Bellows for a set of Union or Pastoral bagpipes

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probably owned by William Mackie, Aberdeen, early 19th century

Postcard of Bellows for a set of Union or Pastoral bagpipes.
© National Museums Scotland

Bellows for a set of Union or Pastoral bagpipes

Bellows for a set of bagpipes, Scottish, early 19th century, of the type known as 'Union' or 'Pastoral' pipes. The pipes are of rosewood mounted with silver and ivory. Their owner was probably William Mackie of Aberdeen.

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.

The Union bagpipe, often now referred to as the Uilleann pipe, is the type of instrument which is now associated principally with the piping tradition of Ireland. It is a sophisticated and complex instrument with a complicated history. It derives from a probable prototype of the early 18th century, in a bellows-blown bagpipe developed for use in chamber music and operatic performance. It would have been developed probably to provide an 'indoor' bagpipe to play with flute, violin and 'cello, and to increase the bagpipe's musical range (and appeal). It certainly became fashionable with the 'pastoral operas' of John Gay such as pre-eminently the Beggar's Opera (1728). It was then often referred to as the 'Pastoral Bagpipe'.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-579-676-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0869: The Bagpipe Collection
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  H.1995.795.4
Date: Early 19th century (date of maufacture)
Material: Rosewood, silver and ivory
What: Bellows for a set of Union pipes
Who: William Mackie (probable owner)
Where: Scotland, Aberdeen (place of ownership)
Description: Bellows for a set of Union or Pastoral bagpipes of rosewood mounted with silver and ivory.
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