Barbara Butler sent me an extract from an old (1984) copy of the Journal of the Institute of Biology concerning the uses of animal products in the
Medieval period. As well as being generally quite interesting, bagpipes did get a mention under the section on animal bones:
“Hollow mammalian long bones provide the perfect basis for flutes and pipes, and these were made into bagpipes by the addition of a wind reservoir, often made from the paunch of a sheep’s stomach, long before the Middle Ages. Medieval shepherds are frequently illustrated playing bagpipes in which the bag is made from the entire skin of an animal the size of a small sheep or goat.”
Well the latter point is pretty well known and carries on to this day, but I’d like to know the evidence for early bagpipes made from leg bones and sheep stomachs. Maybe some member of the Society can tell us something about it.
The other thing mentioned in the article which may be of use to bagpipe makers is the Medieval treatment of horn which the article describes as the first plastic. I suppose it is really, having many of the characteristics of the modern product. Apparently, and I didn’t know this beforehand, the horns should be soaked in water for at least two months and then boiled for an hour to render them soft enough to be easily cut, carved, thinned down into translucent sheets which can be pressed flat and used in place of glass. I’ve often wondered at the carved decoration on surviving pibgorns, at how much work has gone into it, so now I’m off to my workshop to put some horns into soak and hopefully in a couple of months I’ll know the answer.
I’m always pleased to receive odd bagpipey things for Chanter - the picture on the next page is a postcard of a bombarde and very wacky biniou sent in by John McVey. Shame it has to be in black and white as not only is the umbrella all colours,
but so too are the pipes on the biniou.
With the end of the year looming once more, it’s time to think about renewing your membership. The Society’s policy is
that all current members will receive the Spring issue, but if you then haven’t renewed, then you will be deemed to have resigned from the Society and will receive no more copies of Chanter.
Fees for 2011 remain the same as this year - ie. £17.00 for waged and £9.00 for unwaged UK residents (includes family membership). For overseas, non European members there is an additional charge of £10 to cover airmail costs. US members pay $42.50 and $29.00 for waged & unwaged respectively, while EU members pay €28.00 and €22.00 for waged / unwaged.
All the above are payable via Paypal if you wish - see the Society website for details and for other means of payment -
The Blowout will be held once again, in 2011, at Polesworth Abbey with it’s excellent facilities and camping in the vicarage garden & secluded riverside field - on the weekend of the 10th to the 12th of June. So far the only confirmed booking is
for the excellent Paul Martin.