Italian pipers in Wales


Two references to Italian bagpipers have been sent to me by Tony Laverick of The Lowland and Border Pipes’ Society. They are from Journal of a Country Curate. (Selections from the diary of Francis Kilvert 1870-1879) Published by The Folio Society 1977.

Kilvert was the curate at Clyro in Radnorshire; a small village not far from Kinnersley, where Pat & I are getting married in June. Itinerant Italian Zampogna players were a common sight in the UK in the 19th century.

Thursday, 13th July 1871

As I sat at breakfast I

heard the drone of bagpipes. A

man was playing at the New Inn.

He came playing down the road and stopped in front of the forge droning on while the blacksmith’s children danced before him. He could not complain that he had piped to the Clyro children and they had not danced. He was a wild swarthy Italian-looking man, young, with a steeple-crowned hat, and full of uncouth cries and strange outland words. He moved on from the forge to the inn still playing while the children still danced before him. I could see the group through the screen of chestnuts. They reminded me of the children in the Book of Job who ‘rejoiced at the sound of the organ’. The innkeeper’s wife came to the door. ‘Ma’am’, cried the wild swarthy creature in a strange uncouth voice, Ma’am’.

##Monday, Midsummer day 1872

The cuckoo was still singing this morning. As I was getting up I heard the drone

of the Italian bagpipes advancing and two men with dancing children, poor little wretches, came playing through the village.

Picture: ‘Shepherd playing the bagpipes’, by Jean Leon Gerome ca. 1880. From the bagpipe iconography website -

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