bagpipe music


  My Music

In an age when everything is becoming cloned, and so many things seem to sound the SAME. Songs from Scotland go on and on. Pop Songs whizz past and vanish forever. Some might pop up again as Golden Oldies after three years. But the familiar Scots songs seem to be embedded in the Sole forever.

No wedding, no housewarming or homecoming or celebration can be complete without a burst of the simple old music of Scotland.

I have assembled in my Pipe Bag from the cosy sentiment of "She Moved Through the Fair" to the Majesty of "Scotland the Brave" and with something for everybody in between. It's a record for a reminiscent smile, a jolt of patriotic fire, It's a reminder that we all belong to Scotland. But when you think of it, the music of Scotland belongs to everyone.

A Scotsman will never be insulted if you offer him a small glass of whisky.
He will merely swallow the insult.


For generations, its sharp and unmistakeable sound has struck fear into Scotland's enemies, emboldened its troops in battle and helped define its national identity. Every year, tourists in their tens of thousands flock to Edinburgh Castle to applaud the massed pipe bands of Scotland's regiments.

But contrary to popular myth, the great Highland bagpipe never led the Scots clans into battle against the English, nor did kilted pipers carry them around the castles of Highland chieftains, playing laments to the fallen.

In fact, says a new history by a leading authority on the much-loved - and loathed - instrument, the Highland bagpipe was actually invented less than 200 years ago, primarily for urban audiences. And what's more, it was largely created using money from wealthy Scots emigres living in London.

In a new book to be published by the National Museums of Scotland, Hugh Cheape, a leading Gaelic historian and expert piper, argues that the origins of the instrument have been confused by decades of mythology and deliberate invention; even, he hints, by deception.

Like most tartan regalia and the modern kilt, the great Highland bagpipe and many of its traditions known worldwide were manufactured by the Scots middle classes in the early 1800s in their romantic quest to rediscover their past.

"The written and received history of the great Highland bagpipe reflects in many of its parts the triumph of sentiment over fact ... an orthodoxy has emerged from surprisingly modest origins in the first half of the 19th century and it was elaborated by repetition, speculation and guesswork in the second," he writes.

Until the late 1700s there were simpler types of pipe being played in the Highlands. But pipes arrived in Scotland relatively late and had been played widely throughout the Islamic world, the Mediterranean and eastern Europe for centuries before then.

Until the battle of Culloden in 1746 ended the Jacobite rebellion by the Highland chieftains led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, clan chiefs were great patrons of piping and pipe music; cultivating new musical styles, sponsoring musicians who founded piping dynasties and their own piping colleges.

But that rich musical culture was devastated by the Jacobite defeat. In 1778 educated and wealthy expatriate Scots living in London founded the highly influential Highland Society of London with the core aim of "preserving the martial spirits, language, dress, music and antiquities of the ancient Caledonians".

The society set up piping competitions and commissioned pipes as prizes from two well-established pipe makers in Edinburgh - Hugh Robertson and Donald MacDonald. Cheape credits them with creating the instrument now known as the Great Highland Bagpipe in the early 1800s.

Their instruments were used in annual pageants of Highland culture at the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh, where pipers competed for prizes from the London society. But these events also helped create the "stage Highlander", a largely invented character who played bagpipes designed specially for these events.

The mythology surrounding the great Highland pipes increased when allegedly authentic pipes linked to great events in Scottish history were given to national museums. Many, argues Cheape, are fake. One set allegedly played at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 actually comes from three or four pipes, including 20th century parts. He is scathing about the pipes allegedly played at the battles of Culloden in 1746 and at Flodden in 1513.

"The bagpipe in Scotland has suffered a malaise of misunderstanding and misinterpretation, of misappropriation and manipulation of a lively and vital musical culture. Its treatment might even serve as a metaphor for Scottish history and culture since the 18th century," he writes.

The book, Bagpipes - a National Collection of a National Instrument, is likely to provoke a furious response from traditionalists. But Cheape, a former curator with the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and now with the University of the Highland and Islands, has defended his criticisms by calling for a new national collection of bagpipes and further research into the true origins and history of piping in Scotland.

The mythology surrounding the bagpipes has overshadowed the instrument's real history in Scotland - one that should include an accurate appreciation of the music cultivated by the Highland Society and early Victorians, he argues. "We have to admit that the great Highland bagpipe that we now know was part of this invention of tradition," he said.


wedding music

Derek on Speed

"I've given up smoking", said Angus. "Very good", said his friend. "What was it persuaded you?"
"It's too painful".
"Aye, I've had my fingers trodden on three times this week so far".

 (c) ASoloHighlandpiper