Back view of a chanter of a Stock-and-Horn

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acquired by Robert Burns, 1794

Postcard of Back view of a chanter of a Stock-and-Horn.
© National Museums Scotland

Back view of a chanter of a Stock-and-Horn

A back view of a chanter, made from a sheep bone, of the Stock-and-Horn belonging to Robert Burns, originally housed in a small cardboard box with an ink label. It had been the shepherd's instrument but was a rarity by Burns' time.

He described finding the Stock-and-Horn and its construction in a letter to the music editor and publisher George Thomson on 19 November 1794: 'I have, at last, gotten one, but it is a very rude instrument. It is composed of three parts: the stock, which is the hinder thigh bone of a sheep, such as you see in a mutton ham; the horn, which is a highland cow's horn, cut off at the smaller end, until the aperture be large enough to admit the "stock" to be pushed through the horn, until it be held by the thicker or hip-end of the thigh-bone: and lastly an oaten reed exactly cut and notched like that which you see every shepherd boy have, when the corn-stems are green and full-grown. The reed is not made fast in the bone, but is held in the lips, and plays loose in the smaller end of the "stock", while the "stock" and horn hanging on its larger end, is held by the hands playing. The stock has six or seven ventiges in the upper side, and one back ventige, like the common flute. This one of mine was made by a man from the Braes of Athole, and is exactly what the shepherds were wont to use in the country. However either it is not quite properly bored in the holes or else we have not the art of blowing it rightly, for we can make little use of it.'

With his interest in traditional music, Burns adopted the Stock-and-Horn as an emblem in the coat-of-arms which he designed for himself.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-579-764-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0869: The Bagpipe Collection
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  K.1998.43 (2)
Date: 18th century (date of manufacture)
Material: Bone
What: Chanter of a Stock-and-Horn
Who: George Thomson
Robert Burns (owner)
The Museum of Piping, Glasgow (place of display)
Description: Chanter of a Stock-and-Horn made from a sheep bone.
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