the inside is vinyl; this makes the bellows completely air tight and eliminates the need for seasoning. For the plates, recycled timber such as oak, teak and mahogany are used as well as local timbers such as oak, ash, cherry, and alder.
“I have been working on various materials for drone bodies, I have used glass fibre tent poles and various other plastics but have now settled on wooden bodies. I use the same timber as the I use for the pipes. I have developed a curved body with a free tongue fixed with o rings. This was inspired Richard Evans’ talk on drone reeds at the 2017 collogue. The main advantage is that you can replace the tongues very easily as well as being able to do fine adjustments. I still use ezee drones for people that want them particularly for overseas buyers who live in areas of fluctuating humidity.
“I use standard cane small pipe chanter reeds but with a slightly bigger staple. I still use plastic reeds for mouth blown pipes.

Having played together with Ross on many occasions I was aware that he and I shared an interest, not just in the older parts of the repertoire but also in a wider range of music. This led me to two questions. Firstly, I knew that he had been working for some time on what is known as the ‘Rostock chanter’, the oldest surviving bagpipe chanter, found in a midden dated 1480. Ross gave a talk at the 2017 collogue about this, which was printed in the December 2017 issue of this journal, but essentially this is a wide-bore chanter with a single reed, of the sort used in Swedish bagpipes. I was interested to know whether he had made any other innovations in his pipemaking.
“When I was working on the Rostok chanter I decided to introduce one or two features that are not in the original (as well as ‘adjusting’ the position of the finger-holes). Firstly, I added a right-hand thumb hole to give me a flattened third; this is a common feature of French bagpipes. I also developed a system of plugs which enabled me to change the pitch of the 6th. I now find myself often asked to provide other ‘extensions’ to the standard smallpipe chanter - I have included a keyed 9th for example, though that is not uncommon today. Less common is the introduction of a double hole for the top G. I have also, on request, included plugs to alter the pitch of other holes as well as the 6th, giving the opportunity to play in modes other than the standard mixolydian or dorian.”

My other question was to do with the music he was now playing, having been very impressed with his prize-winning duet in the 2017 LBPS competition.
“That was with Christine Martin, she was playing nyckelharpa, but she is also an accomplished fiddle player and harpist - she is a fiddle and clarsach teacher and has been teaching and performing since the 1970’s. We are now playing as a trio called Harta along with Jack Evans who played with a long list of bands in the 1970’s and 80’s , including The Easy Club and Jock Tamson’s bairns. Jack plays bouzouki with Harta.
“We all have an interest in the 18th century repertoire as well as music from Scandinavia.”


smallpipes in yew 

My thanks to Ross for taking the time to answer my questions. You can learn more about his pipes and his pipemaking at his wonderful website:


John Dally reviews a major new publication from Barry Shears

Barry Shears’ monumental two volume collection, Play It Like You Sing It, is the culmination of decades of deep research into Cape Breton piping and Gaelic society. Shears, who has had considerable success in competitions at the highest levels and taught piping around the world, places these rare and beautiful tunes, many which have never been in print before, in the context of their history, community and practice with the life stories and photos of the pipers who played them. These pipers were an essential part of their society. The repertoire, rhythms and technique were unique to them personally and to the communities settled by immigrant Gaels from Scotland. These Gaels often homesteaded with people from the same villages they had left in Scotland, keeping their local Gaelic language, song, dance and instrumental music intact.
Shears’ first book, THE GATHERING OF THE CLANS COLLECTION Vol. 1, 1991, appeared amid global changes in Scottish piping. Copies were eagerly sought out and purchased by pipers who were frustrated by the arbitrary strictures of the competition culture and the Scottish establishment. We had grown up listening to the Bothy Band, The Chieftains and their Scottish equivalents, The Battlefield Band and The Tannahill Weavers. Seumas MacNeil, principle of the College of Piping, who died in 1996, not only aggressively defended his authority, but had built his career on travelling the world to teach piping, often criticizing local pipers in unnecessarily harsh terms. He silenced old ear-learning pipers in Cape Breton with vicious criticism on his visit there in the 1950s.
Scottish Highland piping has gone through many changes in the years since. Gordon Duncan, having lived in Ireland briefly, made many popular compositions showing clear Irish influence and transformed the playing of reels and jigs in Scotland from halting and square to flowing and round. The MacDonald brothers of Glenuig were another strong influence, injecting Gaelic born energy, as well as inspiration from popular Irish groups like the Bothy Band, into the hackneyed clichés embodied by the Scots Guards tune book and the College of Piping. They were met with punitive and sometimes underhanded resistance from the establishment.
Shears’ books became the most important sources for traditional Cape Breton repertoire, forming a bridge from the stale, authoritarian style of piping to a more exciting, personal, lively style of playing Scottish tunes. Scottish piping had lost its connection to informal dance, while Cape Breton piping was inseparable from traditional step dance. Scottish pipers were eager to drink up the fresh and clean waters from the deep well of Cape Breton piping at a time when the last of the old pipers had either died or were about to. But Shears, a Cape Breton native, had for years spent his family vacations visiting the old pipers, recording them, writing down their tunes and stories, seeking out old home made recordings and sharing them with anyone who took an interest.
Unfortunately, a couple of people took advantage of Shears’ generosity, claiming in print and on the BBC that they had participated in the research, sharing his discoveries without crediting him. In practice, the style they disseminated was influenced by traditional Irish music at least as much as Cape Breton piping, while at the same time they expressed distaste for most things Irish. It was difficult for them to credit the influence of traditional Irish music on the changes happening to Scottish folk music, which I took as an unfortunate expression of Scottish Nationalism.
Among the many positive things they accomplished was a new interest in ear-learning and playing for step dancing. They promoted piping styles and tunes from traditional Scottish Gaelic communities like Glenuig, Barra and South Uist. And they encouraged a new generation of pipers who rejected the rigid bounds of competition and parade ground piping. But eventually any piper who bucked the competition system and rejected the hackneyed world of tartan, short bread and pipe bands, might use “Cape Breton Piping” or “Gaelic piping” to describe their music, so that in many cases the terms lost their meaning in much the same way as the word “Celtic” has been attached to everything from jazz to symphonic appropriations. I met people who called themselves “Cape Breton pipers” even though they had not grown up in Cape Breton or, in some cases, had never been there.
That is the context of the appearance of Shears’ seminal, new, two volume collection. The historical importance of this collection is immense in the vaunted and sometimes misunderstood world of traditional piping. The first of the two volumes contains the cultural and personal histories of the pipers and the communities in which they lived, with discussion of personal and regional styles, and the environment of song and dance. The many photographs in both volumes are worth the cover price alone. The second is filled with 249 tunes, which are accompanied by more photographs, context and history.
Many of the tunes will be new to the vast majority of pipers in the Scottish tradition. Shears also includes variants and unique settings of well-known tunes, like “The Devil in the Kitchen,” “Cha Till MacCruimein,” “The Reel of Tulloch” and “Caber Feidh.” Comparisons reveal rhythms that don’t exist in or have been cleansed from 20th century Scottish tune books. Many of the tunes are also accompanied by their puirt a beul (mouth music) equivalents giving insight into the interior rhythms of the tunes. The references, appendix and indexes of source material are much more extensive than anything I have seen in books of pipe tunes. The introduction to the second volume, “Revitalizing a Tradition,” covers the history of the MacNeil manuscript, puirt a beul, an explanation of transcription and traditional technique, and types of pipe music and dance in their cultural context.
Shears encourages pipers to see the sparse ornaments in the settings as guidelines, not as limits. We have often discussed the benefits of unornamented settings over ornamented ones, and vice versa, and in the end Shears decided that because most pipers are used to seeing ornaments, so he wanted to give them an indication of what could be used to enrich the tunes. Ornaments are important to the internal rhythms, so care should be taken to absorb traditional rhythms and make them your own. I would follow Shears’ recommendations until you can play the tune in your sleep, and then let your natural inclination have its own way, allowing yourself to adorn the tune differently any time you play it. A tremendous aid is Shears’ own recording, “Cape Breton Piper,” and the CD in the back of his essential study DANCE TO THE PIPER (Cape Breton University Press, 2008).
Every new publication by Shears is greatly appreciated in a world where graduates in traditional music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland might play “Cha Till MacCruimein” more in the style of Kenny G than Rory MacKinnon. Venturing outside tradition, playing film themes while riding a unicycle in costume, for example, may be clever but it is ultimately unsatisfying for piper and audience. These two volumes of massive research are a refreshing return to the well of tradition.
John Dally

PLAY IT LIKE YOU SING IT (Bradan Press, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2018, vol. 1 ISBN 9781988747040, vol. 2 ISBN 98781988747033)


When browsing through old collections of published music, the early 19th century highland pipe collections, say, or the 'Repositories' of the Gow family, it is not uncommon to see the words 'very old' above the music, where one might expect the composer’s name to be, and it is sometimes possible to confirm these words by reference to earlier sources. Seldom, however, is it possible to not only trace a tune to an earlier source but to follow its history from the earliest ‘very old’ source through the next four centuries.
Nevertheless, Scottish sources of popular music are enormously rich, perhaps uniquely so, and in once case at least this is possible. That the tune I want to consider here must have been well-kent by the closing years of the 16th century is suggested by its appearance in the midst of an extended composition for lute written down by the Cheshire musician Matthew Holmes. It appears in the first of Holmes’ lute manuscripts, copied between 1588 and 1595 . The ascription, in Holmes’ hand, is to John Whitfield (fl. 1588-1616) but apart from this and two other lute pieces, almost nothing is known of him. This extended composition, appears to have been artfully constructed using at least four different ‘tunes’, of which the section of interest here is the third. I have extracted the following section:

fyket A holmes c1595

An extract from the Holmes lute manuscript, (Dd.2.11, ff. 9v-10r) c.1588-95

Holmes’s piece is left untitled in his manuscript, but can be identified by comparison with later sources, as we shall see, to be a 'Scottish Huntsup'. The section above appears on its own in 17th century sources with a title in the form of 'A Scottish Jigg. It is worth noting that Holmes’ piece is contemporary with Shakespeare’s mention of a Scots jig in Much Ado About Nothing, “‘Wooing, wedding and repenting is is as a Scots Jig, a measure and a cinque pace; the first suit is hot and hasty, as a Scotch jig, and full as fantastical.”
By the early decades of the 17th century this ground was in use for a number of tunes, including 'Pitt on Your Shirt on Monday' from the Skene Mandora manuscript c.1615 and 'Corne Yards', from the Rowallan lute Manuscript, c.1620.

pitt on your shirt skene

Two strains of ‘Pitt on your Shirt on Monday’, from the Skene manuscript, c.1615. Much the same music re-appears in the fifth and sixth strains of the Leycester viol manuscript. Notice that by setting the them in three sharps (viol tablature makes these key signatures clear), Skene has changed the ground from AGAA to AEAA (or is it B minor?), a change that will reappear 170 years later.

fyket rowallan c1620

'Corne Yards', from the Rowallan lute Manuscript, c.1620.

 The basic tune went on appearing in various guises through the middle of the 17th century; here is the ‘Scotch Jigge’ that appears in Peter Leycester’s manuscript for the viol (from Cheshire, c.1640?), in the section for the instrument in the ‘bag-pipe’ tuning.

scotch jigge

 A copy of Robinson’s 1609 New Citharen Lessons, now in Tokyo, has the first few bars scribbled in by hand, with the same title (starting after the pause symbols that end the previous piece). That someone should trouble to write out this scrap in their book is perhaps a sign of its popularity at the time; a glance at the tablature will demonstrate that it was the work of a hurried and probably unpractised hand.

the scottish jigge robinson 1609

Around 1660 Priscilla Bunbury included the first few bars of the Holmes’ setting in her Virginal Book, with the title ‘A Jigg’, . Priscilla’s book also includes a long set of variations on the ground, titled ‘Rappack’s Jig’, of which these are the opening six:

rappaks bunbury Double

At some point between these two manuscripts, Janet Pickering was compiling her lute book, probably somewhere in Yorkshire (Pickeringe, ff.15v-16r). In it she included a ‘Scottish Huntsupe’ which bears remarkable similarities to the earlier Holmes one (sufficient for us to attach the same title to the latter), although it also has major differences. Like Holmes’, Pickering’s piece is an extended composition, apparently made up from material similar to Holmes’ but with significant differences. However one section is very close to its earlier equivalent, the one that contains the ‘Scottish Jigg’ tune. The matter of note values is somewhat obscured by the systems of notation used in these early lute manuscripts. I have transcribed these two ‘Scots Huntsups’ with different values, but in fact the two manuscripts use the same notation: the differences are the result of my interpretations at different times. In this case, the Bunbury keyboard notation is significant since it shows that the minim/crotchet values and the 2/2 time signature were understood to be the appropriate ones in the 17th century.

pickering scotch jigge

Scotch Huntsuppe fro Jane Pickeing’s lute MS c1640

I have yet to uncover any setting of the basic theme from the late 17th or early 18th century that includes the distinctive use of the 6th as the opening. However, that version of it that appears in ‘Pitt on Your Shirt on Monday’, and again as the 5th and 6th variations in the Leycester manuscript setting, does re-appear; first in 1680 in the Panmure fiddle manuscript, then in the Balcarres lute book and in Henry Atkinson’s fiddle book, both around 1695 and again in John Young’s 1720 Collection of Original Scotch Tunes.


‘The Farther Ben the Wellcomer’ John Young, Collection of Original Scotch Tunes, 1720

When the full theme does re-appear, in Bremner’s A Collection of Scots Reels (1756) it has undergone changes which will persist from now on. Here is Bremner’s setting, with the rudimentary bass part omitted.

fyket bremner

Firstly, the note values have halved, and a 4/4 time signature introduced, with the result that what was a four-bar strain has been fitted into two bars, creating the opportunity to add another two bars, by repeating the ground but amending the last bar with a form of what Mat Seattle has termed ‘the Elsie Marley pattern’.
These changes are common in 18th century versions of earlier tunes; Simon Brodie is a good example. In the majority of 18th century extensions of older tunes the opportunity is taken to add a further 8 bars. When this first began in the late 17th century, it was common to simply repeat the same bars an octave higher, with perhaps some slight variation. In Bremner’s tune, however, we can see that the second strain has been built out of material that had appeared in earlier variations (strain 3 of Rowallan’s Corne Yards, perhaps, or strain 5 of ‘Rappack’s Jigg’).
Two more changes have occurred, both of which were to persist through the rest of the tune’s 250 year’s history. First, it has gained a title, ‘The Fyket’. The word essentially means something like Fidget; the Dictionary of the Scots Language does not give any usages earlier than the early 18th century, so it is not possible to say whether this title had been applied to earlier popular songs. The entry in the dictionary for the word’s etymology does suggest Old Scots: c.1500, so it is in theory possible.
But the most important change is in the form of the ground on which the music is based. The pre-18th century settings we have seen (and this applies to other tunes based on the same ground such as ‘Put on your Shirt on Monday) can be described as AGAA (one letter to each bar). When the tune first appears in the 18th century it has been ‘shifted 180 degrees’ to be AAAG (now one letter per half-bar) with the ‘Elsie Marley’-type pattern variation in the final bar. It would be most natural to view this (since the tune does have all the appearances of being a pipe-tune) as the tune ending in the sub-tonic key, G, against the A drone. However, it is clear that from Bremner on, publishers who include a bass part differ greatly in how to place the tonal root. Though they all choose the same bass notes (A and G) examples can be found of three different key signatures, 1, 2 or 3 sharps resulting in different choices of accidentals. Bremner opted for one sharp, presumably inspired by the final G triad, allowing himself C# when it appeared in the A triads. One sharp was also the choice of William Vickers when he set down his own version, around 1770, together with another closely related tune, Mopping Nelly (Notice how this latter tune seems to revert to a ‘variation’ that had not appeared since the very earliest of our settings here). Matt Seattle has shown how many of Vickers’ choices of key signature seem based on the final notes rather than any attempt to describe the pitches of the notes.

gow strathspey2

The Strathspey version from First Book of Niel Gow's Reels

Some 50 years after the Gow versions, Davie’s Caledonian Repository also included two versions; Davie, however was consistent in his use of one sharp as the key signature. Davie’s setting of the reel is closely related to Gow’s, with some surprising innovations. His strathspey differs from Gow’s only in the key signature and in the treatment of the repeated quavers.

davies repositryo

The reel version from Davie’s Caledonian Repository, 1830,

In 1854 John McLachlan’s The Piper’s Assistant included this fine setting:


McLachlan also included the first strain of Gow’s ‘strathspey’ though he labelled it ‘March’


This setting of McLachlan’s is probably the first to appear in a collection specifically for bagpipes. As such it sidesteps the issue of key signature which had perplexed previous editors of the tune, and which was to go on doing so through the 19th century (Surenne, for instance, in 1880, published a setting almost identical to that of Gow). The contention arises from the question of how the tune is to be forced into the straitjacket of an alien concept of modality. Matt’s article in this issue on Caber Fei shows the same problem. Both Haydn and Beethoven had similar problems in harmonizing Scottish tunes but the challenge had already been recognised at the beginning of this tune’s history. In 1597, Thomas Morley, in his Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke had remarked “I dare boldly affirm that, look which is he who thinketh himself the best discanter of all his neighbours, enjoin him to make but a Scottish jygge, he will grossly err in the true nature and quality of it.

Towards the end of the 18th century a number of tunes clearly derived from the Fyket appeared in published collections. ‘Fill the Stoup’, for instance, first appears in the first part of Gow’s Repository and it continued to be included in collections throughout the 19th century. While it stays close to the basic ground, the odd bars are based on the B minor chord (or is it E7?) rather than the A/G of the Fyket. Other related tunes, such as ‘Greig’s Pipes’ (in the same collection) are rather further removed from the Fyket as far as the distinctive opening notes are concerned.

gow stoup

The 20th century appearance of the Fyket begin with David Glen’s Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music, first prsinted at the close of the 19th century and last printed some time after 1911 and before 1926. Glen’s setting seems to be derived from McLachlan’s 1854 version, though the second strain contains only McLachlan’s last four bars.


The Fyket, from the 9th part of David Glen’s Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music

To finish, here is what I believe to be the most recent publication of this tune in any piping collection; it is a setting by Russ Spaulding and appeared in his collection Something Old, Something New published in 1994, four hundred years after its first appearance. (I have removed the gracings from the original setting)
Notice that this is not just a reproduction of any of the previous versions; Spaulding has made a new arrangement of the ground so that, although he retains the 18th century pattern for the first two bars he returns his second two bars to the tonic A triad; after four hundred years the tune is still being reinvented.
I can’t be sure that this tune is unique in Scottish tradition in being able to display its continuous reinvention over four hundred years, but I would be extremely pleased to hear of any other.

spaulding edited

The Fyket, from Russell Spaulding’s Collection Something Old, Something New.
Thanks to Jeannie Campbell for pointing me to this resource, a copy of which is in the Otago Street Library, National Piping Centre

Matt Seattle offers more ‘Strategies for Pipers’

For this episode we’ll look at a couple more fiddle reels commonly played in Scottish, Irish and English sessions. As far as we know both The Silver Spire and The Reconciliation first appeared in Ryan's Mammoth Collection, Boston (1883) as The Great Eastern Reel and The Olive Branch respectively (the latter originally as a hornpipe rather than a reel), but they have both long enjoyed resident status on this side of the Atlantic.
You’ll see and hear that the fiddle passages which go above and below the 9-note range are substituted either by shifting them an octave or recomposing them when octave transposition would create awkward gaps. The aim, as ever, is to make the replacement phrase both melodic in its own right and concordant with the actual melody. This makes the adaptations more satisfying to play, and is also less likely to result in dirty looks from your fellow sessioneers.
In the recurring bar in The Silver Spire where there’s a choice of notes, play both low alternatives if you don’t have high b available. In The Reconciliation the key signature demands g# so we’ve avoided the note apart from one instance where g natural doesn’t clash too much. The g# in the key of A major is the reason why many tunes don’t transfer readily to the pipes when you’d think they would, two modern examples being Easy Club Reel (Jim Sutherland) and Frank’s Reel (John McCusker). On most Border pipes g# is easily playable, as it is on Scottish smallpipes with the relevant keywork: if there’s an appetite for some tunes where the g# is essential, let me know via the usual channels and I’ll see what I can do.



Ian Kinnear describes two early sets of bellows pipes from the North-East of Scotland

I have been working as a professional smallpipe maker for over 20 years and have been located in Edzell, Angus since 2006. I am aware of a rich history of bellows piping in this part of Scotland and have been lucky to work on a number of old original sets from this area over the years. However, nothing quite prepared me for the Davidson sets which turned up in Glenesk a few years ago. This article is about how they came to my attention, their provenance and what I feel is their significance. As a pipe maker I am interested in them from an organological perspective – what we can learn from them about the instruments and making of that period. Having recently completed an MLitt in ethnology I am interested in how they can also give an insight into how instruments develop in response to changing fashions and how and why they may fall out of and come back into use. I am interested in how a constantly changing cultural landscape can present new contexts and functions for instruments which became irrelevant several generations ago.
It was a few years ago, after piping at the Tarfside Highland Games in Glenesk, that Angus Davidson first mentioned his grandfather’s pipes to me. Angus, now in his eighties and a lifelong resident in Glenesk, told me that although his father was a fiddler his grandfather had been a piper. My interest was awakened when Angus told me the pipes his grandfather had played were not like my Highland pipes but had some bent bits of metal tube….and he still had them in the attic somewhere! A few months later Angus appeared at my workshop with a polythene sack containing his grandfather William Davidson’s pipes. When I opened the unceremonious packaging I found it contained parts of 2 sets of pipes – a set of border/reel/ lowland pipe drones (2 tenors and a bass) complete and still reeded and a set of pastoral pipes which were in quite poor order and missing the tenor drone. Both sets are made in laburnum with bone mounts suggesting they are somewhat older than the 19th century era when William Davidson would have played them. I assembled the bass drone on the lowland set and, observing they were still reeded but not wanting to remove the drones which were seized in the stock, I cautiously blew through the stock. A comic book puff of dust came out of the drones followed by a rich raspy drone sound as they kicked into life. I tuned the bass to the tenors and they locked into a pretty solid tone very close to A 440. I was amazed! Over 100 years in an attic and these drones, with cane reeds which I could see were not in the best of order, tuned straight out of the “box”! They produce a bit more volume than is currently fashionable with borders pipes and this is probably largely due to the wide diameter of the reeds. The bass is 12.5mm in diameter and the tenors 9mm and they have been tapered quite a bit to fit the reed seats. They appear to be made in elder and there has been substantial shaving of the tongues to make them work at a comfortable pressure.


Although the pastoral set are not in a playing condition they are extremely well made and look to have been a good instrument in their day. They are a simple instrument with no regulators or chanter keys. This along with their construction in laburnum and bone would suggest they are a quite early set surviving in use into the late 19th century. The drone tops are similar to the lotus style common on Hugh Robertson sets but unfortunately there is no sign of a maker’s mark. The chanter is in the baroque oboe style that we see on many pastoral sets with double bulb at the neck and a detachable foot join with one tone hole. The ferrules are hand rolled tapered ferrules in brass, and the tubes have also been rolled out of sheet and formed into a lovely curve with fitted end caps to fit over the wooden joints to which they connect, to save any danger of splitting. As is common with pastoral sets the bass drone is linked through the top of the stock which is a neat solution removing the need for a second bend and keeping the drone compact. Unfortunately, there has been some warping of the wooden parts in the bass drone and more significantly the chanter.

The chanter 12” in length and 17 ½” with the foot joint. The bore looks to be a straight taper between 3/16 and 7/16. I would say from the chanter size and testing reeds in the drones that this set would have played close to Eb.

glenesk pastoral

Although not the best surviving examples of borders or pastoral pipes for me one of the most interesting things about these 2 sets of pipes is their provenance. Many old sets of pipes appear in auctions or car boot sales and while they are interesting in themselves they have no back story. With William Davidson’s pipes I was able to speak with his grandson Angus to find out something about the man and musician. William Davidson was born in Glenesk in 1836 and died in 1904 So roughly speaking he would have been of an age to play these pipes between 1850 and 1900 which is quite late for bellows piping (particularly pastoral piping) in Scotland, and would lend weight to the idea that the north east was one of the areas of Scotland where bellows piping survived longest. There are a couple of interesting sets of pastoral and union pipes in the national collection of the Museum of Scotland which have strong links to the North East. One set was bought at auction alongside a manuscript with a name and address for William Mackie in Aberdeen as well as correspondence with makers in Dublin about maintenance. This correspondence would suggest that this set was still being played in the late 1880’s but that local makers with the expertise to maintain them were hard to find.1 There is also the wonderful blackwood and silver presentation set of Union pipes which were gifted to Montrose piper Robert Millar in 1830. These also came with a collection of music which give a great insight into the repertoire of that era.2 Although William Davidson’s sets are more simple and not in as good condition, viewed alongside sets with similar provenance like the Miller set and the Mackie set, oral testimony of Francis Markie playing at fairs into early 20th century and with the knwon presence of 5 bellows pipe makers in Aberdeen (Naughtan, Davidson, Massie, Mark and Sharp) operating until the mid- 19th century3 these Davidson pipes provide another piece in the jigsaw which helps build a more accurate picture of bellows piping in the North East of Scotland. It is great to be able to put a pin in the map in Glenesk and say that in the 19th century bellows pipes were played in this community. For me as a pipe maker making bellows pipes 15 miles away at the foot of the Glen it was the equivalent of a palaeontologist finding a dinosaur skeleton in his back yard!
Although quite remote now, and with a road that is a dead end, in the 19th century Tarfside would have been a vibrant rural community on a drove road that linked farmers in Deeside with livestock markets in Angus, like Trinity outside Brechin. Within this community William, whose mother’s family can be traced back to 1768 in the Glen although his father came from Deeside, worked as a joiner and undertaker. He was born, lived all his life and ran his business from the family homestead at Dykeneuk, north of Tarfside. He had eight children including James, Angus’ father who carried on the joinery business and was also a musician being well known as a fiddle player in the Glen.4 Angus told me “Father and Geordie Skene (Alastair Skene’s uncle) and my Aunt was very good at the piano and they used to belt away night after night at dances and things like that”. Although he never met his grandfather he remembers the pipes being in the house and his father talked of grandfather William playing them. “As far about the pipes…they were always in a drawer. That was the bits that you saw. That’s all I’ve ever seen of them. I think there was a wee bit of the bag or cloth but that’s all I’ve ever seen of them. My father used to tell me that my grandfather used to strap on the bellows and play the things. I don’t know if he was ever any good at it or anything, Dad used to say that he used to play them”.
When I visited Angus to find out more about the pipes and his grandfather he said he had come across another piece that used to be kept with them and after a bit of rummaging produced a lovely boxwood flute in F. It is stamped Beckett Wood and Ivy, London who were making baroque style flutes in the 19th century. Angus also talked about a smaller ebony instrument which sounded like a piccolo size but he thinks was blown like a whistle rather than a flute. This was given to a niece some years ago. I was interested in the idea that in the second half of the 19th century in the north east of Scotland William Davidson may have been playing 2 different types of bellows pipes which potentially required different fingerings as well as flutes and whistles but not highland pipes. All these instruments are designed as ensemble instruments and their function in a rural setting like Tarfside would probably have been playing with other instruments such as piano and fiddle for dancing. The pastoral set in particular provide an important link between bellows pipes which had existed for several hundred years in Scotland and the modern uilleann pipes. When I grew up and learnt pipes in the 1970’s and 80’s the only instrument you would expect to find in your pipe case would be highland pipes. This has largely changed and many of the younger generation of pipers also play bellows pipes, whistles and flutes and there is an increasing interest amongst Scottish pipers in uilleann (and pastoral) pipes. It is fascinating to think that the contents of William Davidson’s pipe case in the 19th Century so closely resembles that of a modern-day piper given that this was not the case for 100 years. What these instruments reflect is a desire to play with other musicians and for pipes and pipers to be an integrated part of our musical culture.
These 2 sets of pipes also provide a reminder of how instruments’ fortunes are often linked to fashion. Although we think of these instruments as “traditional” (i.e. rooted in the past) so much of their history and development has been about embracing contemporary ideas from outwith. Pastoral pipes are a great example of how, as people moved from rural areas into the cities during periods of industrialisation, they wanted an instrument to play in drawing rooms and theatres that could recreate some essence or romantic version of their pastoral roots. For indoor and non - dance settings they were looking for an ensemble instrument which was quieter than the lowland pipe and more versatile to blend with piano, cello and violin. The pastoral pipe that evolved in the 18th century is a fusion of traditional and contemporary ideas from continental Europe, Britain and Ireland. By combining European ideas in the form of the baroque oboe with something similar to bellows blown lowland or smallpipe drones5 the pastoral pipe was developed and produced by makers in Edinburgh, London, Dublin and Aberdeen. Their market was probably gentleman pipers and the contexts where they would have been playedwere urban high society drawing rooms and theatres as well as grand country houses. In this respect William Davidson’s pastoral set were probably played out of the normal context for these instruments, more in the rustic rural setting itself than the romantic version of it that these instruments had been developed to recreate. However, as in Ireland, the prevalence of large country houses and castles in Aberdeenshire, Angus and the Mearns may have provided a suitable context for these types of pipes to stay relevant for longer than in other parts of Scotland. Ultimately their popularity in Scotland was to be fairly short-lived as the Highland pipes gained dominance through the military, and in the 1870’s the accordion arrived from Europe and started to replace the bellows pipes as one of the instruments of choice for dancing.
The development of the pastoral pipes and their subsequent evolution into what we recognise today as the Irish uilleann pipe are a great example of how makers respond to contemporary contexts and changes in function and musical taste.6 Similarly, I feel the strength of the current resurgence of interest in bellows pipes in Scotland was due to people becoming interested in these instruments again, not to reconstruct a musical idiom from the past, but in response to a desire to facilitate integration of pipes into the modern cultural construct of the folk group. The folk revival had seen the development of performance groups combining singers and instrumentalists playing traditional songs and tunes largely for concert audiences at festival and folk clubs. Although modern amplification allowed the integration of highland pipes into this developing scene, pipers like Jimmy Anderson with Clutha and Rab Wallace with The Whistlebinkies saw the benefits of a quieter, bellows blown bagpipe which could play in more suitable keys for other instruments than the Bb of the Highland Pipes. 30 years on, there are any number of groups in Scotland and beyond utilising bellows pipes in this type of setting both for performance groups and dance or ceilidh bands. While the function and contexts may be different from in William Davidson’s day the idea of pipes being made and used as ensemble instruments to play with fiddle, flute, piano etc. would be very familiar to him.

bass drone

It was really a chance conversation that brought William Davidson and his pipes to my attention. But it has made me realise there may be many more similar instruments hidden away in drawers and attics. The survival of these sets is probably partly due to the fact that the Davidson family have stayed in the same community for several generations and also, as Angus remarked, he never throws anything away! Many sets have probably not been so lucky. Largely because these instruments are unidentifiable – certainly without a bag they don’t look like what people may have in their mind as a bagpipe – many sets may have been dumped over the years. I hope there are also many waiting to be discovered which will help build the picture of bellows piping in the North East of Scotland and help us understand the demand that sustained a number of bellows pipe makers in Aberdeen into the second half of the 19th century and why this style of pipe may have survived here longer than in other areas of Scotland. It would appear that the furthest William Davidson’s pipes travelled since he put them down was when his grandson Angus brought them to my workshop 15 miles down the glen. It was a great thrill to be the first person to hear those lowland pipe drones in over 100yrs. I am now working on a reconstruction of the pastoral set and look forward to playing these in Tarfside to bring the sound of William Davidson’s pipes to life once again in Glenesk.
1 Hugh Cheape, Bagpipes: A National Collection of a National instrument (Edinburgh: NMS Enterprises Ltd 2008), p. 99.
2 Cheape, pp. 120-122.
3 Jeannie Campbell, Highland Bagpipe Makers (2011), pp. 26-30.
4 Margaret Fairweather Michie, Glenesk: The History and Culture of an Angus Community, ed by Alexander Fenton and John Beech (East Linton: Tuckwell Press Ltd, 2000), p. 242.
5 Cheape, p.80.6 Ross Anderson, The Pastoral Repertoire, Rediscovered, p. 4.
Editor’s note: This article was originally printed in the programme of the 2016 Pipers’ Gathering

Pete Stewart’s adaptation and arrangement of Brian McNeill’s song. The full lyrics are available at several internet locations. The tree referred to is the Yew Ormiston Hall

The Bonny Yew Tree

Note: The original arrangement, that won Pete the trophy in the 2014 LBPS competition, had C naturals in the pipe part. If you can do that you can probably figure out how to use it.

Jeannie Campell provided this record of piping in The Caledonian Mercury for 17 November 1741

ormiston article

“There was a numerous appearance of Gentlemen, &c. the 19th inst. at Ormiston in East-Lothian to see the Distribution of the different Prizes for Yarn, from 6 to 10 slipping and above, when was presented a handsome Quantity of the best spun and finest Yarn, done in Scotland this Year, particularly of the fine from 8 to 10 and 11 slips. This important Improvement in that Corner is in a great measure owing to Mr Cockburn of Ormiston, and his Lady; who, prompted by the noblest and most generous Passion for the happiness of their Country, are perpetually employed in promoting the Interest of its Manufactures, on which its Well-being does so immediately depend, and which if more universally encouraged, would soon enable us to retrieve ourselves, and render us once more a rich and happy people. ‘Tis to be wished that Gentlemen, who have Power and Authority, would take the Hint from them, and imitate so commendable an Example----- After the Prizes were distributed(a rich Stock for Practisers in the Spinning way) and the whole Yarn roup’d off, the overjoyed Girls made a most agreeable Appearance through the Town with their Wheels mounted on their shoulders, and their Reels in their Hands, with the Bagpipes playing before them A Rock and a wee pickle Tow!”
Editor’s note:
This John Cockburn, was the son of Adam Cockburn, who had been one of the first in Scotland to introduce long leases to his tenants one of whom, having signed an 11 year lease, ‘commenced to enclose his fields, a proceeding then quite novel in Scotland’.1
It’s worth noting that, although he became known as ‘the father of Scottish husbandry’, it may be as well not every Scottish Lord took the Newspaper’s advice, since Cockburn ‘scorned all his own immediate interests for the sake of what he deemed the general good, and gave long leases to the tenants of great part of his estates upon very low rents. He also started a linen manufactory, a brewery, a distillery, and a bleaching-field, bringing over artisans from Holland to instruct his people at Ormiston. But the unfortunate result of his spirited and enterprising undertakings was that he was ruined, and Ormiston had to be sold. It became the property of the Hopes, Earls of Hopetoun’ (having been in the Cockburn family since 1370).
Cockburn did, however leave behind the village of Ormiston, of which he had ‘made a plan of a neat, airy, regular street, to be filled up with the houses of manufacturers and tradesmen; and granted feus on moderate terms to all his tenants and cottars who choosed to build houses.’2
This, of course, was the classic pattern of ‘clearances’ in the Lowlands. Ormiston Hall, or what remains of its buildings, are still occupied; behind them, in what were once Cockburn’s gardens, stands the magnificent and ancient ‘Ormiston Yew’.
1. Cockburn-Hood, T.H., The House of Cockburn of that Ilk etc., p. 176-7
2. ‘Memoirs of John Cockburn Esq of Ormiston’, extracted from The Farmer's Magazine, 7 May,1804


Keith Sanger introduces us to some local lowland pipers

As this years Penicuik ‘Hunter and Lass’ both have military Highland piping connections it seemed a suitable occasion to take a look at some aspects of the area’s earlier Lowland piping history. The principle sources of information come from the Clerk of Penicuik muniments currently deposited at the National Records of Scotland. Apart from the Penicuik estate the papers also extend to the Parish of Lasswade so cover a sizable section of Midlothian.
To start though we turn to the minutes of the Presbytery of Dalkeith and what seems to be one of the first references to piping in Midlothian. According to the minutes of the meeting of the Presbytery held at the end of May 1594 it was recorded that; The quhilk day it was provided by the Presbytery in respect of the profanation of the Lord’s day be marriages, in pyping, fidling and dancing. Surprisingly for that period instead of just banning such events outright the Presbytery took a pragmatic view that marriages should be held on a different day.1
A few isolated references confirm the presence of pipers through the 17th century. For example in 1661 while the Laird of Grant was passing through Pathhead on route to London he gave 4 shillings to a piper playing by the roadside.2 It is likely a thorough search of all the Kirk and Presbytery Session records would yield further evidence but, at present the first named piper to appear is one William Job in 1678.
He seems to have already been an established piper residing in Craiglockart but on the 26th of July that year he entered into an agreement with Mr John Clerk of Penicuik concerning a violin. According to the deed which was formerly drawn up and witnessed, ‘ane good and sufficient violin with case and key of the samen’, had been provided by John Clerk at a cost of £48. In return William Job bound and obliged himself to attend Mr John Clerk either at his house of Newbiggin, the Town of Penicuik or at Edinburgh on forty days per year as advised by one of his servants or directly from him to play on the pipe or violin as ordered. He also agreed that he would be penalised Twelve shillings Scots money each time he failed to attend.3
From a piper and violer in Penicuik the next musician comes from Lasswade. The piper’s name was John Robertson and he first appears in a Rental of the Barony of Lasswade, compiled in 1687. This record is particularly interesting for two reasons. Firstly he is described as John Rotsone menstrell, (although all other rentals describe him as a piper). Secondly the rental is the most detailed of the series and is set out in a series of columns, the first being the money rental, in the pipers case paying £8 yearly for his house; while the other columns are headed bear, wheat, meall, oats, malt, capons, hens and finally carrigs. The latter presumably being the provision of ‘foot carriages’ of some sort.
The piper was listed towards the bottom of the rental among those tenants living in Lasswade itself and like those other tenants was, apart from the money rent, only due to provide two ‘hens’ as rent in kind. Interestingly there were only two other tenants with the surname Robertson in the list, one of whom was described as a ‘notar’ and also in the village and was paying £10 for his house but with no other burdens.4 A further series of rentals which have found their way into the Court of Session papers also starts with the Rental of the Lands and Barony of Lasswade crop 1687, but in this case John Robertson is described as ‘pyper’ and follows right after his namesake the notary.
In these more extensive rentals it includes the names of the properties of the larger tenants and shows the original name and spelling of what is now known as Paradykes, was still in its original form of ‘Paradise’. Modern placename reference works interpret Paradykes to derive from ‘Park Dyke (or wall)’, but it is clear that ‘Paradise ‘meaning ‘Heaven’ or the ‘Garden of Eden’ was the earliest form.5 It was not until after the Barony of Lasswade ceased to retain its own piper that the modern form of Paradykes emerged around 1744,6 (Not of course that I am suggesting any direct connection).
The rentals listing the piper run from Whitsunday to Whitsunday and cover 1687 to 1688; 1688 to 1689; 1689 to 1690; and finally one which does not have a firm date but appears to have been made around January 1692.7 The years 1693 and 1694 are continued by two rentals among the Clerk of Penicuik papers8 along with another from the same collection also dated to 1694 which not only lists the rent but also gives details of the ‘houses’. In the piper John Robertson’s case described as ane cott house wt a bak dore & kale yeard faulty. £8.9 The use of the term ‘faulty’ suggesting the building was a little dilapidated.
For the last of this group of pipers the focus moves back to ‘A list of Fencible Men of the parish of Pennicook, dated 14 October 1715. Of those men listed under the ‘Town’ of Penicuik itself is a John Elphistone Piper.10 The piper is the only person named ‘Elphistone’ (Elphinston), in the whole list and it is therefore possible to suggest that as with many Lowland pipers he performed two roles. According to the Parish Records a John Elphistone and Marion Johnston married in Penicuik on the 7 May 1708. At that time there was no trade given although some of the other marriages in that same record did have trades mentioned.11
It is not until 1713 that the birth records note a child to that couple followed by another seven children, including twins, with the last birth recorded in 1730. Like the Fencible list and the marriage record, all the birth records give the version of the surname ‘Elphinstone’ as ‘Elphistone’ without an ‘n’ and all the birth records note John Elphistone’s trade as a Taylor. He had died by 1742 when his son John (born 1715), acted for his mother in connection with a bill for some tayloring work undertaken for Sir John Clerk of Penicuik.12
This short review of some early Lowland pipers ends by returning to the beginning and Dalkeith and the Poll Tax record compiled on the 10th November 1694. According to one entry James Hardie toun pyper & his wife were due to pay 19 shillings and 4 pence while their son John Hardie was to pay 6 shillings and Janet Paterson their servant was assessed at 10 shillings.13 The piper was certainly still active around the start of the 17th century according to an account book of rents and property expenses where there is a record of receiving £6 from James Hardie Pyper, for a year and a halfs rent of a stable to Whitsunday 1704.14 James Hardie ‘toun piper’ died on the 14th February 1725.15
My thanks to Sir Robert M. Clerk of Penicuik for permission to quote from his family papers deposited as GD18 in the National Records of Scotland.

Keith Sanger

1 National Records of Scotland (NRS). CH2/424/1/323
2 NRS GD248/14/5/8
3 NRS GD18/2285
4 NRS GD50/78. This is among the John MacGregor Collection but it is not clear why or how he acquired it.
5 Paradise/Paradice is the name that appears on the maps of Timothy Pont, (1630 and 1636), and Blaeu (1654 andd 1662).
6 Paradykes first appears on John Elphinstone’s map of 1744.
7 NRS CS96/1/4 numbers 2, 3, 4 and 6
8 NRS GD18/720
9 NRS GD18/1200/10
10 NRS GD18/4141
11 Along with the other OPR records for births they were the only Elphinstones to appear in Penicuik Parish at that time.
12 NRS GD18/2173/2
13 NRS E70/8/8/8
14 NRS CS96/3268 p 51
15 O.P.R Deaths 683/8092 Dalkeith

Matt Seattle asks some pertinent questions

Why would we need to talk about a Highland pipe tune in a magazine for Lowland and Border pipers? It’s an obvious question, and the first part of the answer is that it isn’t actually a Highland pipe tune. It’s a fiddle tune, presumed Highland because of its Gaelic name, which has been adopted and adapted by many Highland pipers over much of two centuries, with almost all of them making a questionable job of it. The second part of the answer is that, as a fiddle tune which spread beyond the Highlands to the Lowlands and Borders, it is also fair game for Lowland and Border pipers to adopt and adapt, should they so desire.

Let’s start at the beginning of the tune’s documented history. The three earliest known versions all come to us courtesy of David Young, one of the most important – and most neglected – Scottish musicians of the 18th century. They consist of 2, 4 and 22 strains respectively, so we’ll begin gently with Young’s 2-strain version which is No. 12 in his manuscript A Collection of the newest Country Dances Perform’d in Scotland Written at Edinburgh by Da.Young. W.M. (W.M. = Writing Master; this manuscript is presently housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.)


Being a unique production, notable for its calligraphy as well its contents, we don’t know what kind of circulation the manuscript enjoyed, but its 2-strain Caberfei, covering a compass of nearly two octaves and containing a fair sprinkling of accidentals, establishes the essentials of the tune. If we fast forward to c. 1760 we encounter Robert Bremner, the successful Edinburgh publisher who moved to London and whose A Collection of Scots Reels or Country Dances is sure to have reached and influenced a wider circle of players. The first two strains of his Caper Fey are broadly similar to Young’s, while the third is a simpler version of the first but played on the lower strings, and the fourth varies the second with a repetitive killywimple. (We have not reproduced Bremner’s rudimentary bass.)
Taking these two settings together, we see that although they specify different key signatures, when we take account of their accidentals they both feature a repeated pattern of 2 bars in C major (all notes natural) followed by 2 bars in D major (with f# and c#), the exception being the c natural in bar 7 of Young’s set. This is a more thoroughly ‘double tonic’ tune than is usually implied by the term.


We’ll look at one more fiddle setting before we get to the pipers’ versions, and it’s the one which in 1992 gave me the impetus, as a then novice player of Scottish smallpipes, to make my own adaptation. William Vickers’ manuscript is dated 1770 and was, we believe, written in Newcastle upon Tyne. As Vickers had a consistently shaky grasp of key signatures and accidentals I’ve taken the liberty of correcting his setting following Young and Bremner.


Looking at the three sets together, their shared features are:
 a consistent implied bass (C | C | D | D |) x 2, which is explicit in Bremner’s published set
 odd-numbered strains built round the shifting tonic note
 even-numbered strains based on a familiar arpeggio figure
 ascending phrase in bar 7 of odd-numbered strains contrasting with descending phrase in bar 7 of even-numbered strains

Caber Feidh is more a set of parameters than a fixed melody, but within these parameters there is much room for manœuvre, hence the great variety of versions on paper and in performance.

We turn now to Highland pipe versions. These first appear in the 1840s, a full century after the earliest fiddle versions. The C-D double tonic is of necessity transposed to G-A, and without the accidentals of the early fiddle versions, so that the G and A passages become respectively lydian and mixolydian rather than major in flavour; of course we also forego the much larger compass of the fiddle sets, and need to squeeze the tune into a 9th.

Angus MacKay’s Cabar Féigh (from The Piper’s Assistant, 1843) is a short, sound 2-strain version which, within these constraints, keeps to the tune’s parameters apart from copying the ascending strain 1 bar 7 phrase into strain 2.


Appearing soon after MacKay’s version, William Gunn’s 4-strain Cabair feidh in The Caledonian Repository of Music, Adapted for the Bagpipes &c. (1848) set the template for subsequent Highland pipe versions.


The ascending tag phrase again occurs in strain 2, but much more worrying is strain 3: the G-A double tonic, the very foundation of the tune, is suddenly jettisoned. This is seemingly the result of an attempt to copy strain 2 of a fiddle version without transposing it – and without noticing the resulting clash with the rest of the tune. Instead of G and A the underlying chords suddenly become C# diminished (or A7) and D, and though we now get the descending tag phrase it is out of context with the rest of the strain. It is a serious misunderstanding: if David Young can maintain a double tonic sequence for 22 strains it shouldn’t be too hard to do it for four. Blithely returning to solid ground as though nothing had happened, Gunn’s low-note strain 4 is fine – but it really ought to be strain 3.
Later in the century David Glen seems to have been aware of the strain 3 problem, if not the solution: he puts a 1 # key signature at the start of the tune, cancels it for strain 3 and reinstates it for strain 4. This would put the tune into G-A minor (strs 1, 2 & 4) and C-D minor (str 3), but only if the relevant accidentals were in fact available on the instrument. It is of course now traditional to play the tune broadly with the content and in the sequence established by Gunn, whether it be as a reel, march, strathspey or jig, but ‘tradition’ is a value-neutral term, and not of itself ‘a good thing’.
You may or may not be convinced that there is a problem here, but if you are so persuaded it would be unfair not to offer you a solution. My pipe version of Mr Salvin’s Reel is scored such that it can be played on a 9-note chanter by ignoring the higher-octave notes and the accidentals, or exactly as written if these are available. An early version of the setting, with 4 additional syncopated strains, appeared in The Border Bagpipe Book (1993, out of print) and a more recent version in Over the Hills & Far Away (2006, still available).
It would be remiss not to mention that as well as the Lowlands and Borders, the tune has long flourished in Ireland under its Rakish Paddy alias, and a youtube search will lead you to a great variety of interpretations, many of them stunning in their virtuosity. Gordon Duncan in turn put Rakish Paddy onto the Highland pipes (Just For Seumas, 1994) and also turned it into an excellent 9-note jig (Just For Gordon, 2007) which, though it essentially consists of just 2 strains, features fresh ideas on each repeat.

1. From Wikipedia: Chiefs of Clan Mackenzie are titled as Caberféidh (translation from Scottish Gaelic: “Deer’s antlers”). This Gaelic title is derived from the crest of a stag’s head in the old Mackenzie Coat of Arms.
2. David Young’s 4-strain Caper Fei is in his “Duke of Perth” manuscript, a xerox copy of which is in the National Library of Scotland, as is volume 2 of his “MacFarlane” collection which contains his 22-strain version (see for Ronald MacDonald’s brave reconstruction of the damaged original). As well as its physically damaged state the MacFarlane version may be incomplete: two instances of neighbouring strains with ascending tag phrases suggest that two strains with descending tag phrases might have been omitted. The 16-strain version in Charles McLean’s posthumous A Collection of Favourite Scots Tunes &c., 1772, is similar in character, with many semiquaver passages and some syncopation.