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Manual Trucco, LBPS Secretary (and, until recently, Treasurer), read a paper at the 1993 AGM which responded to most of the points raised by Andy Hunter.

I have read with great interest Andy Hunter's recent letter [CS Dec '93] and the replies of several members of the present Committee. I believe Andy has raised a number of vital questions about the Society, As Secretary and Treasurer I have come to know what I believe are the strengths and shortcomings of the   Society.

A first question concerns the identity of the Society. To address this I shall sketch a profile of the our membership. The Society has currently 220 members, of which 165 (78.9%) are resident in the UK and 43

(20.6%) abroad, Of the 165 members in the UK, 79 are in Scotland (37.8%), 86 (39.1%) in the rest of the UK. These figures suggest to me that there is good interest for the Society in Scotland; and this interest should be further encouraged. Let me also point out that our Scottish members are best placed to attend our events. If they don’t as much as we expect, it is our task to make the events more appealing and better advertised. A second message from the membership figures is that there is an     interest in the lowland pipes of Scotland worldwide and this, as I shall develop later on, I regard as a great strength for the Society as a Scottish cultural institution.

A second point raised by several Committee members is that the Society has lost its original focus. 1 am not sure about the in- tentions of the founding members; however I am sure that the Society has done and is doing a lot with and about the lowland pipes, and is asked for more by its       members. I regret I could not attend the last Collogue, which I hear dedicated much space to international bagpipes and their music [See the report on the Galashiels Collogue elsewhere in this issue, Ed.]. I would remind those who saw in this a loss of focus or coherence that all the previous three Collogues were strongly focused on the lowland pipes, and all the recent regular and extraordinary Society's initiatives have concentrated exclusively on the pipes of Scotland: the Burns Suppers, the annual competition, the tutor, the excellent new book of tunes, Common Stock, the study day are only the most obvious examples.

This leads me nicely into another worry about identity, namely the music played by our members on the lowland pipes. The in- troduction of new styles and of European music has been cause of concern for some. Let me reiterate here that the strength of the Society is to be a dynamic entity in a changing world, By following and taking part in the evolution - the inevitable evolu- tion - of music, the Society will remain aware of the forces which make Scottish music evolve; and, in doting so, it will be noticed by these who forge this evolution, and will be able to have a say in reaffirming the importance of history and tradition, which is the necessary basis for any evolu- tion. Falling this, the Society runs the risk of becoming an obscure institution at the periphery of the dynamic Scottish musical and cultural scene.

Neither obscurity nor marginality is what we desire for our Society, nor what our members expect, nor what we can do for Scottish music. The primary need of today, and an exciting one indeed, is to play and encourage people to play, the lowland pipes. In the past ten years, the Society has collected a huge corpus of information, music and material, through the remark- able and patient work of several members. It is now time to make this material come to life and become music, through sessions, courses, tapes, study days, tune books and the like. Music that people can play, play together, and play with. Music that can make people curious, and come back for more, and write their own. This music will be the music of Scotland, of yesterday and today. What is a sheet of music without a musician?

Andy Hunter has suggested to contact the highland piping community as the only large piping community in Scotland. Two things must be said in this respect. First, the highland piping community has already started to contact us. Two examples are the interest expressed by some highland piping shops towards selling our tutors, and the concert organised by the RHPS this year [1993]. There are the conditions for acquiring many more members from the highland piping scene. The Society must be ready for this; being unprepared would mean to be discredited in the eyes of a community which boasts centuries of solid piping tradition. Second, while the Society must and will liaise with the highland piping world, it must not do so as though blowing the emergency call of a group feel- ing besieged by the outside. On the contrary, contacts should be made as an active cultural group with a unique competence in its subject, from the point of view of research, music and performance. All these elements exist in the Society today.

Finally, a word about Scottish identity. As a non Scottish (indeed non British) person, I regard as inappropriate to express views about the political situation in this country, and all the more so in my official capacity of Secretary. But let me express the thoughts of an outsider. I would consider it severely counterproductive for the Society to link its name to political finalities, no matter whether right or wrong, instead of pursuing its cultural objectives, and should this happen, I would not hesitate to distance myself from it, Secondly, let me reiterate that the real strength of the Society is in its unique instrument, and in the worldwide interest for it. Feel for change, respect for tradition, open mindedness, and an efficient organisation are what we should work on. 1 strongly believe that the Society should seek its identity in the practice of its instrument. Let’s make this possible efficiently; and, as much as we can, let’s play and encourage to play, the lowland pipes of Scotland.

____________________________________ From Gordon Rust, Banffshire

I am writing to express my views on the LBPS.

Broadly I think we should get back to the 3 types of Pipes known to be played in Scotland, and which are supplied with air via a bellows.

  • The now popular Scottish small pipes, any pitch. The main point being that they are bellows blown, and have a chanter that should be playable using the normal Scottish fingering. This chanter should have the ‘flattened seventh’, characteristic of Scottish pipes. If the piper wished to have a ‘sharpened 7th’ then I see no reason why there should not be a key for this.

As to drones, more than just one but tuning as the piper wishes - not as laid down in any rule book! I see no objection to shuttle drones if so required either.

  • The full size Lowland Pipes - again bellows blown - again responsive to Scottish fingering and having a flattened   Seventh. Should be capable of overblowing one or possibly two notes in second octave.
  • The Pastoral Pipes. Again a chanter of conical bore, responding to the Scottish fingering with a flattened Seventh obtained by cross-fingering. I have recently heard of this type of pipe being called the Scottish Uiileann Pipe - which I don’t consider to be too far from the reality. .

So to sum up - the drones, number, style and tuning to be left to the piper - no rules here.

The common characteristic of all the pipes played by the Society’s membership should, in my opinion, be that the chanter should be open, and play a Scottish scale using Scottish/Highland fingering. How else in the olden days did the pipers swap about from one type of pipe to another with such apparent ease - since all the instruments they have left seem to suggest this.


From Matt Seattle, Northumberland

All major differences between myself and Dr Andy Hunter have been amicably resolved. I happen to agree with many of Andy’s points but was disturbed by what I thought might be a hint of nationalism. I think pipers from all nations (however these are defined) should not be arguing with each other, but uniting against the common enemy, the anti-culture represented at the moment by Mr Blobby and his minions.

The Lowland and small pipes being revived within and without the Society were played on both sides of the present Border. Much of the same music was played on both sides also, and while the spoken accent changes at the Border, the same dialect words are found from Newcastle to Aberdeen. And that’s just the East coast, which was settled by Angles. So in one sense that part of Scotland is Anglo, but not Saxon, and not Celtic either. Any attempt to lump the Anglo-Scots and Celtic Scots together under the outdated idea of a nation is based on a faulty premise - what about the Northern English, who arguably have more in com- mon with their Lowland Scots neighbours than the latter do with the Gaels? Will the Shetlanders want Viking liberation? [!]

The proposed name change is a waste of time. As for the present emphasis on Scottish smallpipes in the Society, this is a reflection of the current state of affairs which is quite likely to change as more people take up Lowland and Half-long pipes.

[The above is 2 combination of extracts from two letters written by Matt Seattle in the wake of the 1993 Collogue. Ed.]


From Robert A. Greensitt,

Whitley Bay

I fully support Andy Hunter’s proposals [Common Stock Dec 1993], as 1 feel that the Society has deviated from its original intent. For example, although the programme of the recent Collogue was in- teresting, it failed to promote the pipes and their indigenous music adequately. I was surprised to hear English and East European pipes being played rather than Scottish bellows pipes. Is this representa- tive of the members’ feelings? One potential Lowland piper told me that he had come to find out about the pipes and Lowland music but after two days was none the wiser.

I have actively supported the Society from the early days at the College of Piping and have organised meetings in Northumberland, the latest in March of this year [1993]. I feel that the Society has not given me credit for this support. [This is only an extract from Robbie’s letter, in which he instructed that the whole letter be published unedited. However the publishing of all or part of any manuscript submitted must be at the discretion of the Editor - otherwise his title would surely have to be changed to "Collator"! Ed.] From Calum Delaney,

South Africa

I appreciate Andy Hunter’s point of view [Common Stock December 1993] but I'm not certain his construction of the purpose of the Society is the most useful. My feeling is that it is such inward-looking that has resulted in some of the stagnation highland pipe music has wallowed in for some time, certainly prior to the seventies. It was this that put me off that sub-culture and helped me discover small pipes of one sort or another. What most attracted me to these, and the people who played them, was the lack of adherence to any fixed tradition and a willingness to allow the instruments and the music to grow and develop. Like language, this is essential for their survival. On a more general level, I’m not altogether keen on nationalism either, and its attendant aggression and/or laager- mentality, so I suppose I'm also a bit prejudiced.

I still haven't managed to afford a set of small pipes yet (our exchange rate isn’t helping matters), but I continue to enjoy fiddling around with practice chanters and assorted lengths of garden irrigation hose plugged in to my pipe bag, and playing a different sort of tune on my highland pipes.


From C. Alec MacLean, California

There are some fine professional pipers in the world, but there are many more amateurs, people who work hard at it, and do the best they can. Likewise, though many bagpipes are made by professionals and experts, there are many people out there making a lot of sawdust trying to build a set of pipes or two. The main difference is that although most pipers learn from a teacher in a time-honoured manner, most pipe builders have to learn by picking up bits and pieces of skills and information wherever they can.

And of course let’s face it - everybody wants to know more about reeds.

For this reason I am starting a small newsletter just about making bagpipes. I would like its readers to range all the way from the person who has yet to put gouge to wood, to professional builders. And unlike newsletters devoted to all aspects of only one kind of pipe, I hope we can hear about the building of all kinds of bagpipe.

In fact I believe that one of the strengths of this newsletter will be what the makers of one kind of pipe will be able to learn from those making another kind.

Its publishing frequency will be as often as there are enough articles, letters etc to make an issue; I expect to make it four pages, and hope to get submissions of scale or measured drawings, tips on tools, woodworking techniques, reedmaking, tuning, leatherworking, and everything else that goes into making a bagpipe.

If any of your readers are interested, please have them contact me at:

427 Mayellen Ave. San Jose,

CA 95126, USA.

From B.G.Nelson, Seven Stars Cottage, Downend, Horsley, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL60PF.

It is now clear that there is a critical     situation as regards the supply of tropical hardwoods for the making of musical       instruments. A recent report by Dr. Mike Read of the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society gives a gloomy picture of the outlook for the survival of many of the ‘tonewood’ species, and it is time that makers who use blackwood, ebonies and rosewoods, and their customers, to acquaint themselves with the known facts. For     instance, African Blackwood, which is widely used in the manufacture of bagpipes, will become totally unavailable in less than twenty years at the current rate of exploitation, and yet the maturing time for the tree is at least seventy years. A similar situation applies to most, if not all of the best known tonewood species.

It is clear that unless there is a change in practice as regards these timbers, the certain outcome is the extinction of the supply of an inherently renewable resource, if not the extinction of the very species. It is equally clear that no individual company or person can be expected to act unilaterally, and that only an agreed policy among suppliers, makers and ultimately customers will have the significant impact to the good which the current situation deserves.

To this end, I should like to see an open meeting of makers and suppliers convened, to assess the situation, receive the learned opinions of the Fauna and Flora Preserva- tion Society and other experts who may agree or dissent from their assessment, and to make a beginning of thrashing out a policy which will hopefully give these trees, which supply us with these extremely beautiful woods, the long-term future which they deserve.

The current best information on the state of the tonewood supply is contained in a small booklet entitled Ebonies and Rosewoods - Requiem or Revival? by Mike Read, and it is available £1.50 from FFPS, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR. Tel 071 823 8899.

I have sent a similar to this to as many journals as I can think of, and to some individuals and companies. I should very much welcome feedback as to my proposal, and I am prepared to act as a ‘clearing house’ for anyone who would support the idea of setting up an open discussion on this matter. I should be very grateful if this letter could be brought to the attention of as many makers and players as possible, so that there is public knowledge of the difficulties which makers will certainly face either now, responsibly, or later when there is no more ebony, rosewood, blackwood, cocos,     pernambuco and so forth for future makers.

[See also COMMON STOCK Vol 3 No2

Nov 1987 "Hardwoods On Way Out". Ed.]


From Andy Hunter,


The question you raised about repertoire

[Andy's attention was drawn to a letter in Common Stock, Dec 1993, asking for Lowland music to be defined. Ed.] is central to the Society’s existence because if such a repertoire does not exist we are merely a group of bellows pipers who happen to meet in Scotland; at the same time. If that repertoire is unable to evolve, then we are nothing more than the curators of a musical museum. Thanks to the recent debates, some of the vital questions surrounding our raison d'etre are being asked and I am reasonably confident that these will be resolved fairly soon. The key to all our troubles lies in our Competition because it is here that we make a public statement about what we stand for (complementing a similar statement from within the pages of C.S.). I sincerely believe that a careful definition of the Competition categories, with some new ones inserted, will go a long way to solving many if not all of our difficulties as I perceive them. The most important factor is to find a suitable niche for our highland pipers playing lowland pipes - there are probably 85 many of these if not more than playing members of the Society at the present time. It is a nonsense that there should be no place for such players within our Scottish society while we seem to be prepared to accept just about any other European piping influence. If we create two (possibly three) new competition categories along the following lines, we will have welcomed the Highland pipers to the fold and simultaneously removed the idea that this is anything other than a Scottish centred society.

I suggest we create a new novice competi- tion in two parts:

Novice A: players who are new to any kind of bagpipe and have not been playing for more than two years. Additional points allotted for the playing of such tunes as have appeared in the Society’s publications - but this is not compulsory. Entrants to sign a declaration.

Novice B: players who have played other bagpipes (the majority will have played Highland pipes) but have not played Scottish bellows pipes for more than two years. Highland repertoire and fingering acceptable here. Entrants to sign a declaration.

The Open solos and duets for two pipes:

Category A: Soloists relying for the most part on the Scottish/Northumbrian tradi- tion as established In our publications and in accordance with their own research and instinct (judge’s decision crucial here therefore no audience judging in this category).

Category B: Soloists relying for the most part on established highland solo and pipe band repertoire and fingering. Judge and audience judging.

Pipe Duo: (one category only) - any repertoire or combination of repertoire (this includes jazz, French, neo-English, Hungarian, Pakistani etc. Judge and audience,

Pipe and other repertoire: (one category only) Judging as above.

New Compositions: In the

Scottish/Northumbrian/Highland mode with credit given for the best tune to exploit the musical identity of the instrument. Panel of judges (2 - 3). No audience participation.

Singing and Piping: Open repertoire . Judge and audience,

The creation of an opportunity for the Highland/Lowland pipers to air their skills and repertoire will undoubtedly take the tension out of the debate surrounding the Scottish identity of the Society and would, as far as I am concerned, render the argument on the Society's name obsolete. Avoiding an over-dogmatic approach to repertoire in some categories and allowing for freedom of expression and musical   exploration in others, should ensure that the Society’s commitment to a flowing tradition will not be questioned.

Now for your original question about “Lowland repertoire”. In a sense we have to approach this question positively and negatively by saying (positively) that the “Lowland repertoire” is the part of our   national musical heritage in Scotland which is preserved either in archive collections still in many cases to be exploited fully by researchers, or indeed used in our Scottish country dance music (especially in original tunes often carrying the name of the dance) and in our songs. These researches will naturally lead us across into other traditions notably Northumbrian and to a certain extent Irish traditional music. As a society with a large overseas     membership we should be redoubling our     efforts to sponsor research and publication as much as possible in order that our overseas members can cultivate the same instinctive “feel” for our music as those of us who are already aware of and sensitive to, the Scottish tradition. The negative side of the definition would be to exclude from “Lowland tradition” all that part of con- temporary Highland solo and pipe-band piping which has been composed specifically for the bagpipe and is now fully accepted as a living part of the bellows pipes repertoire in Scotland today.

If we think of the evolution of the music being played on the small pipe, it will hopefully come from at least two principal sources of inspiration - FROM THE PAST in the shape of the revived Scottish/ Northumbrian tradition as reflected in a) Gordon Mooney’s publications and b) developing archive material via variations and new composition reflecting the old style (Matt Seattle) FROM THE PRESENT in the influence of those aspects of the contemporary Highland playing which lend themselves to the instrument i.e. by promoting its specific musical characteristics, This does not exclude us from adopting contemporary Northumbrian composition or indeed from researching archive Highland piping records for inspiration. A third possible source of evolution will undoubtedly come from existing European traditions.

If we adopt all of these at once and uncriti- cally as a society, we will merely be         contributing to the HYBRID homogenised folk muzac commonly referred to as “roots” music. Individuals are free to do as they wish, but the Society through its publica- tions and competition has an opportunity to control evolution so that all our traditions are kept in equilibrium while continuing to speak effectively to each other in an ongoing creative dialogue.

As you know, Jock, I am not one to flinch from controversy, so here we are again . . over the top in the name of Scotland. Please let’s have other opinions . . it can surely only do good!