page 3


We are still very ignorant about the historical geography of the Lowland/Border/half-long pipes. They may have been played as far south as the Yorkshire Dales, they were certainly played as far north as Aberdeenshire, their chief bastion was undoubtedly the Borders, and in most areas they had virtually died out by the end of the 19th Century, though there were still isolated players and even odd pockets of popularity around the turn of the century. Beyond this we actually know very little, but a growing body of evidence does point to another fairly definite conclusion: that the instrument's second great stronghold was Aberdeenshire, and it may have lingered on here longer than anywhere else.

In 1816 Thomas Scott (Sir Walter Scott's uncle and a Border piper himself) stated to Alexander Campbell his belief that "the Border bellows bagpipe is of the Highland ((or, at any rate, the north-east coast) origin". Campbell was sceptical of this claim, which probably stemmed from Scott's desire to coat his instrument in the fashionable Highland romanticism that plagued the period, but it does suggest that the Lowland pipes were already particularly associated with the north-east as well as the Borders, Certainly many of the sets in museums today were made in Aberdeen, Even more interesting is a comment in Duncan Fraser's Some Reminiscences and the Bagpipe. Writing in 1907, Fraser stated that "(bellows pipes) still linger on in these islands; in Northumberland, in Aberdeenshire, and in one or two parts of Ireland", which seems to suggest that the instrument was still fairly popular in Aberdeenshire in the early 20th Century.

As it happens, I have been able to unearth some information about one of the most celebrated Aberdeenshire bellows pipers of this period. I first came across references to Francie Markis whilst listening to The Deil in the Kitchen-Auld Scots Fiddle Pieces (Folktracks cassette FSD 60 069). The tape includes an interview recorded by Peter Kennedy and Hamish Henderson in Aberdeen on July 29, 1955, with Jimmy Stewart, a fine old-style Strathspey fiddler, in which he reminisces about the noted local musicians of his day.

J.S. It's old Joseph Sim, and there was a young Joseph Sim.

H.H. Oh aye.

J.S. And, er, Francie Markis, well he was more of a bass fiddler, and played the bellows pipes, the bagpipes, many a

time in Turra market.

H.H. He played the elbow pipes, the cold wind pipes?

J.S. No, the bellows...aye, the cold wind pipes, the bellows pipes...and I've seen him myself many's a time in Turrif market, playing and him getting hurled on to a three wheeled coach, or perambulator or whatever you like to call it...

What was particularly exciting about this passage was the possibility that a Lowland piper of Jimmy Stewart's generation could still be alive. A quick letter to Hamish Henderson produced the following highly informative reply, which I think worth reproducing in full.

",..The piper referred to was Francie Jameson, better known as 'Francie Markis', who used to play the ‘caul' wind’ or bellows pipes at Porter Fair in Turrif (='Turra') for many years. You will find a photo of him—in his Other guise as a 'bass' player—in the photo section following page 160 in Mary Anne Alburger's Scottish Fiddlers and their Music (Gollanz 1983). This photo belonged to the late J.F. Dickie, the 'slow strathspey king' who died earlier this year at the age of 97. It is also reproduced on the cover of the Topic record James F. Dickie's Delight (12T 279). Incidentally, there exists a very rare photo of Porter Fair-— which was the Turriff ‘feein' or hiring fair—and anyone interested will find it reproduced in the booklet accompanying the Tangent LP Bothy Ballads (TNGM 109). It shows the farmers in their wide=-brimmed tall hats, and the farm servants in their broad bonnets, but not—unfortunately— the redoubtable Francie Markis with his caul' wind pipes!