From Colin Ross,

Whitley Bay, Northumberland

My thoughts on naming the bellows bagpipe with the conical chanter are currently this: 1. The name Half Long should only be applied to that body of pipes made by Robertson for the Scouts and Northumberland Fusiliers in the 1930s, and should be given the full title of Robertson Half Longs. No one else made pipes with the baritone drone so they are a discrete batch of pipes made by and for people who had no idea of the historical configuration of the drones, using a name that had never been used before in that way. It’s much a meaningless term as ‘Cauld wind’ pipes is today.

2. The bellows blown pipes with 2 tenor drones and a bass or alto tenor and bass I call Lowland or Border pipes. The drone con- figuration was either/or both sides of the borders and you cannot be any more precise than that in naming them. At least it dis- -tinguishes them from the Small pipes, Scottish of course.

The tuning of the chanter in either diatonic A or modal depending on the position of the top G finger hole makes little difference in my opinion as the G nat or G# can be fingered in either hole position.

So that is it. Either Robertson Half longs or Lowland/Border pipes. Half Longs by themselves do not exist, they are a mythical bagpipe existing only in the minds of Robertson and his misguided advisers in Northumberland.


From Seumas Richmond,

Wideopen, Northumberland

With reference to your Editorial query in

December’s COMMON STOCK. Among

the various spare time occupations that I’ve had, I list that of engraving, both on wood block and copper sheet. If I’m drawing a picture onto wood prior to engraving it, and I know that it will look OK either way, then I do just that. If there is anything identifiable - such as buildings, shop names etc., then I have to resort to reversing the picture before I commence engraving the lines. May I hazard a guess that this sort of thing happened in the past, where the laborious task of reversing a picture, and working in the reverse view was considered a bit       tedious.

Even - today - photos are sometimes printed the wrong way round, and many people don’t notice it until I point out vari- - ous features like buttons on the wrong side of a coat, a bonnet and badge on the wrong side of a head - and here I’m including the LBPS logo, with the bonnet on the wrong way round!!

There is one other theory, and that is that a right-handed player who is completely self-taught tends to use his right hand at the top of the chanter, which is where the more complicated fingering is required, and then has to put his bag under his right arm, otherwise his left hand would tend to pull the chanter away from the vertical, if it were otherwise. (This happened with Pete Rowley of Stagshaw in Northumberland, who is right-handed; and I know of several Highland pipers who have done likewise).

However I stick to my first theory, regarding the engraving, which I think is the explanation.


From R A Greensitt

West Monkseaton, Northumberland

Further to the comment in your Editorial about right- and left-side bag positions: A quick look at old paintings will show that the majority of pipers held their bags either under the left arm or clutched centrally to the chest. However, the majority of engravings will show the bag centrally held or under the right arm.

The simple reason for this is that the average engraver makes a normal image on the plate, which is reversed when a print is made; i.e. a left-side bag becomes a right-side bag. A few engravers were capable of making a reversed image on the plate, which produced a true image when printed.

In most cases it makes little difference whether an image is left- or right-handed.

The interesting feature of the pipers on the “Festival of Allan’s Admission to the Class of Minstrels” engraving is that they are playing 17th-century mouth-blown Flemish pipes, not the Breugel type.

This seems to be another example of plagiarism of “The Bagpipe Player” by Abraham   Bloemaert, ca 1625. For those interested I suggest re-reading Hugh Cheape’s excellent contribution in Common Stock, Volume 9, Number 2.

P.S. The rumour that Heriot and Allan are no longer trading has raised its ugly head again. I would like to reassure our customers that business continues as normal.


From Rory A.P. Sinclair, Ontario, Canada

Much as I like the conical bore “border sound”, I find the tuning of the chanter and reed quite a daunting task.

It seems that the tiniest fraction of a CPS that the chanter note is incongruent with the drones makes such an unpleasant sound to my ear as to make it appear as if it is off by 10 CPS.

I cannot decide if the problem is my being simply unused to the sound of this chanter or if the tolerances for tuning are much nar- -ower than I have experienced on the GHB.

I have spent literally hours simply trying to get my instrument to “hum” as I can my GHB but it is slow going. I do get little victories along the way, one note at a time which sometimes last but other times survive only a day or two.

The good news about going through this painfully long and arduous process is that when it ends, as it surely must, I will know my instrument so much better than having someone come along and ‘fix’ it for me.


From Bill Telfer, Hong Kong

A few years ago, inspired by your account of drastically altering a chanter and making your own reeds, I managed to hack mine into some kind of shape which gave reasonable satisfaction, though playing very sharp.

Ref your interview with Alan Jones

[COMMON STOCK Vol. 10 No.2, Dec

95], I didn’t really agree that Lowland Pipes [conical bore] need more tender loving care than smallpipes, rather it’s the other way around.

Once set up and reeded to ones satisfaction, my experience is that they remain pretty stable compared to smallpipes, whose very smallness renders them much more susceptible to even minor changes in environmental conditions and need far more frequent upkeep and maintenance than the sturdier pipes.

I have just stopped to read Nigel’s article again [COMMON STOCK Vol 11. No.1 June 96] and what he says does sound quite convincing. One disagreement about his closing remarks though - Border pipes are the ideal pipes for Folk groups, if only the other members of such groups would give up their disturbing preference for playing in D and G! OK so your A Border chanter is actually an A/D chanter (and when I used to read Bagpipe Society publications I noted that they used this sensible description). Similarly you have G/C pipes. But the G you want for traditional music is in the middle of the chanter, four fingers off.

I don’t think they can make a Border, i.e. conical, D/G chanter without it sounding at a squeaky high pitch or, alternatively, with holes spaced for a giant.

So you have to invent the Union pipe chanter or the Pastoral chanter or stick with smallpipes. Personally, and for the group I play with, where we do Scottish/ Irish/Northumbrian stuff mainly, I find the D/G Scottish smallpipes are the main pipes I use, with the Border pipes coming in to give a bit of a lift occasionally, and I expect this is the experience of many of us.