Set of bellows for a set of Lowland bagpipes

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Scottish, 18th or early 19th century

Postcard of Set of bellows for a set of Lowland bagpipes.
© National Museums Scotland

Set of bellows for a set of Lowland bagpipes

Set of bellows, Lowland Scottish, 18th or early 19th century. Two boards or clappers, length approximately 238 mm, width approximately 139 mm; with a circular ivory valve housing or bush in the outer board raised and pierced to ensure an unimpeded flow of air, diameter 28 mm, height 28 mm. Beech, with a long leather pipe and ivory outlet bush; leather sewn in and the stitching waxed over. Formerly stock of J. and R. Glen, Edinburgh, or from the collection of the firm's proprietors.

Bellows have long been used as an alternative means of supplying air for playing bagpipes. The dry air is less damaging to the reeds. A small set of bellows with leather stitched to two wooden boards is usually strapped round the player's waist, and the outer board with an inlet valve tied to the player's arm at the elbow is drawn out and compressed slowly to maintain a steady supply of air to the reeds through a connecting pipe into the bag. Bellows had been used to supply air to the organ since the medieval period and we have sure evidence for their use with bagpipes from the early 17th century. Bellows have remained in use for example with French bagpipes, the Uilleann pipe of Ireland, the Northumbrian pipes, Scottish Lowland and small pipes, as well as in bagpipes in Eastern Europe.

This piece comes from the Glen and Ross Collection of musical instruments which were preserved in the shop of 'J & R Glen, Highland Bagpipe Makers' until it closed about 1978. This was the business founded in 1827 by Thomas McBean Glen in the Cowgate in Edinburgh, dealing in and repairing musical instruments. His brother, Alexander Glen, specialized in bagpipe-making and was succeeded by his son David. Thomas' sons, John and Robert Glen, succeeding to the business in 1866, probably did most to collect instruments and their antiquarian interests were carried on by Andrew Ross who acquired the business from the Glens in 1947. The National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland purchased the bagpipe collections from the family in 1983.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-579-884-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0869: The Bagpipe Collection
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  K.2003.686
Date: 18th - early 19th century (date of manufacture)
Material: Beech, leather and ivory
Dimensions: Bellows 328 mm approx. L x 139 mm approx. W; valve 28 mm H x 28 mm Dia
What: Bellows
Who: Andrew Ross (successor to John and Robert Glen)
Glen and Ross Collection (musical instrument collection)
John and Robert Glen, Highland Bagpipe Makers
Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh (place of display)
Where: Scotland, Edinburgh (probable place of manufacture)
Description: Beech, leather and ivory bellows for a set of Lowland Scottish bagpipes.
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