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Bellows bagpipe

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owned by Skeoch Cumming, 19th century

Bellows bagpipe
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A bellows bagpipe with chanter only and a stitched leather bag inside one of plum coloured velvet edged and tied with silk ribbon of a similar colour. The chanter and stock are of red brown wood mounted with ivory, and with an ivory sole. Attached to the blowpipe is a keyhole shaped bellows with wooden sides inlaid with ivory. This bagpipe is of unknown origin, but belonged to the Edinburgh artist and portrait painter William Skeoch Cumming (1864 - 1929).

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.

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