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Jeannie Campbell, a founder member of the LBPS, is also a member of the Pibroch Society, and president of the Scottish Pipers’ Association. Jeannie has just published a new book “Highland Bagpipe Makers”, which is the latest of a distinguished series of treatises and articles, mostly in the Piping Times. This article gives the bulk of her talk at the recent Col- logue, and the [square brackets] provide editorial adjustments from spoken to written word.


I’ve been researching Highland bagpipe makers for some time and have been surprised to find that many Highland pipe makers in the 19th Century also made bellows blown pipes of various types, Highland, Lowland, Irish or Union. I’m using the names Irish and Union in this talk because that seems to be what they were called at the time.

Price lists from the second half of the 19th Century show that makers usually made three or four sizes of Highland pipes, the full size Great Highland or military bagpipe, the half size or reel pipe, a second size reel pipe sometimes called a Lovat reel pipe, and a miniature bag- pipe. The reel pipes of both sizes were offered with the choice of mouth blown or bellows blown. The full size and the miniature were mouth blown only. The miniature pipes had a cylindrical bore chanter like a practice chanter and the other sizes had a conical bore chanter. The reel pipe was just a smaller version of the Great Highland bagpipe and, as the name suggests, it was used when played for dancing.

As so many makers offered bellows blown reel pipes we can assume that there was a demand for them and pipers bought and played them. We do have some evidence of this, for example it is said that when Calum Piobaire Macpherson played at a dance he would open the proceedings with a tune on the Great Highland bagpipe then sit down with the bellows pipe and play for the dancing for the rest of the night.

... you could smoke a pipe at


the same time and if you played top hand tunes you could probably manage to take a drink at the same time as well.


There are obvious advantages to this as we know. If you played the Highland pipe all eve- ning you had to stand up, you had to blow, the reeds got wet and you had to keep re-tuning and so on. If you played the bellows pipe you could sit down, the reeds stayed dry and stayed in tune longer, you could smoke a pipe at the same time and if you played top hand tunes you could probably manage to take a drink at the same time as well. the Low Countries they use bellows to their pipes and have enlarged the compass of the instru- ment by adding pinching notes.


One of the oldest books on piping is ‘A Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe’ which was written in 1760 by Joseph Macdonald, and published some years later by his brother Patrick, who made some additions and alterations to it. This book describes the Highland bagpipe then


goes on to tell us that the Highlanders also have a smaller bagpipe identical except in size but used only for dancing music. The book goes on to say that this lowland bagpipe is described at great length as “..insipid and having no music of its own although it is tolerably well calculated for violin reels and some pipe jigs.” This is, of course, written by a Highland piper, and as we know there are still some Highland pipers who don’t like bellows pipes.

Now to some of the makers. It could be that many other Highland makers also made bel- lows pipes, but I’m only going to talk about the ones where I have either a price list includ- ing bellows pipes or know of an example of their work.

First is Hugh Robertson. He was married in Edinburgh in 1754 when his occupation was given as ‘turner’. He was listed in the Edinburgh directory from 1775 to 1788 as ‘Turner and Pipemaker’, Castlehill. In the Clan Donald papers there’s an account from him for sup- plying a Highland bagpipe mounted with ivory at the price of £3 and he made the Prize Pipes for the Falkirk and Edinburgh competitions from 1781 to 1811. He also made bellows pipes and there are a couple of examples of his work in the National Museum’s collection, both sets have bass, tenor and baritone drones and regulators and one has silver mounts with a hallmark of 1793-94.

Next is Donald Macdonald. I’m not going to say much about him as we had a talk on him a couple of years ago. Before becoming a pipe maker in Edinburgh he was what you might call a typical Highland piper of the time - he came from Skye, he had been in the army and he played in piping competitions. He advertised in 1817 that he carried out the business of pipe making in all its branches and gave lessons on the Highland and Union pipes. The Ross Collection in the National Museum has examples of various chanters made by him. [The College of Piping Museum has an instrument made by Donald Macdonald about 1816].

We have another interesting instrument in the museum. It’s from Canada and is a Highland bagpipe except that it’s got bellows.

Next the MacDougalls. The MacDougall family were pipers to the MacDougall chiefs in Argyll before moving to Perthshire in the service of the Campbells of Breadalbane at Tay- mouth.Castle. Allan MacDougall was a piper at Taymouth Castle in 1781 and later started a pipe making business in Perth. His son John took over the business in about 1834 and was


followed by his son Duncan who was born in 1837. Duncan was a top prize winning piper from the age of 17. He took over the pipe making business in Perth in about 1857 but decided to move to Edinburgh a few years later. [The Museum has] a lowland bellows pipe which is stamped ‘MacDougall Perth’ so must date from before 1860. In Edinburgh he became Pipe Major of the Edinburgh Volunteers and instructor to the Black Watch Volunteers. He then went for a season as Piper to Queen Victoria at Osborne House but refused a permanent position with the Queen. He returned to Edinburgh where he continued to make bagpipes. In 1873 Duncan went back to Taymouth Castle as piper to the Marquis of Breadalbane and continued with his pipe making business in Aberfeldy. [The College Mu- seum has] a copy of Duncan MacDougall’s price list from this time which offers Great Highland or Military bagpipes in 12 different mountings from £8 to £50, half size or reel pipes in three styles, full mounted in ivory at £5 and half mounted at £4 or bellows blown at

£5.10s, and miniature or chamber pipes in three different mountings from £2.10 to £5.10.

Duncan was able to play bellows pipes and we have an eye witness account from a lady reporter who visited his workshop in 1893. After describing the making of the Highland pipe Duncan showed her a set of beautiful old English bagpipes, very slender and pretty, a


“I can’t say the effect was graceful. It suggested the hurdy gurdy too much, but the tone was mellow and pleasing.”


chamber instrument with thin but pleasing tone. He played a piobaireachd on this bagpipe, explaining as he did so the character of the music and the


development of the air. Next he produced a dainty little set of Irish pipes which were blown by means of a pair of bellows which he strapped to his right arm. She then writes that “..the Irish and English pipes are elegant little instruments, but mere toys beside the great Highland bagpipe.”

There are a couple of questions which come to mind here. First, what exactly was this English bagpipe which he used to demonstrate the piobaireachd and if it was mouth blown how did he explain the tune while he played it? And second, what kind of Irish bagpipe was this and if his playing wasn’t graceful was it because he wasn’t very good at playing with bellows?

The MacGregors were another Perthshire piping family. John MacGregor was piper to Prince Charles in 1745-46 and afterwards piper to Campbell of Glenlyon. He had four sons and eight grandsons who dominated the early piping competitions. One son John and his son, another John, were pipers to Lord Breadalbane at Taymouth Castle. Another grandson, also named John MacGregor, went to London in about 1806 and was employed as piper, pipemaker and flutemaker to the Highland Society of London. On a visit home to Perthshire in 1821 he gave a concert in Perth at which he played the Highland pipe and the Union pipe. Probably these were instruments he had made himself. He died in London on January 1st 1822. He was playing a professional engagement at a party and fell down the stairs.


Another MacGregor, Malcolm, was in London at the same time. He was in partnership with Charles Wigley and they made bagpipes and flutes from 1810 to 1825, at first from premises in the Strand and then in Regent Street. They had taken out various patents on flutes and had made flutes with adjustable tuning slides.

In 1812 Malcolm MacGregor was awarded a premium by the Highland Society of London for essential improvements made by him on the Great Highland Bagpipe, the Union Bag- pipe and the Northumberland Bagpipe. Two years earlier, in 1810, he had been awarded five guineas and a medal for making an improved chanter with keys. The Highland Society thought this was a great thing but other pipers didn’t think so.

Sir John Dalyell wrote, “MacGregor prepared to give a public demonstration of the quality of his invention but some of the Highlanders who had also to prove their skill in competi- tion, viewing it only as a flagrant and needless innovation, clandestinely sacrificed the instrument to their malevolence. Nevertheless MacGregor, undismayed by the disappoint- ment, substituted a performance on the Irish bagpipe.” There are a couple of examples of Irish pipes made by Malcolm MacGregor in the National museum.

Almost a century later we have history repeating itself when another flutemaker in London became a pipemaker and re-invented a chanter with keys which was played in a bagpipe with bass A, tenor A and baritone E drones. He was Henry Starck and he called his patent bagpipe the Brian Boru. In 1910 he brought out a booklet describing all the advantages of the Brian Boru bagpipe over other bagpipes including what he called the Scotch bagpipe.

He expected Scotch pipers would want to play the new bagpipe so had designed a Brian Boru chanter with the fingering the same as the Scotch chanter and offered the drones in the Scotch style of separate stocks although he recommended placing the drones in a common stock as it gave a much fuller and more perfect tone. [The pictures of the Brian Boru bag- pipe show them to be] all mouth blown and he doesn’t seem to have tried putting bellows on them.

George Walker was born in Leith in 1789. His father, John Walker, was listed in the Edin- burgh directory as a ‘Turner’ at 340 Lawnmarket from 1823 to 1832 then George appeared at the same address from 1832 to 1843 as a ‘Military bagpipe maker’. I don’t know if George was a piper or not. His name doesn’t appear in records of piping competitions which are the main source of information we have for pipers at that time. Perhaps he just pro- gressed from being a wood turner to being a pipe maker. He described himself as a ‘military bagpipe maker’, but the only example we have of his work is a lowland bagpipe. was said of him that he made the first smallpipes with a slightly larger chanter tuned to the Highland pipe scale and played with Highland fingering.


William Gunn we know was a piper and a Highlander. He was horn in Kildonan, Sutherland in 1789 but due to the clearances he moved south and by 1809 he was living in Glasgow and working as a weaver. He played at the Edinburgh compe- titions during the 1820s and 30s and won various prizes. In 1834 he appeared in the Glasgow directory as a ‘bagpipe maker’


and the entries continued until his death in 1867. In 1848 he published a book, ‘The Caledo- nian Repository’, which is a collection of 210 tunes with a tutor. We have no surviving evidence that he made bellows pipes but we have an interesting example of his work [in] the College museum. The chanter has been made with an extra note at the top operated by a key which is unfortunately broken, [see pic above].

The Glens were another family of bagpipe makers and various members of the family were in business in Edinburgh for more than a century. The family were originally farmers, first in the Linlithgow area and then in Fife from 1770. They all had large families and several of them moved into Edinburgh where they were involved in a great variety of different trades.

George Glen born 1790 and his brothers Alexander Glen, born 1801, and Thomas Glen, born 1804, all went to Edinburgh and were involved in various occupations such as cabinet maker, auctioneer, haberdasher, broker or furniture dealer, before becoming musical instrument makers and bagpipe makers. None of the Glens were known to be great pipers although some of them were said to be able to play the pipes or the fiddle.

George was a musical instrument maker and cabinet maker from 1846 until his death in 1866. The Ross collection in the National museum includes examples of Union pipes and chanters made by George. Alexander Glen was a pipe maker from 1835 and was followed by his son David, and grandsons Alexander, John and David. Thomas was pipe maker from 1833 and he was followed by his sons John and Robert and grandson Thomas.

We have several price lists from the various Glen businesses. The earliest I have is from Alexander Glen in 1849. This offers pipes in four sizes, the Great Highland or Military bag- pipe at £8 to £30, half size or reel pipe blown with the mouth or bellows at £5 to £12, the Lovat reel pipe blown with the mouth or bellows £3.10 to £8, and the Highland miniature pipe from £2.2s. The next price list is again Alexander Glen in 1860 and again he offers four sizes, with the difference that the Lovat reel pipe is now called the second size reel pipe. The half size and second size are available mouth blown or bellows blown. At the bottom of the price list there’s a line which says ‘Union or Lowcountry pipes of all descrip- tions made to order.’ He has ‘Lowcountry’ as one word. This is the only time I’ve come


across Lowcountry pipes on a maker s price list. [Below is] a photograph of a bagpipe made by Alexander Glen, the owner calls it a half-long and it has been renovated.



Alexander died in 1873 and his son David continued the business. His price list in the 1870s still has the four sizes of pipes, but now only the second size reel pipe is offered with bellows, in 1849 and 1860 the price was the same for mouth blown or bellow’s blown, but now the mouth blown pipe is £5 and the bellows blown is £5.10s. By 1905 he had discon- tinued the second size reel pipe but still made the half size or reel pipe, mouth blown, in six different mountings and a bellows bagpipe full ivorv mounted at £6.

Thomas Glen retired in 1867 and died in 1873. His sons traded as J & R Glen and in the 1870s they too were making three sizes of pipes. They gave the measurements of the chant- ers at this time. The large chanter was fourteen and a half inches long and the size of the bore at the wide end was seven eighths of an inch. The half size changer was thirteen and three quarter inches long and the size of the bore al the wide end was three quarters of an inch. The miniature and practice chanters had straight bores.

Customers were told that when ordering reeds it was “..essentially necessary to specify for what size of bagpipe they were required, either full size, half size or reel pipe, chamber or miniature pipe or practice chanter. In ordering either chanter or drone reeds this information should never be omitted.” They went on to say that “..many merely ask for a chanter reed without stating for what size of instrument it is wanted, so that if the proper article is supplied it is only by chance.”


Also in Edinburgh about 1890 to 1900, the firm of Ernest Kohler and Son were making bag- pipes. Ernest Kohler was bom in Germany in 1796 but was living in Edinburgh by 1817.

From the 1820s onwards he was in business as a violin string maker. A price list from about 1900 was a full range of bagpipes on one side, including a bellows bagpipe and on the other side violins and various other musical instruments and some unusual accessories, ‘nigger wigs’, which would not be politically correct today. I don’t know for certain why the Kohlers became bagpipe makers but there is a possible connection between the Kohlers and the MacLennan piping family. In 1888 Marie Kohler married the piper and dancer William MacLennan, who was a nephew of John MacLennan and a first cousin of G.S. and D.R. MacLennan. William had formed a concert company which included the violinist Scott Skinner and they were on tour together in Canada in 1892 when William got meningitis and died.

Peter Henderson was one of the best known of the Glasgow bagpipe makers. He was bom in 1851 at Inverkeithing in Fife, although his father was from Caithness. In 1880 Peter took over the premises of the pipe maker Donald MacPhee at 17 Royal Arcade, Glasgow. Peter was Pipe Major of the Glasgow Volunteers and a prize winning solo competitor. His price list in 1888 has the usual four sizes of bagpipe, full size, half size or reel pipe, second size reel pipe which is available either mouth blown at £4.10s and £5.10s or bellows blown at

£6.10s and the miniature pipe. The same four sizes of pipes are available in 1900 at the same prices. Peter died in 1902 aged 51. His brother Donald kept the business going and in 1905 appointed John MacDougall Gillies as the manager.

A price list from 1905 still has the four sizes of pipes but no longer including the option of bellows. Gillies died in 1925 and Archie McPhedran became the manager. A catalogue from 1930 offers full size Highland pies in 13 different mountings from £7 to £50, half and reel size in nine different mountings from £5.10s to £35, miniature pipes in three different mountings from £5 to £7, and Irish pipes in four different mountings from £5.10s to

£12.10s. The catalogue has pictures of the Highland pipes but no pictures of the Irish pipes so we don’t know if they were bellows blown. They may have been the two drone mouth blown pipes which were played in some of the Irish regiments at that time.

So, we know that until about 1900 several Highland makers were supplying bellows blown pipes. Around this time there was a change which coincides with the advent of the pipe band. Half size pipes continued to be made but their use had changed. They were no longer used as an instrument for dance music and they were no longer available with bellows.

Since the first civilian bands were formed in the 1880s the number of pipe bands had been increasing rapidly and pipe band competitions were becoming popular. Consequently there was an increased demand for the full size Highland bagpipe. Juvenile bands were being formed too, and a juvenile championship was started at Cowal in 1907, the year after the first World Championship Contest. Soon there were large numbers of Boys Brigade, Cadet and Scout bands.

They all bought half size pipes because they were cheaper than full size and the chanters were smaller, with smaller holes and were easier to play with small fingers. Several makers advertised that they specialised in supplying Boys Brigade and Scout bands.


Old men today who remember competing with juvenile bands in the 1920s say that all the juvenile bands at that time were playing half size pipes. There are still a lot of these pipes lying about but hardly anybody plays them now. Pipe chanters have become smaller or kids have got bigger so the half size pipes are not needed.


about 1920 a revival of Northumbrian piping was started by G.V.B. Charlton, who was mainly interested in half long pipes


The next maker I want to mention is James Robertson of Edinburgh He was the son of Pipe Major James Robertson of the Seaforth Highlanders and Royal Scots and was himself a Pipe Major of the Royal Scots. The Robertsons, father and son took over the pipe making


business of John Center and Son when the Centers went to Australia in 1908. Round about 1920 a revival of Northumbrian piping was started by G.V.B. Charlton, who was mainly interested in half long pipes.

W.A. Cocks who was a collector and maker of smallpipes and another enthusiast Edward Merrick. They revived some of the piping competitions and eventually with others formed the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society. James Robertson was asked to make the half long pipes and became a technical adviser to the Society [see Common Stock No 10.2 ‘Half-long - de- velop or die’ by Denis Dunn - Ed]. He seems to have been interested in Northumbrian pip- ing and attended gatherings, and [the College] has a letter from him to Mr. Cocks.

After this there was a long gap until about 1980 when our [LBPS] revival started. Graingers started making Lowland pipes in the early ‘80s and Northumbrian pipe makers started mak- ing Scottish smallpipes. Before long lots of Highland pipe makers were thinking “we can do that,” so they started producing smallpipes.

I’m not going to say anything about present day makers. I could quote from James Robert- son who when asked about reedmakers said “..the less said on that subject the better one’s chances of living to a good old age”. So I’ll stop here!