Vintage Bagpipe Archive

Photos and descriptions of all instruments featured
since October 2010

  • David Glen, circa 1870s, ebony, ivory

    SOLD — This is a fairly early David Glen set, made in ebony, and mounted in full ivory, likely during David’s early years in the 1870s. The projecting mounts are smaller that in later sets, and more rounded, in the style of David’s father Alexander.

    As is usual with 140-year-old ebony, there were some cracks under ferrules that extended up into the pieces. These have been invisible whipped and will be stable going forward. The two bass tuning pins are fitted with copper sleeves. These may have been added later, but chances are the entire set was originally sleeved and at some point the tenor sleeves were removed.

    The set had come to the previous owner with no stocks. He asked David Naill & Co. to create replica stocks out of blackwood and fit them with aged imitation ivory that would match the original ivory on the pipes as closely as possible. The result is remarkably accurate.

    All other pieces are original, except for the blowpipe, which is a replica with it’s original ivory mount.

    The pipes play in typically David Glen fashion:  slightly subdued and with extreme steadiness and a rich blend with the chanter.

  • Duncan MacDougall, circa 1890s, ebony, full ivory

    SOLD — This ebony MacDougall set is difficult to date, but probably originated in Duncan MacDougall’s shop in the 1890s. Duncan liked customers to come to the shop to order a bagpipe, and it was there that customers probably chose minor tweaks to their instruments. The Edinburgh-style cut beads on the projecting mounts on this set are a likely example, as Duncan rarely did this.

    The set was in such good shape when I acquired it that I was convinced it had replacement pieces, but in fact all pieces are original ebony except for the blowstick and blowstick stock. The ferrule on the bass top might be a replacement, but if so, it is a perfect ivory replica.

    The bass bottom was cracked and required invisible whipping. A number of ferrules had the usual tiny cracks in the tenons that come with age, and these were whipped under the ferrules to prevent future cracking.

    The set came with what looked like old Robertson slides that didn’t suit the pipes at all and impeded the tuning chambers, so these were replaced with plain Sterling silver slides hallmarked 2016.

    The set played in typical MacDougall fashion: robust but not booming, very steady, and with a sonorous bass sound.

    Email me about this set.

    As shown, sticks only
    CAD $6,950 plus shipping

    Set up to play by Jim McGillivray with Ross or Bannatyne bag, polypenco chanter of choice, Ezeedrone drone reeds, Highland Gear bag cover, plain coloured silk drone cords, plastic chanter cap. (To add Ross or Bannatyne Canister system and Ross valve/watertrap, add CAD $165) (For an African Blackwood chanter instead of polypenco, request add-on price.)
    CAD $7,695  plus shipping

  • Henderson, circa 1915, cocuswood, nickel, ivory

    SOLD — We’ve had quite a number of cocuswood Hendersons on the site over the years, but few in such great shape. Cocuswood is stupendous for pipes and it is sad that it is no longer available in instrument-grade. The use of cocuswood, along with the profiles of this set, indicate a manufacturing date likely within five years either way of the Great War.

    The set needed no work but for re-truing of the tenor tuning chambers and reaffixing of the nickel ferrules. The colouring is sublime and the ivory and nickel are in lovely condition.

    Tonally, these pipes are premier: robust and steady, with a seamless overall blend typical of the great Henderson sets.

    This set would make any piper happy, from the serious hobbyist to a Gold Medal contender.

     

  • R. G. Lawrie, full silver, hallmarked 1965

    SOLD — Full silver pipes of any kind are uncommon. If they happen to be Lawries:  bonus.

    This set is hallmarked with “RGL” silver on each piece, and the date is 1964-65. All pieces are original.

    One tenor stock and one tenor top had hairline cracks that have been repaired invisibly. The finish on the pipes was in good shape. I prefer to leave pipes as original as possible if I possibly can, so the pipes were not refinished. The blowpipe has at some point had a copper insert installed and a crack repaired and this has held up well.

    Note that the dark blotches appearing on the ring cap silver in a couple of the photos are reflections from my lights, not blemishes.

    Tonally the set is full and steady, tuning up quickly with my current Kinnaird Edge drone reeds.

    If you long for a head-turning set with good tone and a quality name like Lawrie for a reasonable price, you won’t do better than this one!

     

  • Henderson, cocuswood, circa 1916, remounted in engraved silver, imitation ivory

    SOLD – This cocuswood Henderson set is stamped in the cord guides. It came to me mounted in nickel and casein. The wood and profiles suggest a manufacturing date within a few years of the Great War.

    The casein was not in good shape so it was decided to remount the entire set in imitation ivory and Sterling silver engraved in Ancient Celtic by Truehand engraving. The pipes came out beautifully after refinishing and the cocuswood gives them a lovely burgundy hue.

    They played beautifully from the first blow, locking into tune in the correct tuning positions and filling the room with a classic, bold, seamless Henderson sound.

     

  • Donald MacPhee, circa 1876, ebony, full ivory, nickel slides

    SOLD – This set immediately struck me as a Donald MacPhee set when I first saw it two years ago. I sent photos of it to Ron Bowen. By a remarkable coincidence, he just happened to have a set of pipes in his possession that had its original 1876 bill of sale from Donald MacPhee’s shop in Glasgow. The two sets of pipes were identical in every respect. The chanter that is with the set is a very old Henderson, probably made early in the life on the Henderson shop. Of course, Donald MacPhee’s shop became the Peter Henderson shop when MacPhee died at 37 in 1880.

    I’ve been playing this set as my primary bagpipe for the past year. As I tend to do, I’m moving on to a different set that has come into my collection. This MacPhee set is robust, steady, rich, and has an excellent blend with the drones. I have enjoyed playing it immensely. I just noticed a small crack in the blowpipe stock. This will be invisible whipped and will never be a problem again.

    The set was refinished a year ago.

    This is a first-class set from one of the great figures in piping history.

    Email me about this set.

    As shown, sticks only
    CAD $5,325 plus shipping

    Set up to play by Jim McGillivray with Ross or Bannatyne bag, polypenco chanter of choice, Ezeedrone drone reeds, Highland Gear bag cover, plain coloured silk drone cords, plastic chanter cap. (To add Ross or Bannatyne Canister system and Ross valve/watertrap, add CAD $165) (For an African Blackwood chanter instead of polypenco, request add-on price.)
    CAD $6,095  plus shipping

  • Circa 1910 MacRae, nickel, ivory

    SOLD – The Duncan MacRae firm made pipes in Glasgow from 1897 to 1952. One of their patented innovations was the “hempless slide.” This is a nickel tuning slide sheath with grooves cut near the top that can be sprung slightly to act just like a hemped tuning slide. Most of them lose their shape after some decades and folks have them cut short in favour of a hemped tenon. Some forward-thinking soul was smart with this set and left the upper bass slide “hempless” as original. It is quite firm and perfect for the bass upper. There is no telltale patent number on any of the nickel slides, suggesting the pipes were made around the time or before the patent was approved. Patent-numbered slides give 1909 as the date of the patent. The use of blackwood would suggest a manufacturing date later in the first decade of the last century.

    Another distinctive MacRae feature of this set are slightly different bore measurements between the two tenor drone tops.

    This set has typical, beaded MacRae nickel and ivory mounts. The tone is also typically MacRae:  boomingly robust and steady, locking in nicely with my Kinnaird Edge reeds. The set was polished, but not stripped and refinished.  A crack was invisible-whipped under one tenor stock. A slight separation in one ivory ring was filled. There is a little-fingernail-sized chip in one projecting mount.

    MacRae has become a popular name in recent years, and every MacRae  bagpipe I have through the shop confirms for me why.

     

  • Circa 1930 Henderson, African blackwood, nickel and ivory

    SOLD – This old Henderson came to me in spectacular condition. It had been refurbished some years ago and needed no additional work. Profiles suggest a manufacturing date close to either side of 1930, and the exquisite drone tone would confirm that they are from the great Henderson years.

    The wood colour suggests cocuswood, and although we can’t be sure without stripping the wood, I believe the pipes are African blackwood.

    The tuning pins were recently fitted with cork joints. The fit is absolutely perfect provided a bit of cork grease is applied. Cork grease is provided with the pipes. The sound is robust, seamless, rich and steady as a rock with my Kinnaird Edge drone reeds — what the old Hendersons are renown for.

    This set is classic Henderson and would do well on any competition stage in the world, including the major gatherings at Oban or Inverness.

     

  • Atherton MD, 2014, holly mounts

    SOLD – This is a rare, button-mount, Dave Atherton MD (MacDougall bores).

    Made in 2014, the profiles and bores of this instrument were modelled after a circa 1870s Duncan MacDougall bagpipe owned by the late Roddy MacDonald of Wilmington Delaware. (Roddy’s bagpipe did not have button mounts.) I was working with Dave when this model of bagpipe was developed and can attest to the incredible quality of craftsmanship and wood that went into his pipes. The tone is a superb reproduction of Duncan MacDougall’s sound:  full and rich, with a bass that cradles the entire bagpipe sound. They are remarkably steady, and in recent years Athertons have won prizes at the highest levels, including the Gold Medal at Inverness and the M/S/R at the Glenfiddich Piping Championship.

    This instrument came to me with small fissures in two stocks. These have been invisible whipped superbly by Dunbar Bagpipes and will never present another problem. The blowpipe is brass-lined blackwood, and the blowpipe stock is polypenco.

    Email me about this set.

    As shown, sticks only
    CAD $3,625 plus shipping

    Set up to play by Jim McGillivray with Ross or Bannatyne bag, polypenco chanter of choice, Ezeedrone drone reeds, Highland Gear bag cover, plain coloured silk drone cords, plastic chanter cap. (To add Ross or Bannatyne Canister system and Ross valve/watertrap, add CAD $165) (For an African Blackwood chanter instead of polypenco, request add-on price.)
    CAD $4,395  plus shipping

  • Grainger & Campbell, 1972, African blackwood, full ivory

    SOLD – Grainger & Campbell was founded in 1946 in Glasgow, and subsequently moved into Duncan MacRae’s shop on Argyll Street when that firm ceased doing business in 1952. Through the 1960s and early 1970s John MacFadyen and Pipe Major Donald MacLeod were part owners and oversaw all instrument design. G&C made superb pipes during these years and most are still in active duty.

    This set was purchased from the shop in 1972 by its only owner and has seen limited playing during its 47-year lifetime. The pipes have their original finish and are in superb condition save for some yellow staining on the ivory. The turner spared no blackwood when making this set and the bottom joints in particular are heavy and ample. The set comes with its original chanter which, under MacFadyen and MacLeod’s direction, was a very good stick in its day. The tuning chambers are still perfectly even, indicating the quality of wood used at the time.

    The tone is full and steady and this would be an excellent starter or lifetime set for a hobbyist.

     

  • Atherton MD, 2011, nickel, imitation ivory

    SOLD – This Dave Atherton “MD” model was made in 2011. It has nickel ferrules and ring caps, and imitation ivory projecting mounts and bushes. The blowpipe is copper-lined blackwood. The blowstick stock and chanter stock are polypenco.

    I worked with Dave on the development of this model, primarily by sourcing the original cocuswood circa 1870s Duncan MacDougall bagpipe that he used as the model. I also tested the prototype sets. I can attest to the remarkable quality of Dave’s instruments, and particularly to the high quality wood he used and the care he took with every set.

    Athertons of this model have won prizes at the highest levels, including the Gold Medal, the Glenfiddich Championship MSR, and the World Pipe Band Championship. The drones are robust and rich and remarkably steady.

    This set is in superb condition but for a small scratch on the lower bass tuning pin. The blowstick stock is not original as the original owner just used a split stock. Dunbar Bagpipes made an excellent reproduction blowpipe stock and mount for this set.

     

  • R. G. Hardie, circa 1970, blackwood, mounted in nickel, imitation ivory

    SOLD – This Hardie bagpipe came to me in superb condition, well taken care of, and as far as I know with the original finish. I’ve become a big fan of the old Hardies. Bob Hardie and John Weatherston used superb, well-aged wood, and made consistently good pipes that are steady and easy to reed. Smaller-bored drones, they are more mellow in tone and are an excellent choice for young beginners or adult hobbyists.

    The reedseats in these drones have been opened out slightly and threaded to better latch on to the drone reeds.

    Hardie pipes of this vintage and older have frequently appeared on these pages and are always well received. Bob Hardie was a gem of a man, a superb player and pipe major of Muirhead & Son’s Ltd. Pipe Band when they won five straight World Pipe Band Championships in the mid-1960s. The company was dissolved after its two principals passed in the 1990s, though the name has been revived again in recent years.

    The pipes come with their original Hardie chanter. When it was made this was the premier chanter of the day. It will still play well with the right reed, though the lower pitch would be out of place on today’s competition boards.

    Email me about this set.

    As shown, sticks only
    CAD $1,625 plus shipping

    Set up to play set up to play by Jim McGillivray with Ross or Bannatyne bag, Aurora JM or MCC2 McCallum poly chanter, Ezeedrone drone reeds, Highland Gear bag cover, plain coloured silk drone cords, plastic chanter cap. (To add Ross or Bannatyne Canister system and Ross valve/watertrap, add CAD $165) (For an African Blackwood chanter instead of polypenco, add CAD $175.)
    CAD $2,375  plus shipping

  • R. Gillanders & Son, circa 1970, blackwood, mounted in nickel, imitation ivory

    SOLD – Robert Gillanders began making pipes in Dundee in 1930, having amassed an impressive pedigree by apprenticing with John Center, the Thows and Gavin MacDougall. This set was made by Robert Jr. in Forfar around 1970, just before Pipe Major Iain McLeod bought into the company in 1972 and it became Gillanders & McLeod. Each cord guide in this set is stamped “R. Gillanders.”

    This set is completely original and blemish-free, the finish original. Pipes made by the original Gillanders company have a loyal underground following, and after hearing this set played and recorded for an upcoming pipesdrums.com article on the Gillanders firm I understand why. The tone startled me: bold and rich, with a sound-surround bass and superb steadiness. It would hold its own at any level: a sleeper if I ever heard one.

    The chanter pictured with the set is a Grainger and Campbell that came with the pipes: quite a superb chanter in its day, from a time with Donald MacLeod and John MacFadyen were kingpins in the Grainger shop on Argyle Street in Glasgow. It will still play well with the right reed, though the lower pitch would be out of place on today’s competition boards.

  • Wm Sinclair & Son, circa 1980, blackwood, natural mounts, hand-engraved nickel

    SOLD – William Sinclair Sr. began making pipes in Edinburgh in 1931 and the company is still in business today under his grandson Alistair. The company has maintained an extremely high standard of manufacturing and tonal excellence throughout its long history.

    The exact manufacturing date of this instrument is unclear as makers continued to use previously purchased legal ivory for some years after the CITES ban came into effect in 1974. However, it was presumably purchased new in 1983 by a member of the Canadian armed forces, who purchased them from the Sinclair shop while he was stationed in Germany. The hand-engraved nickel slides were added in 2011, as was the poly blowpipe bulb.

    This instrument has never been refurbished or refinished: it remains as it was made, with absolutely pristine mounts and unblemished wood.

    Tonally it is full and steady, with a brightness of sound typical of William Sinclair pipes at their best.

     

  • Alexander Glen, circa 1860, ebony, marine ivory

    SOLD – Alexander Glen began making pipes in Edinburgh around 1835 and continued until his death in 1873. His son David was perhaps the most famous Glen in this pipemaking dynasty that spanned more than 120 years, but Alex set the original standard for craftsmanship.

    This remarkable set came to me almost complete, lacking only its blowpipe. The wood is ebony and the mounts are marine ivory — walrus — which was used widely in pipemaking during the 19th century. The pipes display the narrow profiles and mounts typical of Edinburgh pipemakers during this period.

    Alexander Glen with son David in their Edinburgh shop around 1870.

    Unfortunately, the blowpipe stock and one tenor stock were cracked badly enough that it was best to make blackwood replicas. The blowpipe and blowpipe stock are poly-lined, with the projecting mount on the blowstick coming from an orphan tenor bottom in my collection that matched very well. A number of hairline cracks in the drone pieces were invisible whipped and will not recur. It would appear that one of the tenor bushings may have been replaced at some point in the distant past. The pipes have been completely refinished.

    The tone is rich and refined: the more ‘mellow’ sound which David would continue. The drones were rock steady with my set of Kinnaird Edge reeds.

    This is a lovely piece of antique history as well as a superb musical instrument.

  • Circa 1920 3/4-size cocuswood David Glen & Sons

    SOLD – This is an interesting little number:  a classic “3/4 set,” often called in the old days a “lady’s set” or a “child’s set.” They are cocuswood with nickel ferrules and rings, and are stamped “David Glen & Sons, Edinburgh” on the chanter and bass drone stock. They almost certainly date within 10 years either way of 1920.

    The 3/4-sized chanter is pitched pretty close to Bb (466). The pipes are in good shape, though the combing has been scraped in several places. There are no cracks and all pieces are original. A plastic bag containing two sets of cane 3/4-size drone reeds came with the pipes, though the Ezeedrone folk also make drone reeds to suit pipes like these.

    I have done no work on this set except to rehemp them (after the pics were taken). They are priced to sell and are being sold as-is:  sticks, stocks, chanter and drone reeds only. Some people play these as “session pipes” in Bb, though perhaps they are more suited these days to getting a tiny, young piper started. Bruce Gandy told me he started his son Alex on a 3/4 set.

  • Robertson, hallmarked 1959-60, silver and ivory

    SOLD – This stunning set of Robertson pipes originally came from a Scottish piping family by the name of MacHardy. James Shearer MacHardy (1899-1985) served with the Gordon Highlanders in WW1, was a friend of the great G. S. McLennan, and purchased the pipes in 1960 for a student who subsequently passed away as a young man. MacHardy reacquired the pipes and they were sold to Russell MacKenzie, another MacHardy student, who emigrated to Canada and played the pipes for more than 50 years, much of this in the Ottawa, Ontario area. MacKenzie was the most recent owner.

    The pipes sport three silver plaques. One on the bass drone commemorates MacKenzie’s time as Pipe Major of the Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Rifles from 1960-68. One tenor stock plaque commemorates his teeacher, the aforementioned James Shearer MacHardy. The plaque on the other tenor stock commemorates Hardy’s father, also James, who lived from 1863 until 1933 and who served for a time in his early teen years as a piper in the employ of Queen Victoria, where he was known as “Little Jimmy.” All of this history is well documented on several documents that accompany the pipes, including a book of “Little Jimmy’s” memoirs.

    The pipes themselves are gorgeous and in remarkable shape. The blowstick stock was badly cracked and has been replaced with a poly-lined blackwood replica with the original silver mount. The original ivory mouthpiece bulb was cracked beyond repair and was replaced with an imitation ivory bulb. The original silver sleeve remains. The chanter stock has a three-inch gouge probably made by someone trying to cut it out of a bag. It would not be visible once tied in. The drone and chanter stocks are tapered, a common practice of the Robertson company at this time. The original finish on the pipes was in good condition and has been left as is.

    The original sole is mounted onto a blackwood chanter made by the Hugh MacPherson firm of Edinburgh. It is unknown when it was made.

    James Robertson’s company made pipes in Edinburgh from 1908-64, having taken over the Center shop when that family emigrated to Australia. I know of no other company that maintained such high standards of tone for so long. Each of the many sets I’ve played over the years has been the same: bold, rich and steady. The tone and distinctive Robertson appearance make this company’s silver and ivory mounted sets among the most desirable on the market.

  • Henderson, circa 1900, full ivory, previously owned by John MacDonald, Inverness

    SOLD – In 2009 my friend and piping judge Neill Mulvie noticed a pipe case in a Scottish auction house. On further investigation he discovered John MacDonald of Inverness’s 1903 Northern Meeting Clasp for Piobiareachd tacked onto the lid, and a lovely set of full ivory Hendersons complete with original chanter inside. Neill donated the case and Clasp to the College of Piping — where it still resides — and I acquired the pipes. Many years ago, Donald P. MacGillivray, a pupil of John MacDonald’s, told me that he recalled old Johnnie having four sets of Hendersons:  one silver and ivory, and three full ivory. The vintage being certainly correct, there is no reason to doubt that this was one of the latter sets.

    The pipes have had two owners since then. One passed away two years ago, and the second landed a silver and ivory Henderson set of similar historical importance and allowed me to reacquire this set.

    The pipes are in immaculate condition, having been stripped, checked for cracks in refinished in 2009. All pieces are original and the ivory shows minimal staining. Tonally they are as good as any Henderson set I have ever played. They appear to be African blackwood, and the natural finish allows the lovely grain of the wood to show through to full effect. The presence of the original chanter maintains the instrument’s all-original integrity and is the icing on the cake.

    This is both a wonderful piece of history and a superb instrument.

    Click here to read the Piping Times article on the discovery of this bagpipe.

  • Henderson, ebony, circa WW1, full ivory, plain Sterling silver slides

    SOLD – This lovely Henderson set has been reacquired from a customer who purchased it from this site in March, 2016. At that time the pipes were stripped, a hairline crack was invisible-whipped in the bass top, a small opening in the bottom projecting mount of one tenor bottom was filled, and the set was refinished. All pieces are original, and the plain Sterling silver slides were added at the previous customer’s request.

    The set saw limited use since it was refurbished and purchased three years ago, so it is in superb condition. The ivory shows age staining common to 100-year-old pipes, I would say adding character of age more than detracting from appearance.

    Tonally, the set is absolutely superb, locking beautifully with both my Kinnaird Edge and my Ezeedrone drone reeds. The drones are bold, vibrant and steady in the classic, vintage Henderson tradition. You would be hard-pressed to do better tonally.

  • 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.