l_ii:.hk_ Li i: J k' LLI j.£; .■ .liilL ^i: ' ^i.^L^'_..LL:L._LA - ' j: ;
i urrr r ^
*-N P /^ » r :
..• ,.nn, r.,.
•N"^" <rii30NVS01^ "^AajAIN.
The Author's Favourite Pipe.
Photographed by the Threc-Colour Process.
Blocks presented by Dr. Maitland Ramsay, of Glasgow.
The drones are made on the model ot those attached to the Edinburgh Museum
Pipe, i.e., without combing and with pear-shaped terminals.
ALEXANDER DUNCAN ERASER
M.D.. D.P.H., EDIN.
EDINBURGH: WM. J. HAY, JOHN KNOX'S HOUSE.
FALKIRK: JOHN CALLANDER.
PRINTED BY JOHN CALLANDER,
97 HIGH STREET.
C/ia nigh na tha dh'uisge 's a'-mhuir ar cairdeas. . Q^. 3
DEDICATED BY PERMISSION
SIMON JOSEPH FRASER, SIXTEENTH LORD LOVAT
WHOSE WHOLE LIFE
IN PRIVATE AND IN PUBLIC
ONE CONTINUOUS ILLUSTRATION
THE GAELIC PROVERB :
" BIDH AN T-UBHAL AS FHEARR
A MHEANGAN AS AIRDE."
This little work is the outcome of a series of lectures
given by me at intervals during the last twelve years
to different Highland Societies. It is also an expression
of the indignation which so much false criticism of the
Great War Pipe of the Highlands, repeated in my
hearing year after year, has aroused within me.
I take this opportunity of apologising for the style
and diction of the book — it is difficult for one so
unused to the pen as I am, to change the spoken into
the written word.
The few sentences in Gaelic are spelt for the most
My best thanks are due to all who have helped me
in any way, and especially to those kind friends who
have put themselves to much trouble and expense in
their endeavour to add to my collection of Bagpipes.
In two or three instances, I have spoken in depre-
ciation of other peoples' writings, but the reputation of
these writers stands too high to be affected by the criti-
cisms of a single and unknown individual like myself.
The motives which have impelled me to write have
nothing personal in them.
My whole life has been devoted to the relief of
suffering, nor would I hurt for the sake of hurting, but
if anything I hav^e said here in defence of the " dear
old Bagpipe " should happen to give offence to any
man, — "even unto the least of these," — I here and
now heartily apologise.
In conclusion, allow me to state that no one can
be more alive to the many imperfections of this work
— to its many inaccuracies — than I am ; therefore
gentle reader, however severe your criticism other-
wise may be,
"... Accuse me not
Of arrogance ..."
A. D. F.
I, — Introductory .. ... ... •• •
11.— Do ... ••• 9
III.— Do ... .. ... ••• 32
IV.— A Well-Abused Instrument ... . 42
v.— The Critics and the Bagpipe ... .. 44
VI.— A Royal Instrument ... 5'
VII.— The Why and the Wherefore ^. ... 56
VIII.— Wanted : A Book on the Bagpipe .. 64
IX.— Old New Year : A Reminiscence ... ... 7°
X.— An Interesting Byway ... 77
XL— The Delicately-Attuned Ear and the Bagpipe 81
XII.— The Musician and the Bagpipe ... 93
XIII.— A Highland Instrument ... ... 103
XIV.— The Bagpipe, the National Instrument hi
XV.— The Scottish Bagpipe ... ... ... 120
XVI.— Bagpipe Influences at Work ... ... 129
XVII.— Gaelic Song and the Bagpipe ... ... 139
XVIII.— The Glamour of the Highlands ... 148
XIX.— No Prehistoric Bagpipe in existence ... 153
XX. — Ancient Myth and the Bagpipe ... 163
XXL— Piper Pan ... ... ••• 167
XXIL— Pallas Athene ... ... ... i79
XXIIL— Theocritus and the Bagpipe ... ... 197
XXIV.— The Classics and the Bagpipe ... 204
XXV.— The Nativity and the Bagpipe ... ... 216
XXVL— An Old Tradition ... .- ... 221
XXVII. — The Romans and the Bagpipe ... ... 226
XXVIII. — The Spread of the Bagpipe ... ... 237
XXIX.— The Piper ... ... .. .. 254
XXX. — The Bagpipe in Scotland ... ... 273
XXXI. — Piping and Dancing dying out in the Highlands 300
XXXIa. — Skye in 1876 ... .. ... 313
XXXII.— The Chorus .. .. .. 348
XXXIII. — The Great Highland Bagpipe .. 360
XXXIV. — The Great Highland Bagpipe : Its Antiquity 380
XXXV. — Mr Macbain and the Bagpipe ... 393
XXXVI. — A Great War Instrument .. ... 404
XXXVII.— The Pipe at Funeral Rites ... ... 413
XXXVIII.— Bagpipe Music ... ... .. 420
XXXIX. — Can the Bagpipe Speak? . ... 425
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
(From photographs by J. P. Miller, Falkirk).
The Author's Favourite Pipe ... ... Frontispiece
German Band of 1739 ... ... ... 8
Chanter and Drone Reeds
Highland Pipe Reeds
The Gheeyita of Spain ... ... ... 32
Old Irish Bagpipes ... ••■ ••• ••• 4°
Tuning up the Northumbrian Small Pipe ... 48
An African Bagpipe ... •• ... ... S^
Photograph of Wooden Piper... ... ... 64
Two Instruments allied to the Bagpipe ... ... 72
An Old Print ... ... ... ... 80
Two Specimens of Irish Stocks ... ... ... 88
A French Piper ... ... .-• ••• 96
The Magic of the Photograph ... ... ... 102
"A Relic of Waterloo" ... ... ••■ 121
The Cuisleagh Ciuil of Ireland ... ... ... 144
The Pan Pipe ... ••■ ••• ••• '68
A Bagpipe of "Ane Reed and Ane Bleddir " ... 184
Italian Pifferari ... ... ••. ••• 208
The Zampogna of Italy ... ... ... ... 216
The Celtic Piva or Bagpipe of Northern Italy ... 232
The Hungarian Bagpipe ... •• ••. ••. 243
A Two-Drone French Chalumeau ... ... 244
Xll LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
The French Chalumeau
The Musette or French Bagpipe
The Northumbrian Small Pipes . . ... 251
The Great Irish Pipe ... ... ... ... 253
The Piper ... ... ... ... ... 256
The Great Two-Drone War Pipe of the Highlands .. 288
African or Egyptian Bagpipe ... ... ... 356
Old Bill of 1785 ... ... ... ... 360
Bulgarian Pipe ... ... ... ... 368
A Second Spanish Bagpipe ... ... ... 369
Irish Bellows Pipe ... ... ... ... 392
The Old Northumberland Bellows Pipe ... ... 396
The Bellows Pipe of Lowland Scotland ... 400
SOME REMINISCENCES AND
'T^HIS little book is the first serious attempt made
■*■ to put the Story of the Bagpipe upon a proper
footing, to trace its origin from ancient history, and
to examine the claims of Greek and of Latin to its
The task has been to me a fascinating one, and
although still far from completion, I sigh farewell to
it, with keen regrets.
Some one of more scholarly attainments may one
day — nay, will — I hope utilize my labours as a step-
ping-stone to better things.
I have dallied with the subject for years, for very
love of it ; not caring much whether I ever finished
the book or not.
My Highland instinct discovered the importance
of the task before it was well begun ; kept me at it —
in a fitful manner it is true ! — when its magnitude
dawned upon me and all but dispirited me ; and has
2 SOME REMINISCENCES
guided me in my treatment of it right through the
But if not a complete treatise on the Bagpipe, still
as a small contribution to the subject it should appeal
to the true Highlander, be he situated where you will
amidst the busy haunts of men in some great city, or
on the confines of the mighty empire, in some secluded
spot, the solitary sentinel of civilization.
There are Highlanders, it is true, who have proved
themselves false to the old ideals. Such, when they
become citizens of the world, deem the two citizen-
ships incompatible, and deliberately sink their national
characteristics in the great maelstrom of life, assimilat-
ing themselves to their new surroundings like the
chameleon, and nervously afraid lest something in
dress, manner, speech, or bearing, should betray
them, and make known the truth, that they are not
quite "like unto these."
These are the men who, believing a sacrifice neces-
sary, have sacrificed the past to the present ; have
forbidden Gaelic in the house ; made the name of the
'45 anathema, maranatha ; suppressed all references
to the brave deeds of their forefathers ; and tabooed
"the tales of old."
These are the Highlanders who have, in short,
turned their backs for ever on the old life, with the
pinch and the toil in it, the little pleasures, and
the poor monetary rewards ; who have preferred for
themselves and for their children the stuffy atmo-
sphere of a dingy, ill-ventilated office in some
crowded city to the sweet airs, with healing on
AND THE BAGPIPE. 3
their wings and fresh from heaven's hand, which blew
round the old homestead ; and who see more beauty
in the piles of yellow gold upon the dusty counter,
gathered often so wearily and at such a price, than in
the glorious purple mountains, girdled by the sea.
There are others who go further than this, and
scoff at the land which gave them birth.
Some little time ago I was dining along with
a number of other Highlanders in the Grand
Hotel, Glasgow. The man on my left roused my
curiosity. He seemed out of place in such a
gathering although he wore the kilt. I noticed
that the kilt was of — we will call it — MacWhamle
tartan. He was a tall, stout, rather handsome-
looking fellow, with refined — I had almost said over-
refined — manners. His speech was very Englified in
tone, with here and there a dash of the Cockney in
it, and he dropped, or tried to drop, I verily believe,
his h's occasionally, but not with much success.
There was not>^the slightest flavour of peat-reek about
him anywhere. Who are you, and what are you
doing here? Why are you making yourself uncom-
fortable in a kilt? — were some of the questions which
I put to myself, but without evoking a reply ; for I
could see that he fidgetted about in the strange
dress a good deal during dinner. At the interval
between the second and third courses I was intro-
duced to the stranger as Mr MacWhamle from
MacWhamle then was his name, and MacWhamle
was his tartan.
4 SOME REMINISCENCES
**You are from London," I said.
He bowed largely.
'*But I suppose," I said, looking at his dress,
'*you came from the Highlands first?"
"I left the Highlands when I was but a boy," he
"Do you visit the old home occasionally?"
** Never been there since I left."
"I am glad at all events," I remarked, ''to see
you still wear the kilt."
"Yes," he answered ; but, turning to me as if for
sympathy, added quickly, "a d d uncomfortable
dress though ! "
And I could see that he spoke feelingly. A kilt
never sits well on a *' corporation " ; and his kilt kept
creeping higher and higher, and growing tighter and
tighter, in a way that a kilt alone can do, as dinner
proceeded, until goaded to desperation, he stood up
and unfastened the waist straps and took the chance
of a catastrophe.
One other remark I ventured on to Mr MacWhamle:
" Do you like the Bagpipe?"
" Yaas ! oh yaas ! at a distance" — pause on the
word distance — "and the greater the distance the
This was cheery for a Highland Gathering,
wasn't it? It made me feel as if there were some-
thing wrong, something out of joint : the High-
land Gathering had no right to be there, or friend
MacWhamle had got, so to speak, into the wrong
AND THE BAGPIPE. 5
In the King's Arms Hotel, Kyle Akin, I met
another Mr MacWhamle in the following autumn.
He amused himself at dinner-time by running
down the Highlands, or perhaps I should say, the
Highlander, with a self-assurance in his own wisdom,
and with an air of infallibility, that ought to have
made — but didn't — any doubter of this " Daniel come
to judgment " blush for shame at his own temerity.
He had one doubter in my daughter, who sat on
pins and needles, while this slanderer of the people
she loved, rambled along in his pompous way. It
was only by constant pressure of the foot under the
table that I could restrain her impetuosity. She was
boiling over with indignation at each fresh insult, and
yet this Solomon blundered along, quite unconscious
of how near he was to a living volcano.
And so it came about, that when he appealed to her
for confirmation of some heresy, worse than another,
not knowing that she was a Skye lassie, — born on the
island — he got a look from her that would have
annihilated a less sensitive person, and a con-
tradiction along with it as flat as words could
He appeared highly astonished at being pulled up
so sharply, and more than a little indignant that any
one should venture to question the wisdom, not to say
the truthfulness, of his remarks, and dare to tell him
plainly that all his fine talk was little better than so
much ignorant twaddle. A little colour mounted to
his brow, — a small sign of grace I took it to be— as he
realized that he had been snubbed, and that he had
b SOME REMINISCENCES
himself invited the snub ; and for a time the smooth
flow of his words became broken — his speech halted
and limped along painfully.
After a time, however, he seemed to recover his
equanimity, and "went" for the poor Skyeman as
viciously as before. He would ''clear every mother's
son of them out of the island." He would make Skye
a desert, except — oh ! notable exception — for three
months in the summer. " To suit the convenience of
tourists like yourself?" I put in. He paid no heed to
my interruption, but rattled on, heaping abuse upon
the islanders. Idle, lazy, ill-fed, ill-clad, content.
Oh, the scorn in this rich man's voice as he said
That these people whom he affected to despise,
because they preferred the fresh air and the quiet,
and the contentment of the country, to the smoky
atmosphere, and the noisy streets, and the seething
discontent of the town — a people in whose life his
unseeing eye could detect no colour but a dull grey ;
uniform, constant, unvarying — should dare to be
content, pained the good man exceedingly.
" Contentment is better than riches," I ventured to
remark ; but again he took no notice : he turned a deaf
ear to me, and refused to be drawn into a discussion.
He had but one rule, by which he measured every-
thing, the rule of the almighty dollar ; the rule of the
golden thumb. "Why," he said, "I had a man
rowing me on the loch all day, and he was content
with the two shillings which I paid him. If that man
went south, sir, he could make thirty shillings a week
AND THE BAGPIPE. 7
in the mills, and here he is content to take two
shillings for a day's work."
The table listened in silence to the well-fed, well-
dressed, sleek-looking man as he preached his money
I did not ask Mr MacWhamle, as perhaps I should
have done, why he, a rich mill owner, had refused
a millhand's wage to the old Highlander who rowed
him about the loch so patiently all day.
Such are not true Highlanders, and it is not for
such that this book is written. The true Highlander,
methinks, is one who forgets not the good blood
which flows through his veins in spite it may be of a
lowly upbringing ; who forgets not to visit the
friends of his boyhood's days, because they have
preferred the old and simpler life ; who forgets not
that his ancestors followed Prince Charlie, not
blindly, but with eyes wide open and with ultimate
failure staring them in the face, preferring a lost cause
with honour to success without it. The true High-
lander is one, methinks, for whom not distance from
home, nor length of years, can destroy the constant
yearning for the old life among the hills ; whose ear
detects and loves the soft sweetness of the old tongue ;
whose heart warms at the sight of the tartan ; and
who knows no music, with the story in it, and the
charm in it, like the rude wild Pibroch.
And of all Highland things, what is more Highland
and what more worthy of being preserved than the
It grows handsomer as it grows older, and it is as
8 SOME REMINISCENCES
useful to-day as when it led the Roman legions of
old. It is as Highland in the streets of London, or
in the suburbs of Melbourne, as in the wilds of
Stratheric, or in the backwoods of Canada ; and will
be with us when the tartan is faded and the Gaelic
tongue is silent, a signpost to an unbelieving world,
reminding it that there once lived north of the Gram-
pians an old and a gallant race— a race of warriors as
brave as the world has ever seen.
German Band of 1739 :
With Piper in tlie Foreground.
From an old Engraving presented to the Author bv Mr VV. K. Gair,
The Kihis, Falkirk.
T HAVE no wish to pose as an authority on
the Bagpipe, nor is this book meant to be
authoritative in any way.
It is but a beginning ; a groping for the light in
dark places. If I correct some very palpable errors,
which through constant repetition have gained
currency among a certain section of the public, I
also lay myself open to correction, and will welcome
such. I have avoided conjecture as much as possible,
but it is impossible to avoid it altogether when writing
of a subject whose history reaches back to the remote
and misty past — to " an axe age, a spear age, a wolf
age, a war age."
I have lectured on this subject for many years, but
always as a student ; always with the hope of
improving my own knowledge.
And to-day, in the light of such knowledge as I
have been able to pick up, I proclaim myself to be
one of the '* unwary," as Mr MacBain of Inverness
calls them, "who postulate for the Bagpipe a hoary
antiquity " in the Highlands and elsewhere.
lO SOME REMINISCENCES
This book is the result of accident rather than of
When President of the Falkirk Highland Society,
I was one night impressing upon the members the
necessity of each doing something for the Society and
not leaving the burden of the work on two or three
shoulders, as had been done in the past, if it were to
be a permanent success. Among other subjects
suitable for short papers I named the Bagpipe, and
at the mention of the word an audible smile rippled
along the benches. I was somewhat annoyed at this,
and although I did not myself know anything of its
history at the time, I promptly accepted the challenge
to write a paper on it. This was the beginning of
One month later I gave my first lecture on the
Bagpipe to a crowded house, the largest gathering
ever held under the auspices of the Society, and one
of the most successful.
The great enthusiasm displayed during the evening
by the Highlanders present was the highest com-
pliment which could be paid to the choice of a subject
which, as I have said, was in a manner forced upon
me, and also shewed that the dear old " Pipes "
could still delight and enthuse as in days of old.
Pipe-Major Bulloch and Pipe-Major Simpson gave
selections on the Bagpipe illustrative of the lecture ;
both shewed themselves masters of the instrument,
and their delightful playing added largely to the
success of this, the first lecture, I believe, ever
delivered on the Bagpipe.
AND THE BAGPIPE. II
During the month of preparation not a saleroom
or bric-a-brac shop in Glasgow or Edinburgh but
was visited in search of old " Pipes," and the joy-
in each new find still remains for me a sunny
I need hardly remind my readers that it was in
Falkirk that the revival of the Bagpipe took place
after its suppression by the Government in 1747 :
here was held the first competition promoted by the
Highland Society of London in 1779 ; and here too it
seems only fitting that the first lecture on the
Bagpipe, one hundred and odd years later, should
have been delivered.
For this reason, too, if any '' kudos " should
happen to follow upon this venture, I would like the
good old town of Falkirk to share in it.
My book has been thought out while walking
through its streets, or cycling in the country round
about, or wandering over its old battlefields, or seated
in the cosy corner waiting upon some case or other
while the rest of the world slumbered.
A chapter has been written, now here, on a plain
deal table, almost the only piece of furniture in a
one-roomed house ; now there, on a table of beautiful
ormolu design, one of half-a-dozen decorating the
drawing-room of some wealthy citizen ; and in this
way the book has become " part and parcel" of my
every-day life and work in Falkirk during the past
I am therefore having it published in Falkirk, and
printed by a Falkirk "Bairn," so that everything
12 SOME REMINISCENCES
about it may be redolent of the town which has been
for so many years my abiding place.
I know that my quaHfications for the task of writing
a History of the Bagpipe are few, and it was therefore
rather tantalizing some years ago to have the one
qualification, my Celtic blood, on which I prided
myself the most, ruthlessly trampled upon by Dr
MacPherson, now one of His Majesty's Commis-
sioners in Lunacy. The Doctor lectured one evening
to the Falkirk Highlanders on "The Celt in History,"
and his conclusion of the whole matter, which was
received in grim silence by his hearers, each of whom
had hitherto considered himself as The Celt — I had
almost said the salt — of the earth, was that there is
no such thing as 3. pure Celt in the Highlands to-day.
My Celtic qualification was thus discredited.
" But," added the lecturer, and the fine words that
night did not butter the parsnips for his audience,
" you who have been born in the Highlands, and are
of Highland parentage, can call yourselves instead,
and with greater truth, pure Highlanders."
There was a searching of hearts and of genealogies
after the meeting broke up, and I felt some con-
solation in dropping the Celt to know that I could
lay claim to the title of Highlander with some credit.
I was born in Argyleshire ; my father was a Fraser,
which goes without saying ! My mother was a
MacLachlan, my grandmother a Gunn ; my cousins
in order of merit were Frasers, Macintoshes, Grants,
Shaws, MacLachlans, and MacNicols.
My father was born in the Parish of Avoch, in the
AND THE BAGPIPE. I3
Black Isle, opposite to Inverness, in the beginning
of last century, at a time when the name of the
" bloody " Cumberland was used as a bogey to
frighten the children with.
He learned the story of the '45 at first hand from
his grandfather, who was out in the " Rebellion,"
and many a time and oft his heart burned with
indignation at the recital of the many cruelties
perpetrated by "The Butcher's" orders.
The story of the murder of Charles Fraser, jun., of
Inverallochy, in cold blood after the battle of Culloden
was often repeated in his hearing. He was a distant
kinsman of ours, and the horror of the tale would
lose nothing through this to the listening boy. The
tale, which is a true one, and which was recorded at
the time by more observers of the incident than one,
will bear repetition here.
The Duke, while riding over the battle-field after
the short but sharp tussle was over, saw a young
Highland officer lying wounded on the ground. He
was resting on his elbow, and looked up at the Duke
as he was riding by. " To what party do you
belong? " said the ' Butcher.' The answer came back
proudly, '* To the Prince." "Shoot me that High-
land scoundrel who thus dares to look on us with
so insolent a stare," shouted Cumberland. This
command was addressed to Wolfe, then an ensign,
the General who afterwards died so gloriously on the
Heights of Abraham. He refused to obey, as did