• Thow, circa 1910, ebony, ivory, German silver

    Kudos to my friend Ron Bowen for identifying this set as Thow of Dundee. Once he gave me the lead I was able to match up the style of projecting mount with a documented 1909 silver and ivory Thow set I sold a few years ago. This set lacks the iconic Thow scribe line on the cord guide, but, as Ron reminded me, Thow “was all over the map” stylistically.

    This is a beautifully made bagpipe with lovely overall aesthetics. The pipes were purchased from an estate dealer. Other items in the estate were a hat badge and sash belonging to a warrant officer in the Highland Cyclist Battalion 1908-1918, as well as some literature with connections to the Clan MacRae Pipe Band.

    The only notable fault is that the ring caps appear not to be original, though the German silver matches that on the rest of the pipes. The ivory bush inside one of the tenor caps is set slightly askew. The cap could not be removed to fix this without risking damage. Given that this would have no effect on the sound, it was decided to leave it as is.

    As is often the case with old ebony pipes, there were slight hairline cracks under a number of the metal ferrules. Though no immediate threat, these can spread years down the road, so the ferrules were removed, the tenons whipped, and the ferrules reaffixed. The mouthpiece bulb doesn’t appear to be ivory, and the mouthpiece is almost certainly not original to the pipes. The set will be shipped with this mouthpiece as well as a standard plastic mouthpiece.

    The pipes were stripped and refinished and the tuning chambers were reamed slightly to even out the tuning action.

    Tonally, this set is much like the 1909 silver and ivory set previously mentioned: full, steady, and with a great blend with the chanter, unlike some Thows I’ve had that can be quite mellow. The sound reminded me a great deal of a Sinclair set I played during my competitive years in the 1980s, though the set is certainly not Sinclair. I like this bagpipe a lot.