Orford Musique, Quebec 12-14 October 2018

Canada has many strong connections with Scotland, particularly the work ethic and the piping. The strongholds of Canadian piping are of course Cape Breton and Ontario. So why choose to hold a Scottish themed bellows piping weekend at a music school in Quebec? First the location in the Mount Orford National Park is breathtaking and reminded me so much of Scotland. Secondly the Orford Musique campus is a very unique and spectacular location particularly during the blazing reds, oranges and yellows of the leaf colours of the trees of Canadian Fall (Autumn). That alone is worth coming to this area to see.
Orford adjoins the beautiful old town of Magog set at the end of the magnificent Lake Memphramagog, that looks similar to Loch Ness and also has a lake monster called Memphrie. This area was settled by American Loyalists and Quebecois from the 1790's. The people are a mix of Scots, Irish, Anglophones, Francophones and First Nations blended together. Orford Musique was founded in the 1960's as an art centre but is now used primarily during the summer as a teaching and performance venue for young international classical musicians. The campus is custom built to cater for musicians with various practice rooms, a concert hall, beautiful accommodations and excellent French inspired cuisine.
Starting an event from scratch takes a lot of work and I didn't really know if there would be interest in Scottish music in a French Canadian area. I knew that there were bellows pipers in Vermont, some in Ottawa and others in the further reaches of Nova Scotia, Toronto and further afield on this large continent. I was acquainted with Alan Jones in Montreal and Robin Aggus in Guelph but most of the musicians in the Eastern Townships play Irish or French Canadian music, Jazz or Country music.
Bertrand Savoie the manager of Orford Musique was very encouraging and supportive when I approached him about holding an event at the school. He gave me available dates of 14 -16 October and a quote for accommodating 25 people. I approached the LBPS about getting some seed corn funding and the Committee were most generous in providing support. I had seen some videos by Ben Miller and Anita MacDonald from Halifax N.S. and was very impressed and decided to invite them to come and tutor and perform at the weekend. I also booked piper, Tim Cummings from Vermont and fiddler Alex Kehler from Quebec to play on the Sunday .I then set about putting posts on Facebook and sending out publicity to anyone I could think of. The LBPS also publicised the event in their newsletters. I had a steep learning climb to put together a website page that enabled payment through paypal and gave detailed information about tutors and the planned programme of workshops talks and concerts.
Almost immediately I started to get enquiries from LBPS North American members. Suitably encouraged I began to put together course materials. When a piper booked a place I asked them what their favourite tunes were. This enabled a common repertoire to emerge which I circulated. Using CelticPipes software and PDF format I also circulated about 30 tunes that we could study or take away.
On the 12th October - Friday afternoon from about 4.00pm pipers and their partners began arriving. Some had traveled considerable distances. Pat Taylor and his wife Jeanine had traveled from London Ontario by plane and car. Mike Ufford had driven from Toronto. Robin Aggus and Marilyn Baxter had driven from Cape Breton, coming from the Celtic Colours Festival, as had Ben Miller and Anita Macdonald. Others came from “nearby” Montreal, Ottawa and Vermont
We provided apple pies, cakes and home made shortbread with juice, beer and wine for an ice-breaker welcome party in the lounge/kitchen area of the accommodation block. Soon the pipes came out and it was clear right away that we were all going to have a great time together.
On Saturday morning we crossed the lawn to the Cafeteria for as full a breakfast as you could ever imagine. We then met in the rehearsal room under the cafeteria for a general discussion about the bellows bagpipes of Scotland led by myself and Ben Miller which became a question and answer session. We then broke into two groups to look at tunes with a view to publicly performing our choices on Sunday afternoon. Ben and Anita took a group who were more comfortable learning by ear and I took a group who were happier with music scores.
Before lunch Kate Macdonald led a Yoga session for pipers to limber up, stretch and relax.
Lunch was a delicious three course meal with all the trimmings. We sat at circular tables and got to know each other better. We also shared the cafeteria with a lively group of young musicians from Montreal.
In the afternoon session we worked on the tunes we had selected to play and swapped over groups and then came together for a reprise. Dinner was another delicious three course meal with many choices.
“Bagpipeology” with Alan Jones and Gordon Mooney was introduced by Robin Aggus by giving a blast on Highland Bagpipes. The show/lecture was a light hearted romp through the world of bagpipes with slides/ interspersed with tunes on various bagpipes – Scottish Smallpipes, Border Bagpipes, Northumbrian Smallpipes, Irish Bagpipes, etc in solos and duets.
A session followed in the accommodation lounge with more cakes, shortbread and drinks and went on into the small hours. We were joined by harpists Nancy Lyon and Susan Palmer. Cape Breton tunes, Border tunes, flute tunes, whistle tunes and familiar Scottish bagpipe tunes rang out through the night.
Sunday morning began with another complete breakfast. Piping, talking and performing gives one a good appetite! Tim Cummings and Alex Kehler joined us for breakfast and we were all soon in the downstairs rehearsal room listening and joining in an interactive performance with Tim and Alex who introduced us to French Canadian (Quebecois) foot percussion and some of the music of Quebec. Tim also showed how he transferred a Breton melody to Scottish smallpipes using tape to produce accidentals needed in the melody.
Alex taught a tune 'La Promeneuse' which was the tune of the weekend., bringing French Canadian music to the bagpipe. Alex said that, although a modern tune, it has become an anthem of Quebecois music. A beautiful sunny morning with autumn colours all around was the perfect setting for a group photo. We all gathered under an old cedar tree and took several photos - then it was time for our final meal together – another culinary triumph by the Orford chef!
At 2.00pm people began arriving for the impromptu afternoon concert and soon the room was filled with local people eager to hear the bagpipes. The group I had been tutoring started off the concert joined by Tim and Alex then the group Ben had been tutoring played. The group pieces were followed by duets from Tim and Alex, Gordon and Nancy, Alan and Alex, Robin and Marilyn. The concert ended with rousing sets from Ben and Anita on Border pipes and Fiddle playing the traditional pipe music of Scotland and Cape Breton.
Too soon the weekend was over and our new friends had to depart back to their homes. The beautiful rooms and facilities and the experience and expertise of the staff at Orford, in dealing with and for musicians made the weekend very special and a truly wonderful experience. We shall return in 2019 on the weekend of 27th to 29th September 2019. Hope to see you there.
Comments from participants
● “Congratulations Gordon on a great weekend. Kate and I really enjoyed it. What’s not to like? Hope we do it again.” (Donald Macdonald)
● Gordon, I Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the “Rendezvous.” Lots of fun and very educational for me as a beginning smallpiper. It was great to meet you and Nancy and to hear you play in person. Tutors were great and the location was super. Looking forward to next year already.Michael Ufford (Toronto)Hi Gordon & Nancy,
● I agree, the Rendezvous was a great success. I was much impressed with the tutors, & enjoyed chatting with them as well. I trust the project for next year will succeed. Yours aye, Pat Taylor (London Ontario)
● Thanks very much for the Rendezvous and all your hard work, Maddy and I had a great time. We're still talking about it and last night we had a session with some local band folks and we played some tunes from the weekend. I'm looking forward to next year.. too bad it's so far off.. Lochie Bisallion (Montreal)
● Gordon, Thank you for organizing the fantastic weekend... Orford Musique is so beautiful. It was fun teaching the little yoga class! I would be pleased to offer one again next fall : )Thanks again...Sincerely, Kate Macdonald

La Promeneuse

Réjean Lizotte (b. 1940, Quebec)
Via Princes et Habitants (Y. Falquet & P. Gemme, 2016)
Arr. pour la cornemuse écossaise: T. Cummings

la promeneuse 


The 2019 Pipers’ Rendezvous will be once again held at Orford Musique, Friday 27th to Sunday 29th. For details contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website at www.oddscotland.com/pipers-rendezvous-2019

Edric Ellis reports on this year’s event

The 2nd Newcastle Piping Festival took place to great acclaim over the weekend of March 22 – 24, in various venues across the city and beyond. Following on from the success of the 2017 festival, this one promised to be a slightly bigger affair. Although hastily organised in the months since Christmas, a stellar line-up was promised, and did not fail to deliver a spectacular weekend of concerts, sessions, workshops and general piping socials.
The Literary and Philosophical Society on Westgate Road hosted the free opening concert on Friday lunchtime. The exam room quickly filled with pipers, enthusiasts and many curious members of the public as Iain Gelston opened the proceedings with a Half-Longs set accompanied beautifully by Sarah Tym on violin. They were followed by Chris Ormston, who impressed and delighted the audience with some amazing variation sets, played to perfection. Headlining the Friday concert were visitors Birgit Bornauw on French Musette and Flemish pipes, and her partner Benjamin Macke on accordion. Their music is a wonderful mix of baroque, traditional and modern and had the audience enthralled. That was supposed to be the full line-up, but Anxo Lorenzo had literally just stepped off his flight from Madrid, hopped on a Metro and made it to the Lit & Phil in order to end proceedings with some thrilling Galician Gaita. It was a perfect start to what promised to be a great weekend. The next event on the calendar, and a risky departure from the 2017 festival, was the Friday evening session at a new venue – The North Terrace pub. Any fears that a session filled with so many different types of pipes might be a disaster were quickly dispelled, and the evening kicked off with a host of Northumbrian pipers in G, promptly joined by Birgit on Flemish pipes and Anxo on Gaita. By 9pm the upstairs room was filled with musicians of every instrument, age and style, all contributing to a fun and enjoyable end to the first day.
After the Friday session there was a definite buzz around St. James’ & St. Basil’s church in Fenham, as the pipers and visitors began arriving in the morning. There was much discussion and chat, meeting old friends and new, and much inspection of pipes. Ross Ainslie arrived to take a lead helping out the Border pipers. Even our own chairman ventured to bring his own set of Half-Longs to the party! The Young Pipers’ Group enjoyed the expertise of Kim Bull helping them with maintenance tips, and the workshops and talks continued throughout the afternoon with Birgit and Benjamin, the Pipemakers’ Co-Op , the Uilleann Pipers’ group, Chris Ormston, Donald Lindsay and Anxo Lorenzo all doing their bit to share their expertise, knowledge and wonderful music. The highlight of the afternoon came with the launch of the hotly anticipated Fourth Tune Book, ably presented, alongside a history of society publications, by Julia Say.
A brief break to grab a bite to eat was snatched, before the Grand Concert kicked off Saturday evening’s entertainment. Concert openers Sarah Tym and Iain Gelston started proceedings with a selection of tunes drawing heavily from the long tradition of Border piping alongside some newly composed pieces. Soon the vast nave of St James’ and St Basil’s was filled with the sound of Iain’s deeply resonant half-long/border pipes blending perfectly with Sarah’s sensitive fiddle playing. I hope we hear more from this interesting duo in the future.

gelston 1

As well as playing a pivotal role in organising the festival, Andy May treated us to a selection of tunes on the Northumbrian smallpipes. Andy described Billy Pigg as a great influence on his piping, and then played “Lark in the Clear Air”, one of the most well-known pieces from Billy’s repertoire. Andy’s rendition was brilliantly executed, with sweet rich vibrato shaping the tune. One of the more unexpected tunes of the evening came from a commission Andy received for a tune based on an incident relating to the availability of custard.

Uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson took the advice that one should always be able to sing the first verse of any air to its logical conclusion, and sang tenderly while the pipes provided accompaniment. His selection of Irish dance music was played to perfection, not rushed, and using the full range of technique that the Uilleann pipes afford to deliver an outstanding set.
Birgit Bornauw & Benjamin Macke brought a touch of virtuosity and originality in their interpretations of French and Flemish bagpipe music. Birgit is a piper from the Flemish part of Belgium, and played the Musette de Cour as well as the Flemish pipes (familiar to many from the paintings of Pieter Bruegel). Together with Benjamin on accordion, they played a selection of largely renaissance tunes. The delicate sound of the Musette - a bagpipe with much in common with the local Northumbrian smallpipes – was combined very tastefully with Benjamin’s accordion, and when Birgit moved to the much more strident Flemish pipes, Benjamin added depth to the accompaniment on his “foot-bass” accordion.

gelston 2

After the audience caught their breath and their bar refreshments, Chris Ormston began the second half with his inimitable demonstration of the musicality and brilliance of the Clough tradition. Highlights from his set were two of the “big tunes” of the tradition - the variation sets “Bonnie Pit Laddie” and “I Saw My Love Come Passing By Me”. The second of these is a tune for which Chris is famous, and here he returned to it, filling it with his trademark glittering runs. He was ably followed by Ross Ainslie, who assaulted the church acoustics with some fantastically fiery Highland piping on the big pipes. Ross wasted no time on introductions, playing a selection of slower tunes with great expressiveness, and faster numbers punctuated by well-articulated gracing.
Galicia in the north- western corner of Spain is home to the Gaita, a striking-sounding bagpipe, played on this occasion by noted exponent Anxo Lorenzo. He almost had a British audience dancing in the aisles with the joyous music of Galicia played to perfection. The concert was concluded with two wonderful sets by what promises to be an exciting new collaboration – Anxo, Jarlath, Ross and Andy – a combined maelstrom of some of the finest bagpipers around, backed up by Ian Stephenson on guitar. You can imagine that there were many smiling faces leaving church at the end of the night.

gelston 3

But it didn’t end there – a late session at The Globe pub continued the party for the pipers alongside many Newcastle based musicians until 2.30am. And what a party it was! The survivors’ session on Sunday, hosted in the display room at The Chantry by Anne Moore, was packed and great fun, but there may have been a few sore heads.

Roll on next spring, when the 3rd Newcastle Piping Festival is set to take place sometime in March 2020.

 Edric Ellis

The 3rd LBPS Pibroch weekend took place in April in Allendale, Northumberland, Iain Allen sent this report:

This is the second time I’ve attended this particular course which is aimed at all levels of playing, you don’t even need to be a piobaireachd player although a working knowledge of the embellishments is an advantage. The tutor for the weekend was Allan MacDonald.
The course was aimed at playing and interpreting the early piobaireachd sources and where appropriate bringing the tunes, cantaireachd and the songs closer together. With this in mind not only have some of the embellishments changed but also the rhythm compared to how we are used to hearing the tunes in competition today. Allan has done a lot of work on this subject and has recorded two excellent albums with singer Margaret Stewart exploring the relationship between the piobaireachd and song.
We began on Friday night with everyone meeting at Chris Bacon’s house for an Indian takeaway followed by a gentle session playing together in his music room.
Saturday was our main study day. Throughout the day we concentrated on four piobaireachds. Allan explained his sources for the tunes and demonstrated the changes to embellishments such as Hiharin and Cadences, before playing and singing the ground, after which we joined in. The day progressed with various breaks for tea and lunch until it was time for the evening meal. We were joined in the evening by a few local musicians playing guitar, dulcimer and singing.

big music 1

Host Chris Bacon leads the first session on Saturday morning

Sunday was our final day and once again we went through the grounds and variations we had looked at on Saturday, in some cases we continued through the whole tune. As lunchtime approached the pace slowed down as we chatted about some of the music and what we had learned. Allan then introduced another tune which he demonstrated in both modern style and the style in which it was originally written. After hearing this my personal preference is for the earlier style, and I doubt I’ll be playing the modern style much in the future. After lunch photos were taken by Ian MacKay before we all started to disperse.
Chris and his wife Ann deserve special thanks for generously opening their home to everyone on the course and were fantastic hosts, Ann worked throughout the weekend preparing tea, coffee and various meals.
Whether you like piobaireachd or not, Allan has a refreshing approach which may just change your mind about the genre. It was a very enjoyable weekend and well worth taking part, not only did I get to play lots of great music but did so in good company with new friends.

This is the second time I’ve attended this particular course which is aimed at all levels of playing, you don’t even need to be a piobaireachd player although a working knowledge of the embellishments is an advantage. The tutor for the weekend was Allan MacDonald.
The course was aimed at playing and interpreting the early piobaireachd sources and where appropriate bringing the tunes, cantaireachd and the songs closer together. With this in mind not only have some of the embellishments changed but also the rhythm compared to how we are used to hearing the tunes in competition today. Allan has done a lot of work on this subject and has recorded two excellent albums with singer Margaret Stewart exploring the relationship between the piobaireachd and song.
We began on Friday night with everyone meeting at Chris Bacon’s house for an Indian takeaway followed by a gentle session playing together in his music room.
Saturday was our main study day. Throughout the day we concentrated on four piobaireachds. Allan explained his sources for the tunes and demonstrated the changes to embellishments such as Hiharin and Cadences, before playing and singing the ground, after which we joined in. The day progressed with various breaks for tea and lunch until it was time for the evening meal. We were joined in the evening by a few local musicians playing guitar, dulcimer and singing.
Sunday was our final day and once again we went through the grounds and variations we had looked at on Saturday, in some cases we continued through the whole tune. As lunchtime approached the pace slowed down as we chatted about some of the music and what we had learned. Allan then introduced another tune which he demonstrated in both modern style and the style in which it was originally written. After hearing this my personal preference is for the earlier style, and I doubt I’ll be playing the modern style much in the future. After lunch photos were taken by Ian MacKay before we all started to disperse.
Chris and his wife Ann deserve special thanks for generously opening their home to everyone on the course and were fantastic hosts, Ann worked throughout the weekend preparing tea, coffee and various meals.
Whether you like piobaireachd or not, Allan has a refreshing approach which may just change your mind about the genre. It was a very enjoyable weekend and well worth taking part, not only did I get to play lots of great music but did so in good company with new friends.

Iain Allen

As your editor was finalising content for this issue, two further reports on the weekend arrived each of which added other experiences of the event: the first is from Allan Sturrock:
Saturday began with a morning of tuition from Chris who started us on “The Unjust Incarceration” or An Ceapadh Eucorach. This tune had been studied at last year’s event but for most of us it was completely new. Some had never played pibroch before, or even listened to it, while for others it was a long time since.
On Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning we had workshops with Allan who has a very appealing “off-piste” approach to pibroch. Originally this music was never written down but passed on through singing. Canntaireachd is a formalised method of singing tunes to bring out the music, the melody, the timing and the, sometimes intricate, decorations that give pibroch its unique character. Allan has turned away from the printed score (other than as an aide memoire for pupils) and bases his interpretation of tunes on the Campbell Canntaireachd. This is how he was teaching us – first by singing the tunes then by playing along with him. The results seemed to be much smoother and more interesting. The teaching focussed on the “Urlar”, or ground of the tunes, so we were not fighting with the intricacies of crunluath and crunluath a mach fingering.
Other tunes studied included, Siubhal Sheumas, Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay and Lament for Mary Macleod, the last learned completely by ear with surprisingly tuneful results.
Allan Sturrock
Caroline Barden described herself as a pibroch beginner: she describes some of her experience of the weekend:

When the Friday evening meal was over, our pipes came out and the session began. I enjoyed playing with so many experienced pipers and my fingers soon found the rhythm in many of the tunes, while for the fastest tunes I sat back to listen. The pibroch workshops started on Saturday morning. The first workshop, led by Chris Bacon, was held at a steady pace and involved lots of discussions for experienced players. This was perfect for someone like me who is new to pibroch.
The workshops on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning were led by Allan Macdonald, who inspired us with his knowledge and enthusiasm. The pace picked up; by then I was feeling a little more confident and starting to get some understanding of the form. We played as a group and I gained so much from listening and watching the fingering while I played. . For me the weekend was over all too soon. I had played nearly non-stop for two whole days – so much more than usual – and thoroughly enjoyed it, I came home with a renewed love of my smallpipes.

Caroline Barden

 big music 2

The company gathered for the evenng meal at Wooley Hall, home of Chris and Anne Bacon (photos by Ian Findlay MacKay)

Pete Stewart explores the mysteries of drone harmonics in search of an elusive concordance

Some of my favourite pipe tunes, particularly those written in the last fifty years, are in D, rather than in A. Playing these tunes with drones in A, however, has always left me less than satisfied. Recently, in response to a different question, I decided to figure out why. What follows is described in terms of smallpipes; conical bore chanters with drones one and two octaves below the chanter’s root have a difference of balance of harmonics, both with the drones and in themselves.
We all know that for a piper, the great joy of the instrument is the wondrous effect of the chanter being in accord with the harmonics of the drones. I was therefore both consoled and surprised to finally convince myself that, travel as far up the stack of harmonics that a drone can produce as you may, you will never find a ‘just’ fourth above the root; that is, an A drone just doesn’t produce a good ‘D’ anywhere in its harmonic series.
Perhaps it’s worth stating exactly what is meant by a ‘just’ interval, although to do so means dealing with numbers, which I know are not everyone’s cup of tea, so I’ll try to keep it as straightforward as the topic allows.
The bagpipe drone that is said to sound an ‘A’, you are probably aware, in fact sounds a whole series of notes, thanks to which we are able to get the instrument in tune with itself (the poem quoted in the article about the Dumfries pig piper in this issue includes a description of the drone as ‘a stick that holds the notes’) For reasons of simplicity I am going to assume that the frequency [the rate of vibrations per second] of the lowest of these notes, the one we use to identify the pitch of the drone, is 110 cycles per second. Now, the series of sounds produced by such a drone consists of a mathematical series known, not surprisingly, as the ‘harmonic series’ (although it is only indirectly linked to the idea of ‘harmony’); it consists of frequencies related to each other in a simple mathematical way. The second in the series (taking the ‘root’ A as the first) is 2 times the frequency of the original [220cps, the pitch of the ‘tenor’ drone and the tonic of the smallpipe chanter], the third is 3 times that of the first, 330cps, and so on. You may be aware that these notes, starting from the bottom A are, nominally, A3, A4, E4, A5, C#5, E5, A6 etc. (middle C being C4)




Relation to previous harmonic









































Table 1: the harmonic series for a drone in A 220cps

You can perhaps see these notes are getting closer together, the intervals between them getting smaller.1 We have the octave, the fifth, the fourth, the ‘major’ third and the ‘minor’ third. After this come a couple of unacknowledged intervals: 7/6 of the ‘minor’ third generates a note which Table 1 calls F## and 8/7 generates an A above that note.(these two intervals don’t appear in conventional European music). Following on, we have two ‘tones’, one ‘major’ and one ‘minor’, notes which are respectively 9/8 and 10/9 times the frequency of their preceding neighbour.2
Now, we can establish the frequencies of the notes within a single octave by reducing each by a suitable fraction so that they all lie between 220 and 440;











Table 2: the harmonics reduced to a single octave range

But what about our ‘D’, the tonic ‘home’ note of so many wonderful tunes? We know that it is a fourth above our tonic A so its frequency should be 220*4/3 [the same proportion that relates the E’ and the A’’ in our drone harmonics], that is 293.33cps.
Now there is probably some erudite proof somewhere, but I’ve convinced myself by doing brute calculations for long enough to satisfy me that nowhere in the harmonic series of a drone pitched at 110cps will you hear a note that is 293.33 multiplied by any power of 2.3 That is to say, you cannot tune your ‘D’ to a consonant tone in an A drone, and your ‘pure D’ tonic is therefore unsupported by it. The nearest harmonic is the 11th, which, by our nominal values, would require a frequency of 302.5cps for the D, very sharp of pure. This is the principal explanation for the ‘dry’ sound that a tune in D produces, compared to one in A.4
Is there a solution to this problem? Well, no, strictly speaking there isn’t. But there might be a compromise to be reached which will enable us to continue to play all those wonderful D tunes with satisfaction. Let us leave aside the matter of the drone for the moment and consider how to tune the chanter so that we get the best possible intervals in the key of D.
Let’s consider the intervals of a ‘major’ scale of D. The crucial ones are D/F# and D/A [the third and fifth], but also of interest is that of A/D [the fourth] the determinate of our V/I cadence, the fundamental cadence of most of the ‘D’ tunes we play.
Looking at the table above, it is clear that, in addition to D, we have not yet established from our drone harmonics, an appropriate frequency for either F# or G. Now if we want a ’just’ value [that is, one that is mathematically determined by the harmonic series] for the important intervals of fourth and third, then our D, as we have seen, must be 293.33cps. Our third, F# must then be 293.33*5/4=366.66. Note that the interval between this F# and the E below is now 10/9, what we can call a ‘minor tone’, equivalent to that between the 9th and 10th harmonics. Also, the interval between our D and E is a ‘major tone’, 9/8 [frequencies 293.33 and 330]. Together, these two intervals, a major tone and a minor tone, make up a ‘perfect’ third. [9/8*10/9=5/4].
This is all well and good and to it we can add the one missing note, the G, which for playing in D should ideally be a perfect fourth above the D, 586.66*4/3=782.213.5

But, and the but is inevitable in a time-bound world, what about the intervals between the other notes in this D scale? Ideally for playing in D we would want just intervals for the triads of G too; especially we would like a perfect major third G-B. What does the system outlined so far give for this interval? G=195.5; B=247.5; now a perfect third above 195.5 is 244.44 [195.5*5/4]; our third is thus a little sharp. In fact, it is a major tone above the A; since our G is a major tone below the A, what we need for G-B to be a perfect third is the minor tone. So let’s put a little bit of tape over the six-finger hole, to lower the B. However, the result now gives us a B which can be heard to conflict with the 3rd harmonic E of the bass drone, being no longer a perfect a 5th above it. So, perhaps we should leave the B in its whole tone tuning above the A and raise the low G instead, to 198cps. This retains the true third between the low G and the B, but what has now happened to the ‘perfect’ 5th that we had established between the low G and the D? It is now short of a true 5th (198*3/2 =297).
Ok, so suppose we raise our D to this new pitch of 297cps. Sounds unlikely? It was at this stage in my musings on this topic that I was reminded of an article Barnaby Brown had written in Piping Today some while ago, where he demonstrated that up until around 1950, the recordings of some of the finest Highland pipers revealed just such a ‘sharp’ D, and that this appeared to be the same with the late 17th century Iain Dall chanter that he and Julian Goodacre had been working on reproducing.6 Using such a pitch it was possible for the two triads ACE and GBD, which form the basis of so much early pipe music, to be pure intervals, sacrificing the ‘pure’ fourth of A-D. (Using this tuning, the D is now a minor tone below the ‘pure’ E, rather than the usual major tone). The interval between this new D and the F# is now two minor tones rather than the usual combination of a major and a minor. The true third interval from this D would need to be 371.25cps; (I find that my chanter, which is tuned to play covered-fingering, actually has this tuning for the F# - in order to play a ‘pure’ 6th with A as the tonic requires the 3rd finger of the top hand to be raised; it is only during the compiling of this article that I have uncovered this subtlety.)



















Table 3 The pitches of the ‘revised’ chanter scale

All we need to do now in order to play happily in D is to do something about the drones. Firstly we can plug off the bass, which is sounding E and C# harmonics in conflict with our chanter’s D. Assuming we can re-tune our baritone drone to D3 (148.5cps), it so happens that nature has devised a means whereby a bass D is (to a certain extent) available. This comes in the form of what are called ‘difference tones’. By the magic of acoustics, when two sounds of different frequencies are sounded together they generate an ethereal extra sound which has the frequency of the difference between the two played frequencies.7

Now if we sound two tones a fourth apart, a D at 146.67cps and an A at 220cps (our tenor drone), they will produce a low D at 73.3cps.

However, we have just re-tuned our chanter D to be 297cps. If we tune the baritone drone to an octave below this D (148.5cps) then the ‘difference tone’ against the A is 71.5cps and thus the bottom D is now slightly more than two octaves below our chanter D. You are, I hope, beginning to understand the problem.8

These frequency differences are tiny, it’s true, but in training themselves to tune their pipes, pipers learn to attune their ear to such things - in an imperfect world compromise is the only solution; it’s a question of which compromise is the best in any situation.
For smallpipe players a compromise set-up for playing in D can be achieved by slightly raising the pitch of the chanter’s G and D, shutting off the bass drone and re-tuning the baritone to D. Unfortunately, this last device cannot be deployed on the conical bore chanters with all drones in A and no baritone drone. But many of those D tunes are so good that conical-bore pipers are gonna play ‘em regardless …



1. You will probably also notice that the difference in the actual cycles per second remains constant; this is because the increase in ‘pitch’ is logarithmically related to the increase in frequency. Isn’t mathematics wonderful?

2. The existence of these two slightly different intervals of a ‘tone’ is something of a musical secret, but it is the root cause of all the problems we have in tuning the chanter to play just intervals in different ‘keys’.

3. The frequencies of the D’s rise by powers of 2 every octave, whereas those of the harmonics rise by 300cps each step. The mathematical proof probably relies on the fact that these two series can never coincide, that is, that no power of 2 is divisible by 3. It might be succinctly stated in the form ‘there is no whole number value of n such that 3n =2^x where x is a whole number. It should also be noted that how the harmonics that are present in any drone actually sound is a product of its material, its geometry and its manufacture.

4. It is true that when playing a D on the smallpipe chanter, it itself generates a harmonic series of which the third is an A which will be in tune with the fourth harmonic of the tenor drone; this may not be easy to hear.

5. With allowance made for recurring decimal 3’s or 6’s, the result of dividing even numbers by 3.

6. In the extended version of this article, to be included in The Highland Bagpipe, Music, History, Tradition, Barnaby Brown describes this wide fourth as ‘colourful’ and points to examples of its use in fiddle traditions, particularly in Norway..

7. There are also ‘sum tones’, which are what we might expect. I have not taken them into account here. For a striking demonstration of the magic of difference tones, I recommend the slow air played on two whistles on the first Chieftains’ LP. So distinct is this ‘third’ voice that it is possible to transcribe it and demonstrate that the pitches are the mathematical consequence of the voicing of the two ‘real’ parts.

8. I should add, perhaps, that this tuning is ideal for the earlier Lowland repertoire which is sometimes described as ‘double-tonic’ in character. In this article I have been addressing the more modern problem of tunes in D major.


baritone 1

baritone 2

baritone 3

baritone 4 

This article was originally published in the June issue of Common Stock in 1999. It is directly reproduced here from the archive. Julian tells me he has not read it since. For those who are interested to pursue the matter of tuning the chanter which Julian did not delve deeper into we have added the following:

Paul Roberts ponders an enigmatic comment from history.

The following is an extract from an unfinished monograph on the three regional bagpipes frequently referred to in 17th century English sources: the “Lincolnshire”, “Lancashire” and “Scotch” bagpipes. This grew out of two short talks to the International Bagpipe Organization and the Bagpipe Society in 2016-17, and a short article based on those talks which appeared in Chanter, Winter 2017.

Some background may be necessary to make sense of the extract. The essay suggests that the Lincolnshire, Lancashire and Scotch bagpipes were probably refined “pastoral” instruments rather than authentic peasant bagpipes, the names containing a strong metaphorical component, and it stresses the importance of the east coast sea highways in their evolution and dissemination: both the maritime connections to Scandinavia, the Baltic, and the Low Countries, and the major coastal trade route linking Kent to Caithness. It suggests that the European “Dudey”, a Pastoral small pipe, entered east coast ports from northern Europe and became the “Scotch” (later “Northumberland”) bagpipe, and that it formed the template for the bellows-blown great pipe that appears in the paintings of the two Van Heemskercks (London/Oxford c.1680-1720), an instrument that is clearly the ancestor of our present day “Border pipe”. It argues that the Heemskerck instrument was in fact the “Lancashire bagpipe” of period literature, and that while there is some evidence for Lancashire roots, much of the development and refinement probably took place in London. Moreover.......

“………There is yet another region to be considered in the evolution of the Heemskerck/Lancashire bagpipe. In the late 18th and 19th centuries Tyneside, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen were the main centres for manufacture of this instrument (and other types of bellows pipe) and north-east Scotland was to remain the instrument’s most important outpost in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is tempting to see this deep connection as a pointer to an original heartland. There is one piece of evidence for this, though as usual it is problematic. In 1814 the antiquarian Alexander Campbell interviewed Walter Scott’s uncle Thomas about the “Border bagpipe”. Among other things Scott made a surprising observation:
“Mr Thomas Scott is decidedly of opinion that the Border bellows-bagpipe is of the Highland (or, at any rate, the north-east coast) origin, as all the pipers with whom he was acquainted positively declared. This is a remarkable fact, not generally known, and difficult of belief.”

Campbell was only the first of many to find this hard to believe. After all, there is no real evidence for the instrument in either Highland or north-east Scotland before the late 18th century, unless we stretch things a bit and count the Ballinton piper (who may be 18th century anyway, and who may be playing a smallpipe). And clearly Campbell, a Highlander himself, had no knowledge of the instrument in his native region. However, if we discount the “Highland” bit as reflecting a border farmer’s view of Scottish geography (or perhaps his nod to fashionable Highland Romanticism) and look at the all-important qualification “or, at any rate, the north-east coast”, it starts to make sense, as long as we realize the limits to Scott’s knowledge. His list of “the best bagpipers of the border, most of whom he knew personally”, in fact only names seven individuals, six of them from the same small area of north Roxburghshire - four from a 15 mile stretch of the Tweed valley between Galashiels and Kelso, and two from Jedburgh some 15 miles to the south: i.e. all from Scott’s own local area. He later mentions the Allan family of Yetholm, about 8 miles from Kelso. So this is a small and geographically very limited selection of men, and given their proximity to the east coast sea-highway (23 miles from Kelso to Berwick-on-Tweed, 35 miles from Galashiels to Edinburgh) it seems quite likely that they would indeed have sourced their instruments from the area between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, the heartland of bagpipe manufacture in 18th century Scotland, and a major source of any new ideas coming from England or Europe. The problem with extrapolating from this an ultimate north-east Scottish origin is that a bagpipe known in London in the 1680s, and possibly as early as the 1630s, could have been travelling up and down the east coast maritime highway for 100 years by the time Scott was born in 1731, and be nearly 200 years old at the time of his meeting with Campbell. Ultimately the survival of this instrument in Northumberland and eastern Scotland is probably more indicative of the rapid decline of bagpipes south of the Tyne in the 18th century than of anything else. But perhaps we shouldn’t be looking for a single point of origin anyway, particularly for the simple idea of configuring a great pipe like the smallpipe, which could easily have occurred in several areas independently: there is no reason the instrument should not have Lancashire, London and Aberdeenshire roots, with ideas flowing back and forth along a three point network centred on London.”


1st Matt Seattle The Guidwife o’ Jethart
2nd Pete Stewart On Pirnie Braes
3rd Julian Goodacre The Winner


Matt explains: “Last May (2018) while my wife Irene and I were walking along Jedburgh High Street we bumped into Dawn Bird, the landlady of The Canon pub which hosts the best traditional music session in the Borders (Mondays, 8:30 pm till late). I introduced Dawn to Irene as "the guidwife of the Canon", we had a wee bit blether, and moved on. But the "guidwife" (i.e. landlady) stuck in my mind and niggled; there's a Gudewife of Peebles (Nathaniel Gow), a Goodwife of Morpeth (A N Other), so why not a Guidwife o Jethart? And all with different spellings (c.f. Jedburgh, Jeddart and Jethart, all names of the same place).
Once I'd I found the first four notes, the rest of the tune arrived easily. I knew it was a keeper, and as it stayed within the 9-note scale it was also the best candidate of my recent tunes for the composition entry to the annual LBPS competition

On Pirnie Braes

Pete explained that while exploring early maps of the Pencaitland area he learnt that the woods through which he regularly walks had once been (and to some still were) known as Pirnie Braes - pirnie, he said, is a Scots word for a wooden bobbin (among other meanings), and that the braes (along the banks of the Water of Tyne) had once been home to pirnie-makers.on pirnie braes in Common Stock

Pete explained that while exploring early maps of the Pencaitland area he learnt that the woods through which he regularly walks had once been (and to some still were) known as Pirnie Braes - pirnie, he said, is a Scots word for a wooden bobbin (among other meanings), and that the braes (along the banks of the Water of Tyne) had once been home to pirnie-makers.

pirnie braes richard webb

The Winner

the winner

Julian confessed that his tune had been slyly titled; he informs us he will be submitting one next year titled ‘The Third’

Judge: Hamish Moore
1st Zexuan Qiao Ginglin Geordie

Judge: Hamish Moore
1st Bill Telfer Wild Hills of Wannie
2nd Allan Sturrock Wee Michael’s March/ The March of the King of Laois
3rd Jeannie Campbell Lord Lovat’s Lament/Forty Twa/ Falkland Palace
Judge: Hamish Moore
No winner
Judge: I MacInnes
1st Andrew Macintyre & Donald Gorman Da Smugglers/ Underhill/ If I get a bonnie lass/ Hama rower da Tai
2nd Pete Stewart & Leo Glaister Two Untitled Schottisches
3rd Donald Lindsay & Zexuan Qiao Bay of Harris/ Lochaber Badger
Judge: H. Moore
1st Sadie Maskery & Pete Stewart Matty Groves

THE SKEELY PIPER (2018 theme - Scott Skinner tune)
Judge: Hamish Moorei
1st Andrew Macintyre Sunset on the Somme/ Farewell to the Creeks/ The 8th Argyll’s Farewell to the 116eme Regiment de Ligne
2nd Norman McLeod The Battle of the Somme/ The taking of Beaumont Hammel/ So sad am I
3rd Matt Seattle No Man's Land aka The Green Fields of France (Eric Bogle) / Flowers of the Forest.
Judge: I MacInnes
Joint 1st
Donald Lindsay Sheepskins & Beeswax/ Old Joes/ Rambling Pitchfork
Andrew McIntyre
3rd George Greig She Moved Through The fair
Judge: I MacInnes
1st Judy Barker Christmas 1914
2nd Donald Lindsay The Isle of St Helena
3rd Julian Goodacre The Gallowa Hills
Judge: Neil Clark
1st Norman McLeod & John Kelly Mary Scott, The Flower of Yarrow/ Mrs Hamilton of Pitcaitland
2nd Matt Seattle & Bill Telfer Border Ballad/ The English Bring Ti Gratney Green the lassies that hae Siller
Judge:: I MacInnes
1at Ian Gelston Cannie Willie Foster
2nd Matt Seattle John Anderson my Jo

Judge: Hamish Moore
1st Chad Fross Tunes Unknown
2nd Abbey Arkotxa Tunes Unknown
3rd Geoff Jones Tunes Unknown
Awarded by the Judges for the greatest contribution to the performance of Lowland and Border music on the day of the competition
Matt Seattle

This year’s LBPS competition again took place in The National Piping Centre West End Venue - Otago Street

Ian Findlay Mackay sent us a collection of photos of the event; he has also made a video of highlights which can be seen on the LBPS Forum FaceBook page and on the lbps.net website.



Clockwise from top-left:
Matt receives the London Trophy for new composition from Janet Lowe.
Ian Gelston receives the Hamish Moore cup for solo border pipes;
Zexuan Qiao with the Heriot and Allan Quaich, Novice class
Andrew Mcintyre: Open solo smallpipes;

An unusual, if not unique, feature of this year’s competition was the presentation Julian Goodacre gave of his recently published collection ‘Some of Me Tunes’, which he had been invited to introduce. He gave an entertaining summary of the book and its contents, including the story of his family’s ‘Toy Theatre’ (see the photo below) and the revealing story that accompanies his tune ‘Earl Grey’. He was joined by Pete Stewart on fiddle to perform another of the 256 tunes in the book, ‘Mud Games’.
There will be a full review of this unique publication in the next issue of Common Stock, but you can read more, and buy the full-colour or black & white version from Julian’s website, https://goodbagpipes.com



Gathering in the Competition Reception at Otago Street



Matt Seattle continues his series for pipers playing in sessions

Our third episode gathers together four modern pipe-friendly jigs which are all played in sessions around Scotland. Three lie within the 9-note range; two are composed by pipers; and two aren’t. All four have elements of syncopation which, though not a novel phenomenon in Scottish traditional music, is now more popular than ever. We hope you enjoy playing them.
The Road To Banff, by Aberdeen-based flute and whistle player Malcom Reavell, was published in the TMSA’s The Nineties Collection edited by Ian Hardie, and has since become a session favourite.

RoadToBanff resized

Fiddlers Gavin Marwick and Jonny Hardie both play and have played in many bands, notably Iron Horse and Old Blind Dogs respectively. Gavin informs me that Sandy Broon’s Jig forms part of their collaboration on “a wee suite of tunes for the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen … Sandy Broon is the owner … it’s a good venue for a gig and there’s session nights as well – he’s been encouraging music in the town for years!”


Glasgow-born piper and whistle player Fraser Shaw had a long association with Islay, and was a well-loved and active musician and prolific composer both there and on the mainland. Sadly he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2011, and died in 2015 at the early age of 34. The Fraser Shaw Trust – frasershawtrust.com – was set up in his memory to gather his tunes together in a book and on a CD to raise funds for the relief of multiple sclerosis, particularly in Argyll.
His jig A Bottle Of Vodka, Twenty Marlboro Reds And £50 Cashback, Please! was reputedly composed for Glasgow sound engineer Dave Town. The version here is transcribed from the recording Mac Ìle – The Music Of Fraser Shaw made by a group of Fraser’s friends featuring some of Scotland’s best traditional musicians brought together under the collective name The Islay Sessioners.

 Cashback resized

Strains 1 and 2 of The Musselpecker (Scots for oystercatcher) flew by in January after the composer heard the first cheeps of the year while walking along the banks of the Teviot. It was taken up by the session at the Canon in Jedburgh and so just about qualifies for inclusion here. Strains 3 and 4 flew by later and take the syncopation a little further. We shall assume that any Border piper can find c natural on the chanter, and that a skeely Border piper can also find high b.


GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENTS to Malcolm Reavell, Gavin Marwick, Jonny Hardie, and Gráinne Brady (for Fraser Shaw Trust) for permission to reproduce copyright works.



It’s often pointed out that today’s smallpipes are a re-invention. So what can be said about the ‘old’ Scottish smallpipes?

Keith Sanger’s article sent us looking for an answer to this question. The implication seems to be that the bellows and the ‘small pipe bag’ were for a pre-existent ‘small’ pipe. If there were such instruments to be had in Scotland by 1633, then we would have to assume that it was not a new thing, even if the bellows were.
The idea of using bellows to blow up a bagpipe was far from new by that time - it had been in use in Italy to inflate the bags of both the Phagotum and the sordelina from the middle of the 16th century, and one of the oldest surviving bagpipes is a bellows-blown smallpipe (now in the Museum of Art in Vienna), which appears in an inventory from Ambras Castle, near Innsbruck, dated 1596.

julian ambras castel pipes

(Image from Anuamo da Gaita, 2007, courtesy of Julian Goodacre)

A noticeable characteristic of this instrument is that it is very small - the chanter measures only 19cm (the span of my fingers totals 17cm), The bag is of similarly small size.
This is a characteristic of all the depicted 17th century smallpipes, starting with that shown in the Syntagma Musicum of Michael Praetorius, which was first published in 1619. It shows what Praetorius calls a ‘Dudey’ which, as he explains, ‘has three small drones, on e' flat, b' flat and e" flat.‘ This Dudey is not bellows-blown, but the musette that Praetorius depicted is.
The nominal key of E flat seems to be the standard for these pipes.

praetorius musette

Smallpipes from Praetorius’ Syntagma Musicum 1619: above, the Musette; below, the Dudey (top) and the Hummelchen (bottom)

dudey and hummelchen

Praetorius’s ‘Dudey’ and Hummelchen are mouth-blown. The Hummelchen appears to be the instrument that is depicted in a painting by Hendrik van Balen, dated 1605 (now in Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow - thanks to Adam Sanderson for this)

1605 hummelchen. detailjpg

Editor’s note: While collecting these images for publication, I came across a bagpipe from Praetorius that I had not seen reproduced elsewhere; it is amongst the stringed instruments, and has a double chanter. I know of no other depiction of a smallpipe with two separate chanters.

double chanter hummelchen praetorius de organ

1616 hals detil

The smallpipe in Frans Hal’s ‘MerryMakers at Shrovetide, 1616/17; the (two) drones can be faintly seen at the left of the picture


Detail from a painting by Pete Wtewael, Utrecht, 1624


This is the bagpipe depicted in numerous paintings of the ‘vanitas’ genre, but it is not until 1685 that what seems to be a bellows-blown pipe appears. By this time, James Talbot must have been compiling his manuscript of musical instruments in which he describes two ‘bagpipes -scotch’, both of which are bellows-blown.

detail tilius 1685

Detail from The Bagpiper, by Jan Tilius, 1685/1688; what appears to be a bellows blowpipe can be seen behind the drones

Paul Roberts has shown that bellows bagpipes were present in mid-16th century Italy, (see Common Stock, December, 2013) and can be assumed to have been well-known in Britain by the mid-17th century, if references in literature and masques can be taken as evidence (though I have reservations about his assumption that the phrase ‘bellows and bagpipes’ in association with ‘wind’ can be included in this evidence) But it can be acknowledged that by the mid-17th century it does seem that bellows and bagpipes were directly connected in Britain.
What all this means is that the record that has been described in Keith Sanger’s article is remarkable. It dates from the very beginning of the period when the notion of using bellows to inflate the bag seems to have arrived in Britain.
The record itself also happens to coincide with the visit of Francois Langlois to England in 1637, bringing with him his bellows-blown musette, as depicted in the famous painting by Van Dyk. Keith Sanger has shown, however, that these bellows were actually acquired at least four years earlier, so the Langois musette is unlikely to have been their inspiration.
There does appear to have been two separate traditions of smallpipe, one Italian/French and the other German/Dutch. The first of these had bellows from the mid-16th century onwards, though not universally. The second did not have bellows until more than a century later - or so we thought until now. But there is another difference, one of equal interest. The French musette was pitched in G; the German dudey was in Eflat. Given the potential of changes in the actual frequencies these terms relate to, these are the equivalent pitches of the 18th century Scottish smallpipe, and the Northumbrian smallpipe.
The oldest surviving Scottish smallpipe is the so-called ‘Montgomery smallpipe’. (See Hugh Cheape’s article in Common Stock, December, 1989; the Montgomery in question was the 11th Earl of Eglington, descendant of the Earl who figures in Keith’s article as the commander of the regiment the purchaser of the bellows served in.) The chanter of these smallpipes, which are now on display in the Museum of Scotland, is not much bigger than that of the Austrian one from 1596 - 198mm. The pipes as they are now are mouth-blown, but Cheape suggests that this may not have been their original set-up - there is evidence that the blow pipe is not original.


When Julian Goodacre copied this set, he found that it needed only slight adjustments to the reed to set it up to play in D. The reeds he first used produced a chanter pitched more or less in E. (Recall the remark in George Skene’s diary of 1729, where he describes a set of pipes as being ‘so flat that they tune to the violin’ - presumably to the D string.) Julian’s presentation on the making of these pipes, and his measurements, are in Common Stock, December, 1991. Without any further evidence, it is tempting to assume that this was the Scottish tradition, and that William Jack’s smallpipes were similarly pitched.
What the Rutherglen Burgh records therefore suggest is that smallpipes were being played with bellows, not only much earlier than hitherto assumed, but at a time when it was unusual in the Netherlands and Germany..

We shouldn’t leave this discussion without a mention of two other ‘remnants’ of the early days of the smallpipe in Scotland. The first dates from the 1590’s; it is from the painted ceiling that was found at Rossend Castle in Fife (now in the National Museum of Scotland). Most of the designs in the ceiling are taken from Claude Paradin’s: Devises heroïques, first published in Lyon in 1551, and in London in 1591. The Rossend artist has significantly enhanced the original, particularly by the addition of a second row of finger-holes, making this perhaps the earliest depiction of a double-bored chanter. He has also painted a very different kind of chanter stock, and a matching drone stock - all of which suggest that he was familiar with a bagpipe of this kind.

 rossend ceilingpipes

Above :: part of a panel in the ceiling from Rossend Castle; Below ; detail of Paradin’s emblem. Below left, the piper at No 1 Duck Row, Jedburgh.

paradin 1557 musette


The second depiction, rather different in character, is the piper that sits on the gable of Number 1, Duck Row in Jedburgh. The house has a ‘marriage lintol’ over the door with date 1604 (possibly to be read as 1609)


This figure has often been taken as playing a standard set of ‘border’ pipes; Unless the artist chose to allow his work to be totally restrained by the risk of damage, he was in fact depicting a smallpipe, and most likely, one with the kind of shuttle drone depicted at Rossend. Both these pipes, of course, are mouth-blown.

1984 cover

Bellows- and mouth-blown Scottish smallpipes being examined in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh. The photograph was apparently taken in the mid-1930s.
It was reproduced (with the above sentence as caption), on the cover of the second issue of Common Stock, November, 1984

mary tudor june 1999

A detail of satirical sketch in Colville’s Account Book, 1540, which shows Mary Tudor playing has been thought to be a mouth-blown smallpipe. This image was printed on the cover of Common Stock for June 1999, and a an image of the full page from the source is on page 33 of that issue. However, it seems that what has been taken to be a pipe bag is in fact part of the figure’s clothing.

Keith Sanger reports on the discovery of the earliest evidence for bellows-pipes in Scotland

Most of the early history of the bagpipe in Scotland leans more on theory than hard facts. The oldest surviving instrument we have are the original parts of the ‘MacIntyre Pipes’ which only date back to 1674.1 Beyond that the evidence has to come from some stone carvings and manuscript illuminations, sometimes of debatable accuracy. This can certainly be augmented with contemporary written references, but these also lean more towards generalisations rather than solid detailed descriptions of the actual instrument.
We now know a lot about the pipers themselves, their names, where they were and in many cases what their function was, but the only thing we can say with any certainty about their instruments is that by circa 1600 there were two sizes of bagpipe in use. One described in contemporary terms as ‘small’ and the other as ‘Large’, or more commonly in Scots as ‘Great’. Beyond that, over the course of the 17th century, there are a number of references to the cost of a bagpipe or its repair and the purchase of new bags2 but it is not until 1671 that another firm description appears. This occurred in a work by the English playwright Thomas Shadwell which referred to a snuffle worse than a Scotch Bag Pipe that has got a flaw in the Bellows.3
Until now that was the earliest datable evidence that some Scottish pipers were using bellows-blown pipes, but a recent discovery, (by TB), has indicated that bellows were actually in use by around 1633 or earlier. The evidence comes from an entry in the Rutherglen Burgh Court book from the 21 February 1637 when a piper called William Jack was ordered to pay Richard Meikle piper in Strathaven the sum of £5 along with 10 shillings of expenses. The debt was described as ffor the pryce of ane great pype ane pair of pype bellowes ane small pype bage and for the counter burdoun of ane great pype. These were bought and received by Jack from Meikle about four years previously according to Jack’s own confession.4 The piper Richard Meikle does not seem to have been noticed before, but William Jack is probably the piper of that name who served in the Earl of Eglinton’s regiment between 1640-41.5
Although short, apart from the pair of pype bellowes and ‘pair’ in this instance is being used in the older Scots meaning of ‘complete’, the entry conforms with that early division of Scottish bagpipes into ‘large’ and a small’ sizes. However in this instance it adds a new variation to the description with what seems to be an optional extra with its reference to the counter burdoun of ane great pype. The use of ‘counter’ in this context to describe a ‘burdoun’ or drone seems to mirror the word’s seventeenth century use of the term ‘counter tenor’ to describe a higher pitched male voice. In this case it presumably indicates a drone of higher pitch than the bass drone of the ‘great pipe’ and what would in today’s Great Highland pipe be simply called a tenor drone.

Keith Sanger and Thomas Brochard
4 May 2019


1 https://www.academia.edu/7961285/Fact_and_Fiction_The_Bannochburn_or_MacIntyre_Pipes_and_their_owners
2 Sanger, K. ‘Patronage or the price of the piper’s bag’. Common Stock. Volume 24, No 2, (December 2009).
3 Shadwell, Thomas. The Humorists. Act !, (1671)
4 Glasgow City Archives. RU2/1/2, fo. 45v
5 Sanger, K. ‘The pyper has gone for a soldier’, Common Stock. Volume 24, No 1, (June 2009).

 On the subject of ‘small pip’ and ‘great pip’, Keith Sanger also sent us this, from the Stirling Presbytery Minutes for 1600:

The quilk day comparit James mcfarlane piper in auchinbowie quha being accusit for prophanatione of ye sabbath be playing upon publiclie upon that craig callit ye peace craig querby many pepill was conveinit to dancing at ye quilk tyme tulzeing and bludshyd fell out to the dishonre of god and the profanation of his holie sabbath. The said james confessed that Alexander Bruce appierand of auchin bowie his master tuke him violentlie furth of his house and brak his small pip Because he refusit to play and thairafter compellit him to play upon the great pip and alledgis all that he did , he was compellit [therto] & the brethrein ordaines ye said alexander bruce to be [produced] to answer for ye said offence and .... ‘