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Roger North (c.1 651-1 734) wrote extensively on the music, and the musical instruments of his time, and a selection of his writings was published in 1959: John Wilson (ed), Roger North on Music: being a selection from his Essays written during the years c.1695 -1728 (London, 1959). As a youth of fifteen, Roger accompanied his elder brother, Francis, who was then Lord Keeper, on a visitation of the northern circuit. Of the Lord Keeper’s reception in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Francis wrote on 1st August 1676 (p.41).

“The best enterteinment he had was at Newcastle, where the magistrates were sollicitous to give him all the diversion they could, and one was the going down to Tinmouth Castle in the towne barge. The equipment of the vessel was very stately, for a-head there sat a 4 or 5 drone bagpipe (the North Country organ), and a-sterne a trumpeter, and so wee merrily rowed along ... which comical equippage afforded me infinite diversion.”

North made a further passing reference to bagpipes when discussing ‘Hautboys’ (p.231);

“The ability to ‘stop’ the tone was not shared by the Bagpipe, which otherwise ’would be a glorious instrument, and wholly releive the breath, but as it is, the variations of the tones run into each other without direct distinction, which makes a whiffling tone, so much despised, that the instrument falls to the share chiefly of mendicants.’”

(Researched by Sean Donnelly.)