Vintage Bagpipe Archive

Photos and descriptions of all instruments featured
since October 2010

  • Atherton MD, 2007, nickel, imitation ivory

    This set of Atherton MDs won the World Pipe Band Championship in 2008 when Pipe Major Terry Lee played them in the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band. Terry went on to order a higher-end Atherton and passed this set on. It was made in 2007.

    Dave Atherton learned his craft with Charley Kron in Dobbs Ferry, New York in the late 1990s and early 2000s and went on to open his own firm. His signature pipe was this reproduction model of a set of circa 1880 Duncan MacDougalls played by the late Roddy MacDonald of Wilmington, Delaware. A remarkable craftsman, Dave made an immaculate instrument with meticulous craftsmanship and incredible tone and steadiness. I would unhesitatingly call him the best pipemaker of the modern generation. He still makes a small number of instruments out of his shop near Chicago.

    This bagpipe is in excellent shape, showing only some very slight tarnish marks on the nickel and some wear on the stocks. This imitation ivory is in perfect shape and the tuning chambers are as true as the day the pipes were made. Dave was always careful to make pipes out of exceptional pieces of African blackwood.

    The tone is full and rich on this superb rendering of Duncan MacDougall’s original work.

  • Duncan MacRae, circa WW1, ebony nickel, imitation ivory

    SOLD – This set of Duncan MacRae pipes came to me with the original MacRae “hempless slides” on the tenors. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, the sprung nickel slats had lost their spring and their seal, so the ends of the nickel slides had to be removed and the tuning pin ends combed to take hemp. The original hempless slide was a patented feature of many of Duncan MacRae’s pipes, and the patent number is still clearly visible on the bottoms of all of the nickel slides.

    The pipes had some damage so several pieces have been replaced:  the bass top, one tenor top, both tenor stocks and the blowpipe stock. Dunbar Bagpipes made replica pieces using the original pieces for exact measurements. However, the original robust and rich MacRae tone has been preserved. MacRae pipes display the fullest drone sound I know of, and this set is no exception. They were extremely steady with my set of standard Ezeedrone reeds.

    All ferrules are original.

    The ivory ring was missing to the original tenor top, so it was decided to replace the remaining ivory on all rings and bushes with imitation ivory. So this in a ivory-free vintage bagpipe of very high tonal calibre.

    One tenor stock ferrule is inscribed: GLASGOW HIGHLANDERS, 9th BN HLI.  The 9th Battalion was a volunteer force, part of the Lowland Division of the Highland Light Infantry, with its HQ in Glasgow. It saw a great deal of action in the Great War. Whether this set of pipes saw battle is not known.

    Although MacRae pipes flew under the radar for many years, they have enjoyed a rebirth due to the playing of solo and band phenom Stuart Liddell. MacCallum bagpipes makes a reproduction that you can see offered lower down on this page.


  • Duncan MacRae, circa 1912, natural and nickel mounts

    This set of pipes was identified as a Duncan MacRae set some years ago by my friend Ron Bowen. The voluminous drone sound would bear this out.

    They look to be quite an early set, Ron suggesting they might have come from the early years of Duncan MacRae’s shop, which began around 1909. They are made of ebony, an early wood that would also suggest an early date of manufacture. So they may have been made within a few years either side of 1912.

    As is typical of an ebony set well over 100 years old, some hairline cracks became apparent once the finish was stripped off the pipes. The bass stock, one tenor stock, the blowpipe, and the blowpipe stock all had small fissures that have been invisible whipped and will cause no more trouble. One tenor top had a small chunk of wood missing on the shoulder and this has been filled. The pipes were refinished and all of the natural mounts and nickel were polished. It’s possible that the ring on the bass drone was replaced at some point, and it’s possible that the chanter stock is not original. The nickel ferrules on the stocks don’t have the scribe lines that the drone ferrules have, so they are probably replacements.

    I asked my friend Matt MacIsaac play the pipes for me for a recording to be used in an article on Duncan MacRae on the pipe|drums website. This article should appear around the first week of September, so the pipes can be heard there. The sound was rich, steady and extremely full.

    Although MacRae pipes flew under the radar for many years, they have enjoyed a rebirth due to the playing of solo and band phenom Stuart Liddell. MacCallum bagpipes makes a reproduction that you can see offered lower down on this page.

  • Circa 1930 Hendersons, blackwood, ivory, nickel

    This blackwood Henderson is thought to have been made in the 1930s and is mounted in ivory with nickel ferrules.

    All drone pieces are original. It appears that the blowstick stock and one tenor stock might be replica replacements with the original mounts. The original blowstick had a pencil-thin bore and the stick cracked when it was being bored out, so a replica, poly-lined blackwood blowstick has replaced it.

    There are a few tiny nicks on the caps and bells, but nothing out of the ordinary for an old set. The pipes were stripped and refinished and the tuning chambers gently reamed to even up the tuning action.

    Blackwood tends to be more robust than ebony or cocuswood, and this set bears this out. The tone is extremely full and rich, and they locked into tune perfectly with my Ezeedrone reeds. This would be an impressive an reliable vintage bagpipe on any stage.

  • Robertson, circa 1920s, ebony, nickel, new imitation ivory

    The scribe lines in the middle of the nickel ferrules on this Robertson set suggest a manufacturing date sometime in the 1920s. The bagpipe is made of ebony. The original ivory was removed and has been replaced with convincingly accurate replica imitation ivory projecting mounts and ring caps.

    The blowpipe stock is new, poly-lined blackwood, and it’s possible that the chanter stock is not original either. Unfortunately, the bass drone top piece split apart on the lathe during repairs and has been replaced with a blackwood replica The tuning pin on the bass bottom was also replaced. Several cracks were invisible whipped, and the entire bagpipe has been stripped and refinished. Repairs of this extent are not unusual in a 100-year-old ebony instrument

    James Robertson took over the John Center shop in 1908 when the Centers moved to Melbourne, Australia. Though Robertson himself died in 1948, his company continued until the mid-1960s. I know of no other bagpipe making company that maintained such a high standard of tone and manufacturing during its entire run, even after the passing of its founder.

    Robertson pipes are robust and full in the Henderson tradition, easy to reed and extremely steady. And the “mushroom” style mounts make them one of the most recognizable bagpipes in the industry. Why we don’t see more Robertson pipes played at elite levels has long been a mystery to me. They are superb, and this instrument follows in that tradition.

    In addition, the fact that this bagpipe contains no ivory means it can travel freely the world over. It is, as my good friend Donald Lindsay calls it, a “border pipe.”

  • Henderson, circa 1920s, ebony, blackwood, Sterling silver, artificial ivory

    This unusual set of Hendersons dates from the 10 years around 1920. They are made from very open-grained ebony, though the stocks came with blackwood replica replacements.

    The plain Sterling silver is not original. It is hallmarked 2016. One unusual feature of the silver is that the stock ferrules are beaded, while the drone ferrules aren’t. Hallmarks are the same on all.

    The caps may originally have been casein, but came to me with artificial ivory replacements. The bushes, however, are casein, and likely original.

    The pipes have a beautiful, rich, vibrant, old Henderson tone, quite classic.  So while it does not display a “nornal” vintage Henderson appearance, the set certainly plays a classic, vintage Henderson sound.


  • Henderson, silver and ivory, hallmarked 1963

    This gorgeous set of Hendersons is hallmarked 1962-63 and displays a stunning Zoomorphic hand-engraved silver pattern.

    The pipes have been stripped, checked for flaws, and refinshed. The original ivory mouthpiece bulb was cracked, as most older bulbs are, so a replacement was made in artificial ivory. The rest of the pipes are entirely original. The ivory has aged with lovely character, save for one very minor stain on one tenor projecting mount.

    The pipes played beautifully and locked into tune immediately with the Ezeedrone reeds I play in my own Hendersons. They are robust and vibrant and formed a fantastic blend with the chanter.

    Not much more to say about this set — the photos say it better than I can, and the sound matches the shots!

  • Robertson, circa 1920s, engraved, hallmarked silver 2006, ivory

    This Robertson set was manufactured sometime in the 1920s, probably as a full ivory bagpipe. In 2006 a previous owner had the hallmarked Sterling silver installed onto the ferrules, slides and mouthpiece sleeve. As you can see in the photos, the silver is spectacular.

    The tone is equally spectacular. James Robertson is, I think, the most consistent bagpipe maker I know of, both tonally and in his commitment to manufacturing excellence.

    There were cracks in both tenor tops that have been invisible whipped and will give no more trouble. The age of the ivory resulted in some open cracks that have been filled beautifully by my refurbisher, Dunbar Bagpipes.

    The ivory mouthpiece bulb is original, with a couple of slight cracks repaired. As with all Robertsons, the tone of this set is full, steady and full of blend with the chanter.

  • Henderson, circa 1890s, ebony, full ivory

    This is one of the older sets of Henderson pipes we’ve had on the site for a while. They likely date to around the 1890s or earlier as suggested by the narrow beading and the much finer bead on the ferrule. The pipes are ebony, with ivory mounts that are in excellent shape except for a couple of rice sized chips.

    There are a couple of anomalies with these pipes. The two tenor bottoms appear on closer inspection to be Lawrie pieces rather than Henderson, though the vintage of the pieces looks quite similar to the Henderson. I double-checked my own knowledge of Henderson and Lawrie pipes of that era with Rick Pettigrew, who runs Dunbar Bagpipes and is my refurbisher. He confirmed that back in these days Henderson and Lawrie were making pretty much exactly the same instrument except for cosmetic differences. They were known even to job out to one another.

    Rick measured up the two tenor bottoms and they match up perfectly with Henderson tenor bottoms from that era. The bass drone stock and blowpipe look like they may be Lawrie as well through the mounts appear original.

    As is usual with ebony that is more than 100 years old there were a couple of cracks that have been invisible whipped and will give no trouble again.

    The slight differences in pieces have no detrimental effects on the tone of this instrument, which is classic, refined, bold, seamless Henderson.This is a lovely set for any level of serious piper who would like a vintage bagpipe with character and tone.

  • Henderson, WW1, cocuswood, nickel and casein

    This set of cocuswood Hendersons is tonally exceptional, to the point where I have enjoyed it myself for the past several months, giving my number one bagpipe a rest.

    It was likely made in the years around WW1, perhaps a bit earlier. It has nickel ferrules and casein projecting mounts, ring caps and bushes. Unlike the chalky and discoloured casein we often see on old Robertson pipes, this material is white enough to be mistaken for modern imitation ivory. So the pipes are ivory-free and can be transported across borders without a certificate.

    One piece of casein has a small brown discolouration on it, and the bead on one projecting mount has a tiny split that has been filled.

    The blowstick was too badly cracked to repair so the projecting mount was installed onto a replica polypenco blowpipe.

    The cord guides on both tenor drones are stamped “P Henderson.” Although there is no stamp on the bass drone, there is no doubt it is original to the pipes.

    I was extremely impressed with the seamless, robust sound of these pipes and their exceptional steadiness.

  • R. U. Brown Hendersons, cocuswood, full ivory, circa WW1

    This is one of the most historic and well authenticated bagpipes we have ever had on the Vintage page. Robert Urquhart Brown (aka R. U. Brown, Bob Brown) was one of the great players and piobaireachd authorities of the 20th century. A pupil of John MacDonald of Inverness and one of the famous “Bobs of Balmoral,” he made his living along with Robert Nicol as a gamekeeper and Royal Estate Piper at Balmoral Castle. He and Nicol are immortalized in the “Masters of Piobaireachd” CD series released some years ago. Very few taught as many great pipers as the Bobs.

    This set of cocuswood Hendersons was owned by Bob Brown throughout his life and remained in the family afterwards until I purchased them about three years ago. The history of the pipes is documented in a letter written by Bob’s daughter that has been with the pipes since 2002. It reads, in part:

    These bagpipes were the first bagpipes owned by my father, the late Pipe Major Robert Urquhart Brown, M.B.E. of Balmoral. He was piper to H.M. King George V, H.M. King George VI and H.M. Queen Elizabeth.

    These bagpipes were a gift to him as a boy after winning the first major Piobaireachd competition he entered, which was the Argyllshire Gathering Junior Competition. Thereafter he played them for about 10 years until he won the Inverness Gold Medal Competition in 1928. He was then given a set of silver mounted bagpipes which he played until his death in 1972. These bagpipes have remained with the Brown family since then….

    We don’t know if the pipes were new or not when Brown acquired them, but they are certainly WW1 or earlier.

    I have played this set as my #1 bagpipe for the past three years, not just because it was Bob Brown’s bagpipe, but because it is one of the best sets of Hendersons I have ever played. I always said I would never sell it, but I’ve said that about other amazing instruments I have acquired, and when a new remarkable set comes up (this time a lovely full ivory Donald MacPhee set, circa 1870s) I pass the previous set on and get to know the new one. It’s a pattern I’m sure I will continue. I’m not one to hoard bagpipes.

    No repairs were required to this set when I acquired them, and as far as I know the finish is original.

    If it looks like it’s been played recently, that’s because it has. I removed the bag minutes before these photos were taken.

  • Robertson, silver and ivory, hallmarked 1954-55

    This stunning set of Robertson pipes, mounted in Sterling silver and ivory, is hallmarked 1954-55.

    It is in remarkable condition for a bagpipe made the year I was born — probably better condition than me. All pieces are original except for the mouthpiece bulb, which is new imitation ivory and an excellent match for the ivory on the pipes. The silver mouthpiece sleeve is original. Even the original hemp stops are still present on the four tuning pins.

    The pipes were stripped and refinished and required two minor whippings under two of the silver stock ferrules where hairline cracks were just beginning.

    I’m always raving about the remarkable consistency of Robertson pipes, both in terms of tone and manufacturing standards. This bagpipe is no exception. The tone is robust and the drones are steady and easy to reed. And the instrument is gorgeous.

    This is as nice a Robertson set as we’ve ever had on the Vintage page.

  • Circa 1920 Robertson, ebony, nickel ferrules, artificial ivory ring caps

    James Robertson was one of the most consistent makers ever. All Robertson pipes — even for the 20 years after his passing in 1948 — are superb. However, the sets made from around 1915 until 1925 were close to magical, especially the ebony sets.

    This is one of those sets. The robust, rich and vibrant tone and steadiness of this ebony Robertson are absolutely exceptional.

    The set originally had chalky casein tops. These have been replaced with artificial ivory that has a remarkably realistic grain. The nickel ferrules with the scribe line around the middle are typical of circa 1920s sets.

    All pieces are original. The projecting mounts are ebony. The blowstick had a hairline crack down its length that has been invisible whipped and will give no further trouble. The projecting mount on the bass mid-joint broke in half in transit. This has been replaced by an excellent blackwood replica, virtually undetectable as a replacement.

    This is a tonally exceptional set that would be comfortable on any stage.

  • R. G. Hardie, circa 1960, blackwood, full catalin, nickel stock slides

    This is not the usual high-end vintage instrument this site is known for, but the set came as an add-on with a high-end set, so here it is, and at a great price.

    Made by the R. G. Hardie company, likely around 1960, the set is blackwood, and the drones are mounted in catalin, an artificial ivory material that is resiliant and long-lasting but which turns pumpkin orange as time passes.  It is not used any more. The stocks have nickel ferrules

    Bob Hardie was one of the most successful bagpipe makers of all time and was renown for the quality of wood he used. I frequently find 70-year-old Hardie sets still crack-free, and with perfectly even tuning chambers. The drones are “mellow,” meaning they are not robust — quiet if you will — but rock steady, air-efficient and easy to reed. As such they are excellent starter sets, or sets for infrequent players who want steadiness and a pleasant hum rather than a booming buzz. The quality of the wood makes them nearly indestructible in any weather.

    The finish is original, and as you can see from the photos, it is far from perfect up close. But the idea with this set is to keep the price low, so I have left them as I found them. One repair had to be made: the ring cap on the bass top was broken and had to be glued into place. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but the repair is solid and stable. You can see it in the caps photo.

    I’m selling this set as sticks and stocks only, allowing the buyer to install less expensive accessories than I usually stock. However, if you want them set up to play, we can discuss this as well.

  • Circa 1920 Hendersons, ebony, full ivory

    This lovely old Henderson set could be as early as WW1, and plays like a dream — steady, full and seamless in the classic Henderson tradition.

    The pipes are in excellent shape with one unfortunate flaw: about 1/4 of the lower projecting mount on one tenor drone has been broken off. This clearly occurred a long time ago as the break is quite clean and worn fairly smooth. That is to say, it is noticeable, but far from obvious.

    The wood was in excellent shape for 100-year-old ebony. There was one hairline crack under the ferrule on the chanter stock that has been repaired. A small split in the ivory ferrule on the chanter stock has also been filled. The tone on this set is as good as Hendersons get. The price reflects the flaw described above.

    This is an excellent opportunity to get a classic Henderson set at an excellent price.

  • David Glen & Sons, circa 1910, cocuswood, nickel ferrules, new imitation ivory rings

    These little button-mount cocuswood David Glen pipes are real gems:  great character, rich and rock steady, and very light on the shoulder. This set originally had ivory caps, but they were replaced with artificial ivory with a very realisitc grain.

    When I purchased these, it was with all parts original, but the chanter stock is a little ‘stockier’ than the tenor and blowstick stocks, and it is possible that this is an early replacements. Having said that, it appears to be cocuswood.

    The pipes are in great shape and were recently stripped and refinished.

    The fact that they are free of ivory makes them an idea travel pipe, or, as a good friend of mine calls them, ‘border pipes’!

  • Circa 1900 ebony Henderson, ivory with silver slides

    I purchased this gem of a set as having been made in the 1920s, but my trusted refurbishers at Dunbar Bagpipes believe they are much closer to 1900. They are made of ebony, and mounted in ivory. The slides are silver, almost certainly a later addition. They are not hallmarked but  but are stamped with two words: STERLING and SAW. If anyone can tell me what this refers to I would be happy to hear from you!

    There were a number of hairline cracks here and there, but nothing that was visible until the finish was removed from the pipes. These cracks were easily fixed and should give no trouble again. The blowstick is a blackwood replica with the original mount. The blowstick stock is blackwood, lined with polypenco, made by Dunbar. The pipes have been refinished.

    This is the second time I’ve had these pipes. I purchased them back from the previous customer who was downsizing to a less expensive set. The seller from whom I bought them some years ago had originally gotten them from Jim McIntosh in the 1980s.

    Tonally, these pipes are top of the line classic Henderson — steady, rich, with a lovely bass and refined harmonics that only ebony can offer.

  • Robertson, circa 1940, full ivory

    This is a classic James Robertson set made in Edinburgh, most likely in the years around 1940. The set was in excellent shape, needing only the finish polished, the tuning chambers reamed slightly to even them out, and one hairline under the blowstick stock ferrule invisible whipped.

    There are some minor anomalies. One tenor drone stock appears not to be original. It is barely noticeable, and only in the combing. I suspect it’s from a different Robertson set. The chanter stock is a perfect match to the rest of the set, except that the ivory ferrule lacks the double scribe-line: again, barely noticeable. The blowstick stock may or may not be a replacement. Again, none of these is visible without very careful examination.

    The tone of this set is pure Robertson. He is the most consistent pipemaker I know of tonally. Every single set sounds the same: full, bassy, rich and steady.

  • Kron Standard model, 1998, blackwood, plain Sterling silver, artificial ivory

    This set came to me as a Kron Heritage set made in 2002, but feedback from customer has sent me back to rethink, and I believe now that it is the original Kron model made prior to the Heritage, which was developed in 2001. The chanter, #229, was made in 1998, and I suspect the pipes were made at this time as well.

    The pipes were extremely well crafted, and this model was the standard configuration: plain Sterling silver ferrules and artificial ivory projecting mounts and ring caps. The tone is full and steady. This set is in virtually pristine condition, except for one rice-grain sized chip on one projecting mount.

    This would be an excellent work-a-day set for a young competitive player, or an attractive, easy-to-reed and trouble-free pipe for a learner of any age. Another of these sets was sold on the site recently, though a later model.

  • 2010 Reproduction of 1870s J&R Glen, McGillivray/Doucet

    Back around 2008 I acquired a circa 1870s J&R Glen bagpipe in cocuswood with ivory mounts. It was one of the most stunning tonal instruments I’ve owned, and I played it for about three years.

    In 2010, I began working with Thomas Doucet in Niagara Falls to create a reproduction. I was thrilled with the result. Most were made out of cocobola, similar in appearance to cocuswood.

    We called the instrument, “The Edinburgh,” after the home town of the Glen families.

    Only a couple of sets were made out of African blackwood, and this is one of them. The mounts are holly. The pipes were made in 2010 and appearances would suggest they have hardly been played. They look new.

    Thomas and I moved on to other projects within a couple of years and production ceased, so only a limited number of The Edinburgh were made.

    The robust J&R Glen tone of the 1800s was quite different from the more subdued David Glen pipe.  This a bold and vibrant sound more reminiscent of Duncan MacDougall, and very steady. The style also makes them a very lightweight instrument on the shoulder.

    I have three of these sets in my high school band and am always pleased with how good they sound and how steady they are. This bagpipe is an affordable little gem.

  • Circa 1900 Cocuswood Henderson, new artificial ivory mounts

    This lovely cocuswood Henderson came to me with the ivory mounts badly chipped and broken, though the sticks were in fine shape. Profiles and mount shapes suggested a date of manufacture as early as the 1890s.

    I had the damaged ivory replaced with Dunbar Bagpipes non-chip artificial ivory. The blowstick stock and chanter stock were cracked and required some invisible whipping. The blowstick was broken beyond repair and was replaced with a poly-lined blackwood blowstick.

    Some readers might be familiar with the late John Kidd, an American whose knowledge of acoustics and skill at wooodworking led to his being in demand by pipers to make adjustments to their pipes to improve their tone and steadiness. John rounded out the ends of the tuning pins, rebored the stocks to a conical shape and made all bores perfectly parallel from the top to the bottom of each drone. His clients have included some top players who swear by his work. John’s touch is evident on this set.

    The pipes display classic, bold Henderson tone and steadiness, suitable for pipers from the bottom to the top of the tree. I’m a big fan of cocuswood. Both of my personal Henderson sets are made of it.

    This would make an ideal top-drawer travel set.

  • Robertson, circa 1960, engraved silver alloy, ivory

    These Robertsons were purchased new sometime around 1960. They are in superb condition.

    This set was owned by a gentleman whose wife owned a set of Robertsons as well with the same silver pattern. One of the sets was much older. At some point it’s possible that one or two of the stocks got switched around. The ferrule on one tenor stock is the same pattern, but much older, though the stock appears to be original. The bass stock is a Robertson, but with a tapered bore typical of older Robertsons. However, the ferrule on the bass is orignal to the set.

    Suffice to say that all parts are Robertson and the set suffers no tonal or visual ill effects from the inadvertant switch!

    One unusual characteristic about this set (and this may be more common than pipers think):  while the set is not hallmarked, any piper would call this set “silver and ivory.”  However, I had the silver professionally tested. Here are the results:  Copper: 61.42%.  Zinc: 22.95%.  Nickel: 8.3%.  Silver:  4.67%.  Strontium: 2.7%.  It is absolutely lovely material, as the photos show, with just enough silver to give it the remarkable sheen and the softness to take hand engraving.

    The pipes were refinished about 3 years ago and all of the mounts are in immaculate condition. The pipes play with typically bold Robertson timbre — rich, steady and with a dominant bass sound.

    This is really a gorgeous and exceptional pipe, free of cracks or blemishes, though missing the original engraved mouthpiece and ivory bulb.

  • Unknown ebony, circa pre-1890, ivory, nickel ferrules

    SOLD – This is a really neat bagpipe. Tonally, it is one of the best instruments I’ve had in my hands in some time. The sound is huge and room-filling. When I put my own Ezeedrones into them and plugged the drones into my own stocks and with my own chanter, I tuned them and immediately played 4 minutes of 4/4 marches without the slightest wobble. They locked like they were digital — but with life and boldness.

    They came to me as unknown, though educated guesses range, in order, from Henderson to early Lawrie to Donald MacPhee, the latter being Ron Bowen’s considered assessment. Certainly in the Glasgow tradition. The sticks are ebony and quite massive. The pipes are noticeably heavier than other such mounted pipes, confirming the amount of wood used, especially in the drone tops.

    The ferrules are quite distincive — a bit in the old Robertson tradition — and may well be later additions. The lovely old ebony shows sapwood here and there, adding to the visual character. As with any 125-year-old ebony, there were a couple of hairline cracks. I take no chances and have all of these filled or whipped, whether they look threatening or not. This set needed no whipping. The two tenor stocks are quite noticeably different lengths. This is not uncommon among pre-1900 pipes of various makes (especially Glen), though no one is quite sure why. The bass bottom joint is worn almost smooth.

    The set was stripped (which is how we find the wee hairlines) and refinished. The tuning chambers were reamed perfectly even.

    A first-class set of pipes which may live out their lives unnamed.

  • Henderson, circa 1900, ebony, German silver and ivory

    This old Henderson set could pass for silver and ivory, but is in fact German silver, a high quality precursor to what we now call nickel.

    The wood is ebony. The pipes are beautifully made and the ivory is in excellent shape for its age, showing only a few spider lines here and there.

    The set underwent a major refurbishment with hairline cracks, particularly under ferrules, in several pieces. All were invisible whipped.

    Very few are visible except in one or two places where the browner shade of ebony couldn’t be perfectly matched on the bead.  Invisible whipping is foolproof. Those cracks will not reopen.

    Two of the five stocks are not originals. The drone stocks are all original, the chanter and blowstick stocks are replicas with the original mounts affixed. The ivory projecting mount on the blowstick was replaced with a matching Henderson mount. You would not know it isn’t original. The set was refinished.

    The pipes display a fabulous, ebony Henderson tone, full but refined in a way only ebony can offer. The drones are steady, vibrant, full of blend, and tune in the right places.

    This pipe could be played at any level.

  • Lawrie, circa 1905, ebony, silver and ivory

    SOLD – This is one of the earliest silver and ivory Lawries we’ve had on the site in a long time. All of the pieces are original except for the blowpipe, which is a poly replica with internal valve and the original mount. The chanter is an old Hardie fitted with the original engraved silver sole. The blowpipe bulb is modern polypenco, and the sleeve is engraved nickel. The blowpipe mount has aged more than the rest of the ivory, but does appear to be original. I suspect an owner at some point used a different blowpipe and stored the original in a damp place. One lower projecting mount has a rice-grain-sized chip.

    The set was dated by the previous owner, and external evidence and profiles support a date that could indeed be as early as 1905.

    As with any 100+ year old ebony, there were three or four hairline crack on the outside of the wood. None threatened any of the pieces, but I prefer to have all of these sealed or invisible whipped as required. No whipping was needed on this set.

    It should be noted that this style of Lawrie bagpipe with engraved, tapered, metal ferrules, are usually called “silver and ivory.” In fact, the silver is plating only. But Lawrie executed the best plating I’ve ever seen. Even after years of terrible tarnishing on the mountes of an unplayed pipes, these buff up to a gorgeous sheen.

    The drones are a tonal masterpiece — big, bold and steady. This is a prize set.

  • Lawrie, circa 1915, full ivory

    This beautiful set of Lawries were sold to me as Hendersons. It comes from the Great War era when Lawries and Hendersons were quite similar in appearance, but especially in tone. Vintage Lawries and Hendersons have always had very similar tonal characteristics, but it is no surprise to me that the previous owner pegged these as Henderson.

    It is one of the loveliest ivory sets we’ve had here in a while, both visually and tonally. The pipes are seamless and rich in quality, with a bass that cradles the whole bagpipe. The ivory patina is quite stunning and the pipes are a visual treat.

    There were hairline surface cracks in one tenor top, the bass mid-joint and two of the stocks, but these have been sealed and are undetectable. Two of the ivory ferrules had open cracks. These have been sealed, though the difficulty of matching ivory patina means they are visible.

    The ivory bushing from one one of the tenors was missing, but I had a perfect match in my box if miscellaneous bits, and you would be hard-pressed to detect the difference. One tenor ring has a small chip out of it: pretty standard with a set of this age.

    This Lawrie set is really a classic from the golden age of pipemaking in Glasgow.

  • Suspected MacDougall, circa 1850s, ebony, full ivory, brass lined

    I love this set. It is one of the oldest and most distinctive we’ve had on the site.

    I acquired them as MacDougall, and other opinions support this. Having said that, they are not exactly like any other MacDougall set I’ve ever seen. They may be too early for Duncan, and may be his father John’s, though the possibility of them being made by Thomas MacBean Glen — easily an equal maker — has also been raised.

    The set is brass lined and very MacDougall-like in tonal character. I’ve played them for the last three months, and am taken with every aspect of them.

    As is usually the case with brass-lined ebony, there were some cracks adjacent to the brass. These have been invisible whipped and will never be trouble again. The set came without stocks. By pure coincidence, several days after I purchased this set a friend approached me about a box of parts that contained one complete set of stocks — ebony and from likely the same period. They were a near perfect match for the pipes.

    The blowstick is a poly-lined blackwood replica. The set has been stripped and refinished.

    Though the identity of this set may not be positive, there is no doubt they are the exquisite product of a high-end mid-19th century maker.

  • Henderson, circa 1912, blackwood, ivory, nickel

    This is one of several Henderson sets of this vintage to appear on the site in recent months, though the seamed ferrules on this set suggested they might be earlier than the 1920s. Additional information provided recently by a reader who has seen an identical set with the same bass stock engravings suggest they were made prior to the Great War and spent time overseas during the war with the 236th Battallion in New Brunswick.

    236 Battalion, New Brunwick, prior to departing for the Great War. It almost certain that this Henderson is in this picture and that Miss Louisa F. Murray is front and centre. Click to enlarge.

    The pipes were in fantastic shape, requiring only a polish on the lathe. The blowstick was missing completely, so a poly-lined blackwood replica was made and a perfectly matching Henderson ivory blowpie mount was found in my stock of “otherwise useless” parts.

    The tuning chambers were a bit uneven, so they have been gently reamed to perfection, and of course the set was rehemped.

    An inscription on the ferrule of the bass drone stock reads, “Donated by Miss Louisa F. Murray, Douglas Avenue, St. John.” There is a number “16” inscribed on the chanter stock ferrule.

    There is nothing more to be said about this set. It is a top-drawer, vintage Henderson bagpipe: steady, rich and full, easy to reed, with a big, solid sounding bass.

  • Hamish Moore Scottish Smallpipe in key of D, circa 2004

    Hamish Moore is well known as one of the great makers and revivalists of the Scottish smallpipe. His pipes are played around the world by perhaps the majority of top smallpipe players.

    This bellowsblown set is in the key of D. It was made around 2004. It is made in blackwood with cocobola ferrules. The common stock is hallmarked Sterling silver, so I suspect the ferrules are silver as well, though too small and troublesome to hallmark.

    I’ve owned this set for a number of years and had great pleasure out of it. Because of the extreme winters in Ontario I’ve sometimes found Hamish’s cane reeds finicky. Recently I sent this bagpipe to John Walsh in Antogonish, Nova Scotia, a great smallpipe maker in his own right, and had John reed it with his plastic reeds. This has made the smallpipe totally steady and reliable, even when my Ontario relative humidity is at 15%. The chanter reed is slightly higher pressure than most smallpipe reeds, so has great volume.

    The set does not come with a bellows. You’ll need to provide that yourself! This would be a great set for someone who may already own a bellowsblown set in A and wants to expand their horizons!

  • David Glen, circa 1900, cocuswood, nickel

    David Glen cocuswood pipes like this circa 1900 set can be a visual delight. The tone is extremely rich, with great locking ability and chanter blend. Glen pipes do not generally give a booming drone sound but are steady and subtle. This set has great character both tonally and visually.

    These pipes were on the site a few years ago with visible external whipping on the tenor tops. This has now been augmented to invisible whipping. While it’s impossible to hide the whipped combings completely given the variations in cocuswood colouring, the overall effect is excellent, as seen in the photos of the tenor tops.

    The blowpipe stock was badly cracked, so a poly-lined cocobolo replica was made. In all other respects the set is in great shape.

    The chanter actually plays quite nicely, albeit at a very low pitch. The ivory sole suggests it is not original to the pipes, though it is a more than suitable match. The pipes themselves are free of ivory.