Set of drones for a Union bagpipe

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Scottish, late 18th or early 19th century

Postcard of Set of drones for a Union bagpipe.
© National Museums Scotland

Set of drones for a Union bagpipe

Set of drones, Scottish, late 18th or early 19th century from a Union pipe. Three drones set in a common stock. Ivory with silver mounts; the drone stock ferrule is inscribed 'PRESENTED BY JAMES MITCHELL ESQR. TO HIS FRIEND MR. NEIL MACVICAR ANNO 1804'. Including also blowpipe stock and bellows connecting pipe with leather valve, ivory and silver mounted. Formerly stock of J. and R. Glen, Edinburgh, or from the collection of the firm's proprietors.

The Union Bagpipe was developed for chamber music and light opera performance in the early 18th century. It is a form of bellows-blown chamber bagpipe which survives today in the versatile Irish Uilleann pipe. In the early form, it was a popular and fashionable musical instrument but now it is not generally seen beyond museum collections. It had a wider melodic range than the standard bagpipe and this was achieved in the early stages by overblowing and later by adding keys to the chanter. 'Regulators', which were stopped pipes with keys and mounted with the drones, were added to the instrument in the second half of the 18th century and were used to provide chord accompaniment to the chanter. The Union Bagpipe was used for orchestral performance in the ballad opera tradition of the 18th century and later for operatic arrangements of the Ossian Cycle.

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: 000-000-579-664-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0869: The Bagpipe Collection
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  H.1995.789
Date: 1804 (date of inscription and gift)
Late 18th or early 19th century (date of manufacture)
Material: Ivory, silver and leather
Dimensions: Bass drone 1004 mm approx L; tenor drone 284 mm L; treble drone 127 mm L; blowpipe stock 67 mm L
What: Set of drones
Who: Andrew Ross (successor to John and Robert Glen)
Glen and Ross Collection (musical instrument collection)
James Mitchell (presenter of set of drones)
John and Robert Glen, Highland Bagpipe Makers
Museum of Piping, Glasgow (place of display)
Neil MacVicar (recipient of set of drones)
Where: Scotland (place of manufacture)
Event: Festival of Flanders Exhibition, 1968
Description: Ivory and silver mounted set of drones for a Union bagpipe.
  • Festival of Flanders Exhibition Catalogue, No. 73. 1968.
  • Baines, Anthony,. Bagpipes. Occaisonal Paper on Technology 9, Oxford Press, 1973. 
    Find in NLS: Title, Author, Title+Author or British Library: Title, Author, Title+Author
  • Cheape, Hugh,. A Checklist of Bagpipes in the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments. Edinburgh: Reid School of Music, 1983, p. 9.
    Find in NLS: Title, Author, Title+Author or British Library: Title, Author, Title+Author
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