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We are indebted, once again, to Jock   Duncan of Pitlochry, who has also forwarded us this extract from reminiscences of an Unlettered Man, by the late Robert Barclay, whose father was a piper in the Aberdeenshire parish of Forgue in the 1800s. It makes a particularly interesting companion to the Francie Markis article, describing, as it does, tricks of bellowsblown piping; such as pinching to extend the scale, and also giving an insight into repertoire which sadly was missing from the Markis biography.


MY FATHER played the bagpipes, a half sized set supplied with wind from a bellows worked by an arm...My father by what he called "pinching", extended the range a few notes, by half-opening the back hole with his thumb nail; but I do not know what holes in addition to this were opened or closed to give the extension. I have seen this device mentioned in a newspaper, in answering a query on pipe music. My father frequently played at marriages, raffles, Old Yule gatherings etc. When the late King Edward (then Prince of Wales) was married, he was piper to the scholars attending the school at Gariochsford, who were marched to a social meeting convened near the Free Church, Forgue, in honour of the royal wedding. In March 1863. Years previous, he played them in peculiar circumstances: I got a burn and ere it could be dressed, I required a "spring" on the pipes, a request granted, and so under the soothing strains of pipe-music my burn was dressed.

Frequently, the young folks near us came to our house for a fireside dance, but I never learned how to go through the reel. An elderly woman, Meggie Guthrie, came and took part, it gave us great fun to see her dancing; she stuck her hands into her sides, leaped high, both feet up together, and thus through the reel she went, causing the utmost delight and amusement to all. I knew most of the tunes, usually naming the one to play, and whether quick or slow we danced to them. Some of the tunes I still remember, among others, Miss Forbes’ Farewell to Banff, The Quaker's Wife, Lochaber No More with its slow, mournful, appealing strains; and many more, including The White Cockade, The Highland Laddie, Lord Lennox' March, O'er the Hills and Far Away, Kenmure's On and Awa’ and many others, grave and gay, too numerous to mention.

My mother's favourite tune was entitled He's Coming Here , etc and words, of which the following are two lines, were sung to it; "He's coming here, and he will be here. He's coming here for a' that. He's coming bonnie o'er the hills. that will take me fae ye a' yet, etc" Another tune, Old Adam had words that were sung to it, but are now forgotten. "We never miss the water, till the well runs dry."

I remember my father relating that once, when on a visit to MacDuff, a few friends went out in a boat, for a pleasure sail; he had the pipes with him. When out at sea, they came across a ship, the JACKEY TAR, the captain took them aboard; where they were well treated, while he discoursed his music. After spending a pleasant hour or so they were put into their boat. They were taken up on one side of the ship and put off on the other. This as looked on as a mark of respect.