The Bagpipe Society

Grace Notes

When Yannis Pantazis was featured in “Tools of the Trade” back in the Winter 2015 edition of Chanter, he chose his workshop as his ‘tool’ and opened with the words “The workshop is like a micro cosmos of our planet: all the elements of nature in the workshop to serve a purpose …. What purpose? To create…”. I really related to that statement not only as a maker but as someone who finds myself hugely influenced by my surroundings. The environment I’m in can have an impact not only on my mood but also on my ability to perform. There’s no doubt that if I don’t feel right in the space, then I don’t think, play, work or even laugh so well! So it is particularly interesting to read the article by the German pipe maker, Thorsten Tetz and to find out more about his workshop and the wonderful opportunity he had of establishing a completely new work space and home for both himself and his wife. I completely related to moving bits of paper around on a plan to get the best possible layout – if you thought planning a kitchen was fraught, then try planning a workshop: getting the optimum use of space for a myriad of tools and processes is a challenge!

This edition also has news of the forthcoming Blowout weekend, to be held as always, at Polesworth, nr Tamworth in Staffordshire over the first weekend in June. I am sure that I will see many familiar faces this year as in the past – but I would encourage those members who have thought twice about attending, or not sure if it is for them or shying away because they don’t know anyone to think again. It is always a great weekend and I would like to think that we’re a friendly bunch and it might sound a bit clichéd, (but it’s true), you won’t be on your own for long! Invariably, I find that when I leave on the Sunday I realise that I hadn’t even took my pipes out of their box as I’ve been so busy talking, listening, observing – oh, and there was the odd bit of bit of drinking and eating in between. There is always good music and, in relation to my thoughts above about the environment, there’s also a very good vibe.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to thank me for the last edition of Chanter. I was very gratified to receive so many compliments and I’m particularly pleased to have had a full inbox of contributions and correspondence following it. I’m still not sure what it was about the Winter 2018 edition that you all liked so much as I try to get a good mix of articles in every publication and this one is no exception (I think!). Marco Tomassi on recreating the most sensitive and complicated of instruments – a musette de cour, the development of a new instrument based on old traditions by Paulo Tato Marinho and a report on a new bagpiping event in Bulgaria. Plus, of course, all the usual features and reviews. However, ff there is something you feel is missing or a bagpipe, maker or musical style that you would like to see featured in the future, please do let me know. With that said, read on and, hopefully, enjoy!

Dear Jane

I am writing in response to James Merryweather’s article on the postage stamp - featuring the image of a piping pig - recently issued by An Post, the Irish Postal Service. As Archivist (now retired) of Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU), I was responsible for proposing this release to An Post, and was the one who liaised with them throughout the process. I hope what follows will go some way to ease your correspondent’s vehemently expressed, bullet-pointed, foot-noted outrage.

In 2014 we proposed to An Post that they might release a stamp to mark, in 2018, the 50th anniversary of the founding of NPU. When they agreed to this, I submitted a number of ideas for possible designs, including images of instruments, of celebrated pipers, of famous group photographs, and of artistic depictions of pipers and pipers. The latter category included the piping pig, and that was the idea that their design committee chose. The image is contained in a manuscript held at the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), and they obliged us by freely agreeing to its use. Once the design was agreed, I gathered and supplied the information relating to the image, relying on the work of Seán Donnelly, one of the foremost researchers of the history of piping in Ireland. In his The Early History of Piping in Ireland, Seán wrote:

“One of the most frequently reproduced sixteenth century depictions of the bagpipe in Ireland is the piping pig in Royal Irish Academy MS D ii 2 (fo. 34), a manuscript tentatively dated to the sixteenth century. This has become widely known through the etching Edward Bunting published in The Ancient Music of Ireland (Dublin, 1840), p. 59, where the manuscript itself was mistakenly said to date from the beginning of the fourteenth century. The pig here is in fact a capital ‘M’ at the beginning of a poem on the origin of the place name Srub Brain in co. Kerry, which opens Maiten do Choin na cerda. The crude and garish red and green colouring is thought to have been added in the eighteenth century by Charles O’Connor of Belnagare, co. Roscommon, who then owned the manuscript.”

Images of animals - often pigs - playing the pipes are, of course, ubiquitous throughout Europe, and other examples are to be found in Ireland. This example could be an imitation of an international idea. Whatever its origin, it has had strong associations with Irish traditional music. A version of it was worked into the leather of Séamus Ennis’s pipes bag, and Breandán Breathnach used it as a kind of logo for many years for his traditional music magazine Ceol. It has appeared on several album covers, pub signs and various artefacts.

The above information was provided to An Post, with the request that it should be used in any publicity material connected with the release of the stamp, and a request that I would have a chance to review any such texts for accuracy but, alas, things turned out differently. Someone, with no understanding of the difference between different forms of bagpipe, came up with the offending text, conflating the 16th c. bagpipes with the uilleann pipes, and this was in the public arena when it was too late to do anything about it.

I can, sort of, understand how it happened. Me trying to convey the differences between different bagpipes to someone with absolutely no knowledge of the subject, would be like someone trying the instruct me on the differences between the wearyingly multiple sub-genres of modern popular music. Not only do they seem to me to have no crucial differences, but I’m not interested!

I trust your correspondent can now relax. There has been no act of cultural imperialism, merely a misunderstanding, based on relative ignorance, that unfortunately made it into print.

A couple of final points. The modern consensus of scholars is that Bunting was wrong about the date. Bunting was not a Gaelic scholar, nor an antiquarian, and cannot really be quoted as an authority on the subject. Is Mr Merryweather an authority on Irish uncial script? Finding a 13th c. example and suggesting a similarity of style with our RIA MS does not prove anything. As for the pig’s pipes more closely resembling the Scottish instrument, in the 1500s the Scottish instrument was the Irish instrument (or vice-versa if you prefer), as Gaelic Scotland and Irish-speaking Ireland were then a single culture.

I hope that we can simply enjoy the fact that a beautiful bagpipe-related stamp has been issued, and that an Irish government has extended a measure of recognition to this important element of Irish and world heritage, and to the body that, in Ireland, works to promote it.

Finally, readers interested in the origins and development of the union pipes should devise no theories, nor make any statements, without first reading the most thorough research on the topic, Nicholas Carolan’s “Courtney’s ‘Union Pipes’ and the terminology of Irish bellows-blown bagpipes”. This is available as a PDF download on the website, where it can be located by entering the search term ‘Courtney’.

Terry Moylan, Retired archivist of Na Píobairí Uilleann

Dear Editor

A lady piper friend of mature years, who wishes to remain anonymous, was quite shocked and horrified to see those obscene pictures in a recent Chanter. (Vol 32, No 3) She says, “Given my deteriorating eyesight, can you print them bigger next time?”

Keep up the good work, George Featherston

Dear Julian and Jane,

Thank you for writing the article in Winter 2018 Chanter on the CD recording «Cornemuses» by Jean-Claude and Bernard Blanc. I contacted Jean-Claude and received the CD a few days later.
I agree with you, I can’t stop listening it again and again.

At about the same time, I got an email from offering CDs at discount prices for Christmas, and looking at what they had, I was pleased to find a «Cornemuse Picarde» a 2 CD boxset with a 147 pages booklet containing a long interview with Remy Dubois (pages 30 to 121) and a shorter one with Bernard Blanc, mainly taken from his website (pages 125-129).  CD 2 has 4 tracks with vocal interview with Remy Dubois.

The music of CD1 is from the «Festival du Pipasso, 2008-2014» and CD2 is studio recordings, all from several artist playing Cornemuse Picarde - they are :

  • François Lazarevitch, playing on a 1982 model of «muchosac-pipasso»

  • Remy Dubois & Jean-Pierre Van Hees, playing on copies of «muchosacs» from Brussels Museum of Music Instruments.

  • Julien Barbances, playing in concert on a 1982 model of «muchosac-pipasso» and in studio on a reproduction by Remy Dubois of the old Thomas Piron bagpipe from Brussels Museum.

  • Ghislaine Desmaris (who also made the 2014 interviews) playing in concert on a 1982 model of «muchosac-pipasso» and for Track 14 of CD2 studio on a «fac-simile» of a Petyt created by Remy Dubois.

  • Thierry Bertrand, playing a 1982 «muchosac-pipasso» let to him by the Festival and he liked it so much that he made one for himself based on drawings by Olle Geris & Remy Dubois.

  • Olle Geris, playing on a Remy Dubois copy of the old Thomas Piron bagpipe of Brussels Museum.

  • Cozian, Yan, playing on a «muchosac-pipasso».

The text in the accompanying booklet is in French.

Best regards, André BERNARD, Dunham, QC, Canada

Newcastle Piping Festival 2019

Andy May from the Northumbrian Pipers Society has contacted the Society to tell us that the organisation is holding a weekend of bagpipe music from Northumberland, Scotland, Ireland, Galicia and Belgium. It will be held over the weekend of the 22-24th March and a range of different pipes and traditions will be represented over the period. It opens with a taster concert on the Friday, followed by an open session. During the Saturday there will be a number of talks, demonstrations and workshops ending with a Grand Concert and a late night session. On Sunday the action will move from Newcastle down to the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum for the final session.

Further details and tickets from the NSP Facebook page or and tickets may be bought from

Symposion Pipers’ Festival

You should have all received the e-mail Ian Clabburn sent you about the planned

Symposion Pipers’ Festival being held between 6- 8 September 2019 this year. Ian has had some positive interest in the trip but if you haven’t already responded to him, then do get in touch with him if you are considering making the trip. The organisers are intending to put together a costed package which under current plans will include admission to events and workshops, some meals and optional trips to local attractions. More details to follow. Return flights from the UK to Santorini are in the range of £190 - £230 per person.

Contact Ian Clabburn at

Hi Jane,

Once again Julian has revitalised my ageing memory cells with his reference in Chanter to The Hens March to the Midden as a suitable tune for the Blowout 2019 Competition. It is, of course a mangled version of Purcell’s Trumpet Tune. Not sure how it would go as a pipe tune, what with the chicken squawks, but Dave Swarbrick used to do a great version.

Cheers, John Henry