charm, and Scotland would be deprived of all that
to-day reminds us of our once distinctive nationality.
NO PREHISTORIC BAGPIPE IN EXISTENCE.
" And they sewed fig- leaves tog-ether and made them-
selves aprons. ' ā Gen., chap. iii. ver. 7.
" An' music first on earth was heard,
In Gaelic accents deep,
When Jubal in his oxter squeezed
The blether o' a sheep."
"Vl TE now come to the history of the Bagpipe.
Everyone has heard of the famous " Breeches"
Bible, but not everyone knows or remembers how
the error, which cost the printer his life, crept in.
It was somewhat in this way.
The printer's wife, who was a strong believer in
''woman's rights," was looking over some type
which her husband had just set up, and saw the
objectionable word " aprons."
A most unbecoming dress for one thing, she
thought. And so, her husband's back being turned,
she slyly substituted the word "breeches" for the
The printer, who did not discover the mistake
until after the Bible was printed, and many copies
154 SOME REMINISCENCES
of it had been sold, was seized by the authorities
and thrown into prison.
He was tried for the serious crime of altering the
text without authority, and, worse still, of altering
the text with the deliberate intention ā for so it
seemed ā of putting woman on a level with her lord
and master, man, if not even of making woman his
He was unanimously found guilty, and condemned
to death ; but as some sort of compensation to the
poor man, who should know it by this time, his
better-half, by this one act of insubordination, has
gained for both herself and him a certain unenviable
She was a German, this meddlesome woman who
wanted to wear the breeks.
If she had been Highland, the sentence would no
doubt have run thus: "And they sewed fig leaves
together and made themselves kilts."
This would be a more correct translation, and
one with which but little fault could be found.
There would also be this double advantage in it ;
it would have put woman on a level with man,
which was really the printer's wife's intention, and
it would have settled once and for all the much-
vexed question of the antiquity of the kilt.
The antiquity of the language, however, is still ā
thank God ! ā unchallenged.
The poet's assertion that the Bagpipe gave
first utterance to it in Eden may be disputed,
but not its antiquity ; some good scholars, as I
AND THE BAGPIPE. I55
have said before, now believe that Gaelic ā
the much-despised Gaelic : Dr. Johnson's " rude
and barbarous tongue" ā was the original Aryan
speech. But a little story which appeared in the
Edinburgh Dispatch lately, supports the poet's con-
tention thus far, that the Bagpipe ā whether or not
it was heard in Eden ā speaks at times in this
ancient language to certain people.
The story, shortly told, was that of a servant girl
from the Highlands just come to town. It was her
first place. She had never been from home before.
She arrived at night, feeling home-sick and de-
pressed ; everything was strange and cheerless to
her. The lady of the house, hoping to brighten her
up a bit, told her she would soon feel at home and
be quite happy, as the Bagpipe was played every
night in the square by a young man who lived
close by, and was taking lessons on it.
Next morning, in reply to a kind enquiry, the
maid informed her mistress that she did hear the
young man play, ''But, ma'am," she added sadly,
*' his Bagpipe was not speaking the Gaelic."
Which meant, I suppose, that this young man,
vulgarly speaking, "couldn't play for nuts," and so
failed to touch the proper chord in the young
Now, while the claim of Gaelic to be one of the
oldest of languages is allowed, the counter claim of
the Bagpipe to be an old Highland instrument has
been denied. I dissent entirely from such pernicious
doctrine. There is no proof of this latest craze.
156 SOME REMINISCENCES
The Pioh^ as the Gaelic-speaking race invariably
calls the Bagpipe, is a Celtic instrument, and this
at once stamps it as Highland.
Piobmhala (pron. Peevaala) is the full title of the
Bagpipe : it is made up of piob^ a pipe, and mala,
a bag, both Celtic words.
Piob Mor is the special designation of the great
War Pipe of the Highlands, distinguishing it from
the smaller Reel Pipes and others, such as the
The Piobmhala is to be found in many countries,
and is in most of these still a rude and barbarous
weapon, with little or no music of its own. In
Italy, for instance, there are not more than three or
four real Bagpipe tunes, and yet the Italians have
been playing the Pipe for two thousand years.
In the hands of the Celt only has it come to
anything like perfection ; and the Highlander alone,
of all Celtic peoples, has put the finishing touches to
it without destroying its original character. Other
nations, in trying to perfect it, have invariably
killed it ; in tampering with its peculiar scale and
tone, they have destroyed its originality, which is
The Celt alone has made it both useful and artistic.
He alone has had the genius to elaborate the
intricate, but strictly scientific system of fingering,
which adds so much to the beauty of the music.
He alone produced from the Pipe that which may
be called the first classical music heard in the
world : I mean Piobaireachd.
AND THE BAGPIPE. 157
Now, if we are to credit the ancient historians,
who are all agreed upon this point, the Celt was
always more or less of an enthusiast or visionary :
subject to sudden moments of exaltation as of
A delight in poetry and music ā these twin sisters
ā and in nature, ear-marked him from other nations,
according to these old writers, at a very early period
in the world's history.
It is therefore nothing strange that he should
have invented the Piob or Pipe for himself. It
would be strange indeed if he had not done so.
But he was never much of an historian, and has
accordingly left behind him little to help us in our
search into the origin of this same Pipe. We can
learn a good deal about the Celt himself in pre-
historic times from the remains he has left behind
him in round barrow and kitchen midden. By
means of these we can trace his primitive wander-
ings through the different countries of Europe, and
locate the different colonies which he left behind,
as he kept ever moving onwards ; now east, now
west, now south.
From the bones found in the burial mound we
can tell what sort of a man he was physically, and
more than guess at his mental powers. From the
same source we learn what was his height, and
what his strength, and what his comeliness : for it
is not true to say with some that " beauty is but
skin deep " : we can even deduce the colour of his
hair and eyes.
158 SOME REMINISCENCES
The remains of the kitchen midden, on the other
hand, reveal to us the food which he ate, the animals
which he followed in the chase, and those which he
had domesticated ; the wild fruits which were gathered
and used by him, and those he cultivated, and many
another thing that but for these semi-imperishable
remains would have existed for us only as matters
of controversy or conjecture.
In these survivals we have history as it should
be written : history without a bias.
Little did the old Celt think that he was writing
history for posterity, when he reverently laid his dead
to sleep in the round barrows. Little did he think
that his kitchen midden, which the modern inspector
of nuisances would sweep away as a pestilence,
would prove a mine of wealth to his descendants,
hungry for information about the old life.
But when we come to trace the Bagpipe, the Celt's
favourite instrument, we have no such guide at our
We search in vain for a specimen of the early
Made of perishable materials : of thin hollow
reed and quickly rotting skin, the Piohmhala has
left not a wrack behind in burial mound or refuse
heap. We have no prehistoric Bagpipe to show.
We must therefore go for our information to
written history, and to the tradition or myth which
represents for us the earlier or unwritten history.
But, first of all, what is a Bagpipe? Of what is
AND THE BAGPIPE. 1 59
The earliest description of a Bagpipe in Scottish
literature tells that it was then composed of " ane
reid and ane bleddir."
Such a pipe is seen on the following page. The
earliest mention of it in Roman history tells us the
same thing. In the first century before Christ, the
Romans came across a Celtic race who lived on the
banks of the Danube, and who used an instrument
composed of "ane reid and ane bleddir," to which
the Roman historian gave the name of Tibia Utri-
cularis ; tibia being the Latin name for reed or
chanter, and utriculum meaning a little bag or
These two, then, a reed and a bladder, are the
essentials of the Bagpipe. When they became
wedded into one is unknown. The Pipe without the
bag is much older of course than the Bagpipe.
The Shepherd's Pipe, as it was called, now forms
the chanter of the Bagpipe, and is one of the oldest,
if not the very oldest, musical instruments in the
world. Its history is full of interest, and makes
delightful reading, but it is only as forming an
important part of the modern Bagpipe that it claims
our attention here.
Round this simple little instrument ā the Shep-
herd's Pipe ā there has gathered a wealth ot story
and poetry, and romance, greater than round any
other musical instrument.
A favourite at all times with the primitive races,
it was gradually introduced into the ceremonial of
the tribe, and thus acquired a semi-sacred character;
l6o SOME REMINISCENCES
and in time came to be regarded as a special gift
from tiie gods.
This tendency to attribute a Divine origin to music
was, however, all but universal among the ancients.
I know only of one exception. The Jews gave
the credit of the invention to man, for do we not
read in Genesis that "Jubal : he was the father of all
such as handle the harp and the Pipe," or the
*' organ," as it is usually translated? This text
reminds me of a little incident which occurred not
long ago, and with the relating of which this chapter
may fitfully close.
Late one Saturday night a postcard arrived for
me, and written upon it was, " Preach to-morrow
from Gen. 4th and 21." Nothing more. The
minister knew that I was studying the history of the
Bagpipe at the time, and I immediately concluded
that he had discovered in the text something about
the "Pipes" worth knowing, and so I determined
to go and hear the sermon. The following morning
found me in church right enough, but alas ! for the
information : all that we were told was that Pipe
was a better translation than organ, as the latter
word was too suggestive of the modern organ with
its wonderful combination of pipes and pedals.
Some time afterwards I met the preacher, and said
to him, " By-the-bye, I got your postcard. It
suggested Bagpipes to me, but you had nothing
evidently to say on the matter. What did you
send it for?"
"Well, you see," he replied, "your seat had been
AND THE BAGPIPE. l6l
empty for many, many Sundays, and we thought it
was time that you were putting in an appearance."
The minister was giving a course of sermons at the
time to non-churchgoers.
Many years ago, the town-piper of Falkirk was
waiting to be hanged. The execution was to take
place on the following morning. He had been
found guilty of some trifling offence ā horse-stealing
or something of that sort ā and as it was his last
night on earth, he was allowed to have one or two
brother-pipers in, just for company's sake. The
night passed pleasantly and swiftly, in dancing and
piping, and quaffing of the nut-brown ale. The
condemned man himself was in the middle of a
tune ā a gaysome lilt ā when the early morning light
suddenly shot down through the bars of his prison
window, and reminded him of his coming fate.
'*I play no more," he said, while the gloom
gathered around him, and reluctantly, but reverently,
he laid down his Bagpipe upon the bench beside him,
for the last time : the Bagpipe with the tune upon
it still unfinished ā a fitting emblem of his own
unfinished life ! He forgot his sang froid for a
moment ; for a moment, but only for a moment,
his gay demeanour deserted him, and he cried
aloud in his agony, **Oh, but this wearifu' hanging
rings in my lug like a new tune." A few minutes
later, he was marching to the scaffold with jaunty
step and head erect, the fear that held him prisoner
for a moment, gone.
Let me confess it here, that I may have less to
l62 SOME REMINISCENCES
confess hereafter ; the greater part of the sermon
preached from Gen. 4th and 21, on that memorable
Sunday morning, when I went to church to get
information for my book, fell upon deaf ears, so far
as I was concerned. The text had aroused thoughts
within me which surged through my brain, and
rung " in my lug like a new tune," with a per-
sistency, too, not to be denied. And the refrain
was always to these same words,
" An' music first on earth was heard
In Gaelic accents deep,
When Jubal in his oxter squeezed
The blether o' a sheep."
ANCIENT MYTH AND THE BAGPIPE.
" Imagination is one of God's chlefest gifts to man ; to
the Celt first, to the world afterwards, through the Celt." ā
/^ENTLE reader, it has been said, with what truth
I know not, that there are more false facts
than false theories in this world.
If you are one of the many who profess to love
fact for its own sake, and look askance at fable?
If you are one of those who care not for the house
beautiful, but only for a night's shelter from the
dews of heaven ?
If you are one of those who consider flowers as
an extravagance, and the monies spent upon them
as worse than wasted, because the five per cent,
comes not back to you in hard cash? Then may
you skip the two following chapters without loss,
and with a possible profit to yourself.
At the same time it is perhaps worth while
remembering that there are false facts many in this
world, and true imaginings not a few. I am about
to make an excursion into Mythland, where imagina-
164 SOME REMINISCENCES
tion, which has hitherto been kept under with a
tight curb, is given free play, and where theory-
flourishes, while known facts for the time being will
be at a discount.
Although we do not hold this as proven, yet we
believe that underneath many of these old-world fables
many rare ā because little suspected ā truths lie hidden.
Mythland, indeed, reminds us very much of the
Halls of Laughter, on entering which the stranger
finds his advances met half way by the most extra-
ordinary looking beings, unlike anything he has
seen before, who excite his mirth by their comicali-
ties. Right in front he sees a man with head
flattened out in pancake fashion, supported upon
the smallest of bodies, with the most diminutive
pair of legs attached. On the right hand is surely
Don Quixote come to life again ! with his solemn
mien and thin lanthorn-shaped jaws and pursed-up
mouth; "a bout of linked sweetness long-drawn
out." While on the left is a third creature, with
the ceann cearc, or hen's-head, perched upon a
" corporation " of sufficient dimensions to satisfy the
most greedy of London aldermen. These hideous-
looking caricatures of the " human frame divine,"
peering out from every niche and cranny in the
Hall, beck and bow and nod, and turn now to
right and now to left, with every movement of the
astonished onlooker, whose gravity and sense of
decorum, long undermined, at length give way in
peels of laughter, which, strangely enough, find no
echo in all that grinning crowd.
AND THE BAGPIPE. 165
This awakens him to the truth that has hitherto
eluded his observation. He himself is the ^^ Dens
ex maclmia^^' the sole author of the show: the sole
cause of the mirth. Behind every queer figure
stands himself; every feature, every movement, is
his own ; his gentlest smile has been reflected back
in broadest grin ; the laughter cannot be but silent
in that shadow-land, of which he is the father.
By means of numerous mirrors, of different con-
cavities and convexities, cunningly inserted into the
draped walls, the man's own face has been shewn
to him in fifty different ways ; the truth has been
so cleverly disguised as to be unrecognisable even
In the mirror of tradition or myth, then, we often
find reflected for us in the same way much of the
prehistoric lore, previously learned from anthropology
and other learned ologies : the truth, distorted it is
true, sometimes beyond recognition : and in this way
our knowledge of old-world affairs is further con-
firmed and strengthened.
Now there are two myths, both found in early
Greek literature, which may perchance shed some
light on the origin and development of the Bag-
pipe ; and it is with some such hope that we in-
troduce them here.
The story of Pan and the story of Athene's
chanter are ā apart from any important knowledge
to be gleaned in their perusal ā entitled to a chapter
of their own in any work upon the Bagpipe, and
will not, we are sure, be thought out of place.
l66 SOME REMINISCENCES
In juxtaposition these two old-world deities ā
Athene and Pan ā might well stand for Beauty and
the Beast in the children's fairy tale. The uncouth
hairy body of the old sylvan god, making a rare
foil to the enchanting beauty of Athene : both
passionately fond of dancing and music, and both
noted for their performance upon the Pipe.
" 'Twas ever thus since first the world began !
The adoration of his fellow-man,
Proclaims the genius hero first, then God ā
Ruling his maker, man, with iron rod.
'Twas thus with Thor, the strong, and Piper Pan,
And all the ancient gods, now under ban." ā
T)AN was one of the most popular gods in the
heathen world. He was an universal favourite
with the Greeks, and also ā under a different name ā
with the Latins.
His divinity was, however, only first acknow-
ledged by the Greeks about the year 470 B.C. He
was worshipped by the country-folk ā by the shep-
herds in Arcadia and round about ā long before
this, but he only became known to the learned
dwellers in Athens shortly after the battle of
Marathon ; and his country charms made him at
once popular with that fickle people.
With his ruddy cheek, and his hearty laugh, and
his jovial unsophisticated manners ; with his mouth
dropping honey fresh from the comb, and his breath
l68 SOME REMINISCENCES
sweet with the odours of the violet ; no ascetic he,
but of jovial tastes ā as the wine-stain still fresh
upon his lips from late revels shewed ā and carrying
with him into the jaded town two gifts worth
having, the fresh airs from Nature's wilds, and
the gift of exquisite music, this hairy creature fairly
captivated the volatile Greek heart.
We need not here repeat the story of Pan and
his Pipes. It has been told by many writers, and
well told too. None, however, excels Mrs Elizabeth
Browning's version in the exquisite poem beginning
with these well-known lines :
" What was he doing-, the Great God Pan,
Down by the side of the river ? "
She also tells the story of his death with a charm
inimitable in the more ambitious poem entitled,
'' Pan, Pan is dead."
We may perhaps ā in spite of all this ā be forgiven
for trying our hand, not at the story itself, but at
the prologue to the story of Piper Pan.
The beginning of the tale takes us back to a very
remote past : to a time when the Aryan race,
hitherto one and undivided ā with its home in the
great central plain of Europe ā was beginning to
break up, by pressure from within, into a number
of separate tribes or nations.
At first there was only one possessive pronoun in
the language, Meum^ or mine. But just about
the time our story opens up there appeared a
most unwelcome stranger, a troublesome little fellow,
This Photograph shews (from left to right)
The Pan Pipe, the Single Tibia of the Romans,
Tibia Pares :
The latter got from a shepherd boy in North Africa.
AND THE BAGPIPE. 169
called "Tuum," or thine, who claimed acquaintance-
ship with "Meum," and demanded a share of his
He had been heard of in several places, more or
less remote, but had so far left the Celt unmolested.
The rumours of his appearance had been gravely
discussed by the seniors of the tribe in council,
because from the very first he was noted as a
Wherever he appeared speedy quarrels arose, and
much shedding of blood often followed. But all
mention of him was strictly avoided in public, and
most of the people were as yet ignorant of the im-
pending danger which, Damocles like, hung over
Formerly the patriarch of the tribe, as he stretched
himself lazily in the door of his tent at break of
day and narrowly scanned the horizon for sign of
other life than his own, looked in vain. The world
lying around him, far as the keenest of visions
carried, was all his own. There was no sign of life
in that vast region to disturb the roseate dawn, nor
sound nor movement outside the sleeping camp.
Fresh pasture upon fresh pasture lay waiting for
the coming of his flocks and herds, and of his alone.
Peace and contentment reigned within and without.
And as it was, so it had been, for untold centuries.
But in process of time the natural increase of
population, and the rapid increase of sheep and
cattle, brought about changes which were distasteful ;
imposed restrictions which were galling to a race
170 SOME REMINISCENCES
hitherto free as the wind ā free to roam about from
year to year, and from place to place ; free to
wander wherever its fancy led it, unchallenged of
When, therefore, for the first time in the history
of the tribe the smoke of a stranger's camp-fire was
perceived like a thin blue streak staining the deeper
blue of the far-distant horizon, the wise men foretold
that the day of trouble was at hand, and their fore-
bodings were, alas ! soon realised. Messengers were
sent out to spy upon the intruders, and great was
the excitement when these brought back word that
little "Tuum," born of rumour, was settled there,
and had come to stay.
" Tuum ! tuum !" said the tribesmen, for the word
was soon in the mouth of everyone. " What is this
new word, and what does it mean ? "
"It means," said the elders of the tribe, "that
the time has come for us to trek."
And so tents were struck, the waggons were
loaded with the household necessaries, the women
and little children were carefully stowed away on
the top of these, and, last of all, the patient oxen
were yoked to, and these simple shepherd folk,
giving up all that meant home to them, wandered
away out into the wilderness rather than submit to
the unwelcome encroachments of little "Tuum."
Which, put into plain language, means that the
cradle of the Aryans became too small, in the
fulness of time, to hold the race now grown to
AND THE BAGPIPE. 17I
" The deeds of the times of old," said Duth-marno,
'* are Hke paths to our eyes." "A tale of the times
of old," sings Ossian.
As this prologue takes up a tale of the times of
old, "a tale of the years that have fled," we will
begin it in the good old-fashioned way, beloved of
our grandfathers, and dear yet to the youthful
Once upon a time, a little shepherd boy, whose
ruddy locks and light blue eyes bespoke him a Celt
of the Celts, sat by the side of a river, paddling
with cool feet, in the clear waters running below,
while his flocks grazed peacefully along its green
He was listening to and wondering at the music
which the soft winds made, playing in and out of
the reeds, that grew in the bed of the river.
He had often before listened to those sweet sounds
and wondered. Fairy music they called it at home
and among his playmates, but the explanation was
not a satisfying one to this boy of enquiring mind.
And so, on this particular morning, of which we
write, with the sun shining brightly out of a cloud-
less sky, and leaving not a single dark nook or
cranny anywhere for fear to lurk in, the boy, taking
his courage in his hand, stepped boldly down into
the water, and seizing hold of a reed which had
been broken off by some stronger gust of wind
than usual, he pulled it up by the root, and putting
his mouth to the hole in the fractured stem he