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Ray Sloan sent a not-so-tongue-in-cheek “announcement” to the Piping Times - part of which is reproduced here:-

As of next week I shall be manufacturing the GREAT HIGHLAND BAGPIPES. I’ve never made them before, but I reckon that with my skills as a maker of SMALLPIPES I can make them as good as anyone!

Yes, I am joking. I can just imagine the roars of indignation amongst the worshippers of the

G.H.B, especially the manufacturers of the lovely beasts (yes I do love them as well!). A Smallpipe maker making the Big Pipes, outrageous! I would actually go along with that also, if I tried to set up making them ‘just like that’.

So, why is it that makers of the G.H.B. reckon that simply because they make good Big Pipes (presumably) they can just set up making Scottish Smallpipes overnight?

I am addressing the fact that there are a growing number of G.H.B. manufacturers who are suddenly announcing that they are supplying Smallpipes of their own make. I am prompted by having been told by yet another Highland Bagpipe Maker, and one of distinction (no names), that they are now going to supply Scottish Smallpipes and that I should “watch my back” . . Well. If the ones I’ve seen to date by these various makers of Big Pipes are anything to go by I have nothing to worry about. Those in question have been little more than expensive ornaments, and not very good ones at that, or expensive bundles of firewood, all of which conspires to give Scottish Smallpipes a bad name.

The Smallpipes are a refined instrument and one very difficult to produce successfully. Smallpipe reeds are much more sensitive and reaponsive to pressure than the Big Pipes and it takes a great deal of skill, knowledge, experience and sensitivity to set them up, tune them and balance them properly.

I know that the Smallpipes struggle to gain a respectful place amongst the Highland Piping purists but I believe this is a struggle that we are winning.

I suppose the fact that one after another makers of the Great Highland Bagpipe are ‘trying’ to make the Scottish Smallpipes is some kind of recognition of their merits and increasing popularity. It’s a shame, however, that this recognition must be at the same time putting people off through some of the sub-standard products being manufactured. The old adage springs to mind “Beware of poor imitations”!