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The First Ramsgate Buzz

Dear John,

Perhaps one of the

Chanter readers can help? I got this poster some years ago whilst on holiday in Brittany. I kept seeing it around the town; a friend of mine had enough cheek to blag one to take home. I’d love to know more about the artist as I really love the style. Also, maybe he’s done some more examples of bagpipe art. Anybody know anything about this artist? It’s signed ‘goutal’

Phil Edwards

… can email me at

Dear John

My interest was immediate on spotting Tom Hughes’ Pipe Music from

Underground. I can claim “inside " information having actually heard the sound. Pehaps I should explain that having been part of the Regional Staff of The

National Trust, owners of Alderley Edge, - the Edge not the Village - I once had the priviledge of being taken into part of the copper mine workings, where the Derbyshie Caving Club , under Special Licence from the Mining Inspectorate, were carrying out safety and archeological work for the Trust.

We were told by our main guide about the myth of bagpipes being played underground. He described the sound as more like a large church organ starting-up prior to being played. By that time I commented upon the heat in the chamber which seemed to come from the rock walls. The guide at the back of the party turned back, seconds after he returned there was sound such as a gust of wind can make, which grew into a strong note with a hint of vibrato, accompanied by a drop in air temperatureas the sound faded away. The guide explained that he had just opened an air vent .

So my best guess is that Tom may well be the very first bagpipe player on the edge.

I did hear a very similar but repeated sound once on the Edge in the days when Halloween Night after a fictional ‘Event’ engendered and fed by a Local Radio led to mass visiting after dark over a number of years but I traced the sound to a youth blowing

a cow’s horn. Ultimately the combination of crowds, silly pranks became a focus for crime and real nuisance - residents wakened at 4am by loud singing from four men propped against their bird bath, who could not remember how they got into a garden with a 6ft brick wall when the police arrived.

With due respect to Alan Garner as an author his work can inspire the hoaxster/ fantasist. Early one morning a dagger / short sword was seen sticking up very prominently near a path well into the woods at first examination it appeared to be embedded into a rock outcrop. Investigation discovered a loose block of local rock had been drilled out, a weapon (made in Hong Kong) inserted, fixed with epoxy resin and dressed with dust from the drilling. Then the 2 stone (12.5 kg) rock and all must presumably have been carried nearly to Stormy Point on the Edge and set in the leafmold.

Philip Browning

Dear John,

In the Summer 2010 edition of Chanter you published a satirical I’d found in

the British Museum archives, dating from 1793, showing the then Prime Minister William Pitt playing a set of bagpipes labelled “Union Pipes”. Further exploration has turned up another, very similar example involving the same set of characters dated 1796 and again with a labelled set of “Union Pipes”. In this case the satire revolves around the “Loyalty Loan” which raised £18 million in order to help prosecute the French War. Pitt, riding towards the Treasury on the back of a bull (John Bull) sits astride a huge pile of bundles labelled with the names of the Loan’s more prominent donors. Charles James Fox, represented as a Jacobin, stands immediately behind the horse shaking a clenched fist whilst the pipes this time are played by Henry Dundas. As in the earlier print, the

transparent bag is filled with coins.

On a rather different note, I have recently been re-reading William Marshall’s

fascinating article on Géricault’s lithograph of The Piper from 1821 (Chanter, Winter 2007). Although he cites the Bibliothèque Nationale de France as “the principle source for a surviving copy”, it is worth noting that the British Museum also possesses a copy (acquired in 1876) although this does not explain why, as William points out, this arresting image is so little known in this country. That aside, the lithograph provides evidence that although a native English tradition of piping (Northumbria excepted) was probably moribund by this time, pipes and pipers must still have remained fairly familiar within London. As further evidence of this, I recently came across a report of a trial held at the Old Bailey on 11th June 1866 where as part of the evidence in the murder trial of Sarah Hopkins one of the witnesses recalls seeing the accused, her husband Thomas Hopkins, at the Bell in Edmonton where “a soldier was playing the bagpipes in the tap- room and the prisoner was jumping with the rest of us, they call it dancing”. This is reported in such a matter of fact manner that it would appear that dancing to a piper was not uncommon. There are other cases in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey involving bagpipers which further substantiate this claim; I am writing something on this at the moment. What kind of pipes were being played in Edmonton is unknown but they may well have been Highland pipes. There is a lovely lithograph of 1848 in the British Museum which shows a cacophonous host of musicians in Leicester Square (somewhat mimicking Hogarth’s The Enraged Musician) which includes a bekilted Highland piper. Again bagpipes are presented as familiar objects.

One final aside on William’s article. He

describes Cibber’s splendid

statue known as The Bagpipe

Boy now in the Victoria and

Albert Museum. I have been

thinking about this sculpture

recently from the perspective

of how artists depict the way

the pipes are held. There are

two immediate points of

interest. First, although the

bag is held under the left arm,

it is the right hand which is

topmost on the chanter. This

is not that unusual but the

other feature is and I’ve not

come across anybody noting

it previously; the piper is

playing with four fingers

down on the top hand. Is this

a mistake? Two reasons

suggest perhaps not. First, the

pose of the player is so

natural that I am inclined to

believe that it was sculpted

from the life with a model who was a piper. Second, my good friend Sean Jones reminds me that we once had a customer approach us on his stall at some exhibition who played the pipes in exactly this way. Has anyone experimented with an eight finger chanter?

Best wishes,

Clive Matthews

Hi John,

Ian Clabburn suggested we contact you about a French music workshop we’re

putting on on September 25th as part of a Bury bal weekend. At the moment we are planning a hurdy gurdy workshop and a French music workshop for any instrument, but one of the visiting French bands is a bagpipe player and would, if there was enough interest, be prepared to do a bagpipe workshop at the same time as the hurdy gurdy workshop. We’re attaching a notice giving details of the day’s events.

Perhaps you could it a mention in your next edition of Chanter.

Anyone interested in a specific bagpipe workshop could get in touch with us in the first instance.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give us.

Best wishes,

Simon Haines and Val Woollard (Bof!)

Dear John,

My wife and a friend recently went to a meeting at Magdalen College in Oxford

and whilst there spotted three carvings of double chanter bagpipers - I’ve been telling people to keep their eyes out for them! Anyway, here are some photos, one piper is carved in stone in the college chapel and two are part of a wooden dresser in a room nearby.

All best wishes,

Tom Hughes