Studio portrait of James Robertson

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in Highland dress

Postcard of Studio portrait of James Robertson.
© National Museums Scotland

Studio portrait of James Robertson

James Robertson (1893-1948) took over the bagpipe making business of John and James Center in Grove Street, Edinburgh, when they emigrated to Australia in 1908. As bagpipe maker he made Highland bagpipes and, in the 1920s, began to make Northumbrian Half-long pipes in collaboration with William Cocks of Ryton-on-Tyne. The business closed in 1964.

The Northumbrian Half-long pipes resemble the Scottish Lowland and Border bellows bagpipe and, in the form which is recognised today, was revived principally for pipe band playing in the north of England in the early 20th century. It has a chanter and three drones tuned as bass, baritone and tenor, and the drones were usually carried on the shoulder for marching. The Half-long or Border bagpipe was made initially about 1924 by James Robertson (1893-1948), Bagpipe Maker, Grove Street, Edinburgh, in collaboration with W A Cocks of Ryton-on-Tyne, Northumberland. A number of sets were made and the pattern was taken from a set of pipes known as the 'Milburn Half-long Pipes' in the collections of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle. These pipes were by tradition given to 'Muckle Jock' Milburn of Bellingham in 1772 by Colonel Reid of Chipchase Castle, Northumberland.

Piobaireachd, a Gaelic term meaning literally 'piping', is used for a form of classical music for the Great Highland Bagpipe. The tunes in extended form developed the air, known in Gaelic as ├╣rlar ('ground'), in a series of variations with increasingly elaborate but formulaic gracenoting. This style of composition probably preserves musical conventions of earlier centuries and required the player to be strictly trained. It is essentially the instrumental 'praise' music of Scottish Gaelic society, composed to commemorate great events, and the lives, achievements and deaths of clan chieftains and leaders of society.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-579-546-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 1.19
Date: c.1924 (date he started to manufacture Northumbrian Half-long pipes)
Who: James Robertson (depicted)
William Cocks (business partner)
Where: Scotland, Edinburgh, Grove Street (place of business)
Description: Studio portrait of James Robertson.
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