McTear’s are delighted to offer a fine set of bagpipes in The Clocks, Scientific and Musical Instruments Auction this month. Lot 557, a set of early twentieth century ivory mounted bagpipes by Robert Reid of Glasgow, is sure to hit all the right notes when it goes under the hammer, estimated at £800-1200.
There is some conjecture over the precise date of origin of bagpipes, but it is widely regarded that they can be traced to medieval times. Tied to the idea of “Scottishness” as strongly as haggis and kilts, the bagpipes are not exclusive to Scotland and, in fact, have been played for centuries throughout large parts of Europe, Turkey, Africa and North America. The traditional “Great Highland bagpipes” that are familiar to us all achieved widespread recognition through their usage in the British military. As a musical instrument of war, it is thought that pipes replaced trumpets to help inspire the Highlanders into battle.
Almost all bagpipes consist of the same component parts; an air supply, a bag with a chanter and one or more drones. The most common method of supplying air to the bag is by blowing with the mouth. The bag then acts as an airtight reservoir to hold the air and regulate its flow. This allows the piper to breathe and maintain a continuous sound all at the same time, achieving the recognisable droning sound. The chanter is usually played by one or two hands and is used as the melody pipe. Generally comprising two or more sliding parts, the drone allows the pitch of the pipes to be altered.