Pig as gargoyle playing a bagpipe

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Melrose Abbey, late 14th century

Postcard of Pig as gargoyle playing a bagpipe.
© National Museums Scotland

Pig as gargoyle playing a bagpipe

Carving in stone of a pig playing a bagpipe, Melrose Abbey, late 14th century. The earliest evidence in Scotland for the bagpipe in a recognisable form is in the carving on medieval church buildings. The Cistercian monastery of Melrose having been destroyed in cross-border raids from England, was substantially rebuilt from 1385. Strong visual images carved in wood and stone were essential element of medieval art and sculpture.

In its origins, the Highland bagpipe in common with other European and World bagpipes is a prehistoric wind instrument. Its main elements are the melody pipe or 'chanter' on which the music is played with the fingers (usually on a scale of nine notes) and with an accompanying fixed note or chordal accompaniment from the drone or drones, all of which are held in stocks tied into an animal skin bag (now coming to be replaced by synthetic materials). The player blows into the bag to supply a constant pressure and flow of air onto the reeds which are set into the chanter and drones and which make the sound. The air flow is controlled by a simple non-return valve on the blowstick.

The Museum of Piping has been assembled by the National Museums of Scotland from their collections of bagpipes and related material. The Museum describes and illustrates principally the Great Highland Bagpipe and some of its history. Drawing on the collections of the former Royal Scottish Museum, the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and the Scottish United Services Museum, the displays also look at the richness and variety of the piping traditions of Britain and Europe. Open storage in drawers below the display cases adds more examples and information to the sequence of instruments in the exhibition.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-579-545-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0869: The Bagpipe Collection
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  Bagpipe Archive 1.18
Date: Late 14th century (depicted)
Subject: Colour: Black & White (Scran Tags)
Where: Scotland, Melrose Abbey (depicted)
Description: Pig as gargoyle playing a bagpipe.
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