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Bagpipe chanter for the Union pipes

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by Donald MacDonald, Edinburgh, late 18th or early 19th century

Bagpipe chanter for the Union pipes
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Bagpipe chanter for the Union pipes by Donald MacDonald of Edinburgh, late 18th or early 19th century. 15 inch chanter. Cocus with ivory mounts on tenon and foot; marked 'McDONALD / EDINR.' twice. MacDonald worked in Castlehill, Edinburgh. Formerly stock of J. and R. Glen, Edinburgh, or from the collection of the firm's proprietors.

Donald MacDonald was one of the most prominent of the early bagpipe makers, with a business in Edinburgh from about 1800 until 1840. He came from a Skye family, the son of John MacDonald of Glenhinnisdale in Trotternish. He was an expert piper and won first prize at the Edinburgh Competition in 1817. He made a variety of instruments including the Great Highland Bagpipe and Scottish bellows-blown small pipes. He was listed in the Edinburgh Post Office Directory for 1824-1825 as 'Pipemaker to the Highland Society of London' at 567 Lawnmarket and this meant that he was making prize bagpipes to be presented as prizes at the annual competitions sponsored by the Highland Society.

Donald MacDonald and other Scottish pipemakers were notable for printing and publishing music for the Great Highland Bagpipe. He published his Collection of the Ancient Martial Music of Caledonia about 1820, the first published collection of 'pibroch' music for the Highland bagpipe. This collection preserves a unique record of some aspects of Highland bagpipe playing in the distinctive style and settings of some tunes and their association with the MacArthurs (as masters and teachers of the instrument) and Clan Donald.

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