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From Ray Sloan Bagpipes,


In response to the appearance of two letters in the last issue of CS namely by a Mr. Deakin and Les Cowell of D. Naill & Co, I should like to make the following comments.

It is unfortunate that the deliberately outrageous comments which were contained in my article (Common Stock Dec '94. Piping Times Aug '94) in the hope of producing a constructive ‘debate’ and which were aimed at unspecified and unnamed makers have provoked what appears to be an idiotic attempt to discredit me by one maker in particular, D. Naill & Co. There is more than one ‘Highland Pipe-Maker of distinction’ (as mentioned in my article) so why are D. Naill & Co in particular reacting so sensitively? It would have served their cause better had they defended the virtues of their work instead of resorting to libellous innuendo.

The facts are that I was requested by a customer for a set of pipes mounted with hand engraved ferrules, together with a drone stock ferrule containing the inscription “Made by Ray Sloan 1994”. My customer suggested that I try D. Naill & Co as I personally have no experience of hand engraving. Mr. Les Cowell of D. Nail! & Co made no mention of any of this nor of the fact that the ferrules were actually made of sterling silver and as such are stamped with the D. Naill Hall-Mark. This alone would make it particularly stupid of me to try and pass them off as my own, which seems to be one of his ridiculous suggestions!!

D. Naill & Co, as professional pipemakers, know full well that it is perfectly normal practice to contract out for parts which are not made ‘in-house’. They also know full well that a Drone Stock ferrule with the inscription “Made by Ray Sloan” signifies the ‘pipes’ having been made by myself and not, as in this case, the ferrule. It is their understanding of this which makes their comments particularly distasteful.

With regards to the contents of Mr.

Deakin’s letter and in particular to his comments about customers being ‘allowed’ or otherwise to express their opinions, this is not, never has been and, I am sure, never will be an issue with me and I am as equally puzzled by this comment as I am by Mr. Cowell's comment about my honesty. I personally do not regard customers as ‘MERE’ customers in any way and value their opinion enormously since it is in fact their opinions which have kept me in business all of these years.

Finally, the question arises as to the purpose of Mr. Cowell’s actions in sending copies of my order to the editor of Common Stock. Were these the actions of someone trying to ‘accuse’ or ‘expose’? I would suggest that the only thing which Mr. Cowell’s letter exposes is his own dishonesty and contempt for the intelligence of others. Having now been enlightened by the full facts of this situation readers now have the opportunity to decide for themselves. __________________________________

From Jim Buchanan,


I have read the letter in the last issue that appears on casual inspection to accuse Ray Sloan of counterfeiting small pipes. It seemed to suggest that other people make the bits and he assembles them with a designer label attached. As someone who owns a set of Ray's smallpipes (D, Bb and A) and has visited his workshop twice I can vouch for his workmanship and the quality of the finished instruments. They are very fine smallpipes.

I suppose Ray’s letter in the previous issue of COMMON STOCK did tweak the ulcers of some makers and was almost bound to provoke an angry response of some kind. However, I feel I should make some comments of my own. Surely it would be unusual for any manufacturer not to contract out some item such as ferrules, mounts, bags, covers etc. In the case in point the silver ferrules were contracted out. It did seem to me (and others whom I have spoken with) to be mischievous, if not malicious for a contractor to accuse him of being less than honest in this regard. Would one expect a golf club manufacturer to put ‘Head forged by ‘X’ from Steel made by ‘Y’, shafts by ‘Z’, Grips by A.N. Other, designed, finished and assembled by “The Maker’”. I think not. [I hope this brings to an end the     debate on this thorny subject. Ed.]

From Matt Seattle Northumberland

Although I was initially annoyed that my letter in the last COMMON STOCK had been inaccurately transcribed - I had written ‘I am NOT looking for converts’ - I later began to think of suitable conditions for those seeking to join this new religion of Border piping. They would at the very least have to submit to some physically unpleasant initiation, and probably also have to   surrender all their worldly goods to some   deserving cause such as a reduction in the level of my overdraft. Readers will hardly be surprised that I have not been inundated with requests for conversion.

I refer now to the ongoing correspondence about whether a book of Border pipe tunes should specify which grace notes are to be played; we   simply don't know in any detail how Border pipers ornamented their tunes, and if we are talking about which Highland pipe gracings are to be used, that is like asking for the correct Gaelic pronunciation of Robert Burns’ poems and songs. The fact that we are largely ignorant of the specific techniques of Border piping is no excuse for grafting an imported technique onto tunes which are plainly in a different musical idiom. If there is anything of value in the Border piping repertoire, and if centuries of tradition and the labours of a few highly motivated individuals to preserve that tradition for the future are not to be squandered, we had best pay attention to what was actually written down - wonderful tunes with fine variations - rather than imagining that we can remodel Border piping in the image af Highland piping, whether of the 18th or the 20th century.