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The Pastoral Pipes

A New Musical Instrument and the Aesthetics of Neo-Classicism During the 1740's, musical instrument sellers in London began to offer a new product: a sophisticated and expensive type of bagpipe suitable for chamber music. This instrument was called “the Pastoral or New Bagpipe”.¹ It could do things older types of bagpipes of the British Isles, such as the Scottish Highland bagpipes, could not. It was quiet, so it could be played together with other musical instruments. It was bellows-blown, so its reeds were not exposed to moisture while the instrument was being played. It therefore tended to stay in tune for much longer. Unlike mouth-blown wind instruments, it could be played without any visible physical effort, so the player could easily maintain a nonchalant, socially superior smile.

Older types of bagpipes tended to have a very limited compass. On these, one could typically play not much more than nine notes, and they gave a largely diatonic scale. This in turn limited what one could do both in terms of viable keys and repertoire. It also limited the social settings available for music-making. The more vociferous older types of bagpipes were appropriate for open-air music-making and did not readily fit into a chamber music scenario. For different reasons, the same was true for quieter varieties of the instrument. Their narrowly circumscribed compass and their lack of chromatic versatility made them a less-than-obvious choice when it came to playing together with, for instance, flutes, violins and keyboard instruments.

The new instrument for which we begin to have evidence in the 1740's had three drones fitted with single reeds. These provided a constant accompaniment in the shape of a permanent chord. The chanter, ie. the pipe on which the melody was played, had a narrow conical bore and a double reed. In this it much resembled an eighteenth-century oboe.² Therefore, its compass could be extended by overblowing, and a largely chromatic scale could be obtained by cross-fingering. On a good day and with a well-adjusted reed, one could play two (or almost two) largely chromatic octaves. This would have been unremarkable for a flute of the period; however, this compass was extremely innovative and impressive for a bagpipe. Some late-eighteenth-century instruments of this type had what was called a regulator. This was an additional pipe stopped at the end and fitted with four or five closed keys. Together with the drones, it issued from a common stock, forming part of a bunch of pipes lying across the player’s right knee. The regulator was positioned so that its keys could be struck with the player’s wrist. This peculiar modus operandi for the regulator was necessary because the player’s fingers would have been busy with the chanter. Add to this that the bellows which were strapped to the piper’s body needed to be worked with the right arm, pumping air into the bag typically placed under the left arm.

At the same time, the air pressure in the bag had to be kept under control which, as in all bagpipes, required permanent micro-adjustments of the left arm.

Regulators (later sets of Pastoral Pipes could have more than one) enabled the player to create a flexible polyphony that would have been well beyond the reach of earlier bagpipes, which had been limited to a permanent and unchanging underlying drone chord. Now, this chord could temporally be changed by introducing another note, creating a rudimentary but novel accompaniment that moved with the tune that was being played. Regulators appeared in the later eighteenth century, so this was not yet something that the Pastoral Pipes emerging in the 1740's could do. However, even without any regulators, the key innovation provided by the new instrument – that is the combination of the permanent drone accompaniment of a bagpipe with much of the flexibility and compass of the baroque oboe – was a step forward and a step upward in musical and social terms respectively.³ It has rightly been described as an attempt to elevate this new bagpipe into a more sophisticated and socially superior context; it was “designed to make bagpipe music appeal to sophisticated and discriminating audiences and to fit in a social and even musical context of the violin, piano or harpsichord, flute or oboe.“⁴ The most important source for the early history of this new, upmarket instrument is a 32-page pamphlet, the Compleat Tutor for the Pastoral or New Bagpipe by John Geoghegan.⁵ It was printed in London. The title‑page does not give a year of publication. A copy in the British Library has been dated to “c1745"⁶, another in the National Museums of Scotland to “c1746” and also, confusingly, “1740”.⁷ Seán Donelly has drawn attention to a reference to an advertisement which would seem to suggest 1743 as the year of its publication.⁸

In any case, this was “the first book of bagpipe music printed in Britain”.⁹

Geoghegan’s Tutor came with a remarkable frontispiece depicting a sophisticated young gentleman enjoying himself with an expensive piece of musical equipment.¹⁰ The musician is shown in what is instantly recognizable as a neo-classical setting. It includes architectural props such as a balustrade and an urn just behind the musician and a little ornamental temple in the background.

The vegetation depicted in this image is more than just random greenery. It has been carefully arranged to create the visual effect associated with English landscape gardens. Such gardens were not just about creating an ideal landscape, but an ideal landscape of classical antiquity. In this image, we see a bagpipe purged of any lower-class connotations, a musician inhabiting a social sphere that is worlds apart from, for instance, the piper depicted in William Hogarth’s London n. d., frontispiece; engraving Southwark Fair (1734).¹¹ His instrument does not evoke any Scottish connotations the bagpipe may possibly have had.¹² Its technical sophistication (as well as its musical sophistication emerging from Geoghegan’s Tutor) would have placed it at a considerable distance from any vernacular traditions of piping in the British Isles or elsewhere.

John Geoghegan, The Compleat Tutor for the Pastoral or New Bagpipe, courtesy of Ross Anderson

The frontispiece that came with Geoghegan’s Tutor was part of a marketing strategy for a new product. Here we have a young man in a hip and trendy neo-classical setting which suggests that the instrument must be both hip and trendy in some neo-classical way. This bagpipe was marketed as an instrument for affluent English (and not just English, but metropolitan) amateurs. Its presentation in text and image was consistent with the lo- cation of the music shop where this booklet was sold and where one could also buy such a bagpipe. The shop was situated “in Sweetings Alley opposite ye East Door of the Royal Exchange”.¹³ In his preface, Geoghegan is at pains to point out the versatility of this new type of bagpipe. At a time when the Pastoral Pipes had become silent exhibits in museums, the claims he made for the new instrument, especially regarding its extended compass, were regarded with a great deal of scepticism. However, in recent years there has been a tentative revival of the instrument. A small number of antique Pastoral Pipes have been made playable again and several bagpipe makers have taken an interest in what had been a musical fossil. Today, aspiring players can once again purchase Pastoral Pipes modelled on period instruments. The resulting experimentation with old and new Pastoral Pipes has shown that the instrument is indeed capable of playing the music provided in Geoghegan’s tutor.¹⁴

Geoghegan emphasizes not only the new bagpipe’s versatility but also its respectability. In his text, the instrument’s technical sophistication and the player’s social sophistication go together:

The Bagpipe being at this Time brought to such Perfection as now renders it able to perform ye same Number of Notes with ye Flute or Hautboy, I thought it might be acceptable to the Curious to set forth this small Treatise […]. I have known some young Gentlemen, Who had not only a fine Taste for all sorts of Musick, but also a fine Genius, to have a great Desire to play the Bagpipe, yet have been hindered from what their Inclinations so urged them to, by this Instrument’s wanting a Scale or Gamut to learn by, which all other Musical Instruments of any Value have. ¹⁵

He employs an elevated register (“Treatise”, “acceptable to the Curious”, “Gentlemen”, “fine Taste”, “fine Genius”) to good effect. He also makes it clear that this is an instrument for music-literate players, that it positively demands the sort of elite knowledge that makes any cultural practice a mark of social distinction. Then, he helps to fashion an identity for this new instrument by associating it with the idea of something much older:

Those of good Genius who are dispos’d to play this Instrument may be able to improve the Musick of it very much beyond what at present it is. – I flatter myself this Treatise will not be unacceptable to ye Professers of this antient pastoral Musick or to ye Makers of the Instrument […].* ¹⁶

To an educated reader of the period, the phrase “antient pastoral Musick” would have evoked notions of pastoral life as found in bucolic poetry. The interest in bucolic poetry was part and parcel of the neo-classicism that was so much en vogue at the time. Neo-classical English poems evoking the lives and loves of shepherds were just as artificial as English landscape gardening. In creating ideal rural scenarios, they were both essentially urban phenomena. They can both be understood as reactions to the affluent city dweller’s nostalgia for the rural life that never was, as well as a readiness to embrace the cachet offered by the trimmings of classical erudition. As London’s growth accelerated dramatically in the course of the eighteenth century and the spending power and cultural aspirations of the middle classes grew, more and more people would have been ready to buy into this particular type of nostalgia. Both the frontispiece and the preface of Geoghegan’s Compleat Tutor appeal to this desire.

In bucolic poetry, shepherds often play what poets liked to call the “oaten reed”. This very simple instrument was still being made and played in the eighteenth century. The “oaten reed” was technically a primitive clarinet. It could easily be fashioned from a suitable bit of straw which provided a natural cylindrical bore. Its sound was produced by an idioglot single reed cut out of the body of the straw. Preparing the tongue and cutting some fingerholes would only have taken a few minutes, resulting in a simple but instantly playable little wind instrument. This form of pipe was readily available in a rural setting – an actual pastoral pipe, a homemade instrument of the utmost simplicity that cost nothing at all.¹⁷

The instrument Geoghegan chose to call “the Pastoral Bagpipe” could not have been further away from all this.¹⁸ His strategic use of the word “Pastoral” allowed him to play the card of classicism, to evoke the sort of bucolic nostalgia that would have appealed to the metropolitan milieu of privileged and educated young gentlemen. However, at the same time, all of this was daringly counter–factual. In spite of the simplicity suggested by the word “pastoral”, which suggested something akin to the simple straw instrument, everything about the new bagpipe was modern, high-tech and therefore expensive. The innovative nature of the instrument, with its combination of bellows and an oboe-type chanter designed to overblow and produce a largely chromatic scale, cannot be stressed enough. Making such an instrument required considerable skill and expertise in many fields, including metalwork. The instrument was often rendered more compact by making its very long bass drone do a double u-turn.

For the u-turn sections, short lengths of metal tubing had to be bent; a difficult task which required the mastery of techniques employed in the manufacture of brass instruments. A further, entirely different set of leatherworking skills was required for making bellows and bags. Perhaps the greatest difficulty lay in making the reeds, both the single reeds for the drones and even more so the double reed for the chanter. We know from experience with restored instruments and modern copies that chanter reeds suitable for the Pastoral Pipes are extremely delicate, and that they can be temperamental. They had to be precisely adjusted so as to respond to an increase in air pressure by going into the second octave.¹⁹ The chanter reed was both high‑tech and potentially high‑maintenance.

In terms of the materials used, the Pastoral Pipes can be described as the product of an economy that was both internationalised and increasingly imperial.

While older, vernacular traditions of pipe making in the British Isles had made use of native hardwoods and horn (for the decorative mounts), the instrument described by Geoghegan was a luxury item that tended to be fashioned from luxury materials. Surviving instruments from the eighteenth and early nineteenth century were made not only of boxwood, but also of tropical hardwoods.

Antique Pastoral Pipes with one regulator, no maker's mark, perhaps made in Edinburgh or Northumbria, c1800-- 1820? author's collection
Pastoral Pipes made by Jon Swayne, Baltonsborough, 2017, modelled on a late-eighteenth century instrument by Hugh Robertson, Edinburgh; author's collection

Domestic supplies of boxwood, which was commonly used in quality woodwind instruments such as flutes, were limited. It was therefore also imported from the Mediterranean, especially from the core of the Ottoman Empire.²⁰ Tropical hard‑woods from Africa and the Caribbean became increasingly available and fashionable. These dark-coloured woods were dense and heavy, which affected not only their sound. They were also set apart by their very distinctive visual and haptic appeal. Such woods could be polished to a beautiful lustre, and their weight suggested solidity and value. All of this would have mattered to the style-conscious young men who might have considered taking up a new musical hobby.

Many, probably even most sets of Pastoral Pipes were fitted with decorative mounts and finials made of ivory, the bulk of which would have come from West Africa.²¹ Here, makers followed the aesthetics developed in other branches of fine woodwind instrument-making. The material value and the visual appeal of Pastoral Pipes could be further increased by dispensing with wooden parts altogether. There is a particularly splendid set of Pastoral Pipes in the St Cecilia’s Hall collection (Edinburgh) which is made entirely of ivory.²²

On the one hand, the Pastoral Pipes were meant to appeal to a neo-classical nostalgia for a simple pastoral world that never was. On the other hand, it appealed to a metropolitan target group of affluent young men who were highly style-conscious and who loved the latest high-tech gadgets. It offered the best of both worlds and the naming of the instrument – both “pastoral” and “new” – was an inspired marketing strategy.

The Pastoral Pipes were meant to bring the bagpipes into the realm of polite middle-class music-making. Geoghegan’s tutor provided not only instructions on how to play the instrument but also a concise introduction to reading music for those that were not yet music-literate. There are paragraphs entitled “Of Flats and Sharps”, “Of the Cadences or Shakes”, “Of Pricks, Rests, and Pauses in Music” and “Of Tyed Notes”.²³ In this, the tutor followed the basic conventions of the genre. Tutor books for absolute beginners frequently contained a section on how to read music. Being able to read music rather than learning by ear was a cultural practice that was very much at the heart of polite music-making. It was therefore also a social marker. Associating the new bagpipe firmly with this type of practice served to elevate it from older traditions of piping. Here the text once again moves very much in tandem with the frontispiece. Players of the Pastoral Pipes are envisaged as music-literate gentlemen (which includes those willing to brush up their skills or to build them up from scratch). They inhabit a world that is, both in social and in musical terms, meant to be far removed from that of a piper such as the itinerant street musician depicted in Hogarth’s Southwark Fair.

Geoghegan’s pamphlet also contained an appendix with a rather grand title: “A DICTIONARY Explaining such Greek, Latin, Italian and French words as generally occur in Musick”. The somewhat grandiloquent use of the term “dictionary” for something that filled just one page (!) was more to do with aspirations than with realities. However, in England, and especially in London, aspirations could lead to new realities. There was a degree of social mobility that would have been unthinkable in most continental societies of the period. Of course, it was still best to be born a gentleman, but this status could also be attained by means of social emulation. The way of becoming a gentleman was to acquire the cultural habitus of the gentleman. Owning a luxury musical instrument and acquiring skills based on music literacy could be part of this strategy. Genteel music-making was associated with elite sociability. Being able to play a musical instrument compatible with others such as the flute or the violin gave the player a chance to become part of social networks that could substantially facilitate social climbing.

Mastering elite linguistic codes and being able to hold one’s own in polite conversation (here: in conversation about music) would also have been helpful. No privileged young man who had had the benefit of a classical education would really have had much use for a one-page “Dictionary” promising to explain Greek and Latin words occurring in music – all the more so as Greek and Latin were in fact conspicuously absent from this list, which entirely consisted of Italian terms.

Likewise, no young man who had been fortunate enough to have done the grand tour and who was of a musical bent would have needed such a list of “Italian and French words” as he would probably have known most of them anyway. (And by the way, “French” was another empty promise here.) As far as this section of the readership was concerned, the presence of the “Dictionary” was symbolic rather than functional. Its purpose was not to convey information but to reassure and to signal respectability. However, for those less fortunate who had never been to university or done the grand tour, this elementary crib could be of some practical value. Social climbing by means of social emulation very much required linguistic emulation, and a smattering of impressive words was better than nothing at all.

What is more, the mere token presence of the words “Greek” and “Latin” chimed in with the theme of Neo-Classicism evoked in both the frontispiece and the text with a view to bolstering the status of the new bagpipe.

Geoghegan’s tutor was one of several very similar instructional pamphlets published by John Simpson in the 1740s. There was, for instance, a Compleat Tutor for the French Horn. Comparing its engraved title-page with that of the Compleat Tutor for the Pastoral or New Bagpipe,²⁴ it becomes immediately clear that the layout and design of the title pages is identical, including words such as “The Compleat Tutor for the […] Containing […]” as well as the precise shape of all the decorative flourishes surrounding them. It is likely that the engraved title-pages for the entire series were printed using one and the same copper plate, which could be adapted for each pamphlet by hammering out and then re-engraving individual names of instruments and other words as required. This would also explain the enigmatic absence of the year of publication from the title-page: a sufficient supply of undated title-pages could be printed and stored for use with later editions of the pamphlet. This guaranteed the visual uniformity of a whole series of different tutor books sold in Simpson’s shop, while avoiding the impression of ever selling anything that was not brand-new. Thus, the pamphlet on how to play the “Pastoral or New Bagpipe” would itself appear new for years to come, which was a good thing as Simpson catered to customers valuing novelty.

The horn tutor published by Simpson also came with a frontispiece depicting a player of the instrument and the one-page “Dictionary” found in Geoghegan’s bagpipe tutor. “Compleat Tutors” for the Harpsichord and the Flute, also published by Simpson, are listed in the British Library catalogue.²⁵

Geoghegan’s tutor stands out from other very similar offerings available from Simpson’s shop in one respect: In this case, the author’s name is given. Otherwise it conforms to an established type. It would therefore have been perceived as a respectable tutor belonging to an entire class of other respectable tutors. The instrument was thus presented as a respectable bagpipe that would not have seemed to be out of place among other respectable instruments, and therefore as a viable and tempting choice for those who were interested in polite music-making but also in forms of sociability that went with it.

The Pastoral Pipes became fashionable among well-to-do amateurs, and they remained so well into the early nineteenth century. Although we find the earliest evidence for them in London, they were soon also made in Edinburgh and Dublin. What about the musical practice associated with the instrument?

Geoghegan’s tutor, which is once again our key source for the early history of the instrument and its music, gives a basic repertoire of 41 tunes drawn from a variety of musical idioms. There are short English, Scottish and Irish tunes, the kind of material that would probably be classified as traditional music today.

Here we have pieces such as “Portsmouth Harbour”, “A Highland Rant” or “The Humours of Westmeath”.²⁶ Scottish music was popular in England.²⁷ If the tutor was indeed published before the Jacobite rising of 1745, its Scottish tunes would not have given offence at all, and, at any rate, the popularity of Scottish music in England survived this political upheaval remarkably well.²⁸

Sometimes Geoghegan’s titles can be misleading. A piece he called “A Scotch Measure"²⁹ was in fact a version of “O’ Carolan’s Receipt for Drinking”, a tune composed by the famous blind Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan (1670–1738).³⁰

O’Carolan was influenced by the Italian baroque style, which shows in this particular tune. There is also an extraordinary piece entitled “A Bagpipe Concerto call’d the Battle of Aghrem, or the Football Match”.³¹

Geoghegan’s basic repertoire for the Pastoral Pipes also includes pieces in a very different idiom. There is a composition by or associated with the early seventeenth-century composer Thomas Ravenscroft, “Ravenscroft’s Fancy”.³²

There is also a piece entitled “With early Horn”, an instrumental version of a bravura aria from the popular Covent Garden pantomime The Royal Chace (1736).³³ This is a fearsomely challenging piece emulating the human voice trained in the operatic tradition. It would have been well outside the range of anything that was doable and indeed thinkable in any vernacular tradition of piping in the British Isles at the time. The author of this paper can confirm that

“The Royal Chace” can indeed be played on the Pastoral Pipes – it does demand a considerable effort, but it is entirely possible to get there eventually.

“The Royal Chace” was a glittering showpiece. As such, it substantiated Geoghegan’s implicit claim that the Pastoral Pipes could indeed go where no other bagpipe in the British Isles had gone before. It legitimated this new type of bagpipe as a social climber. “The Royal Chace” also points to a connection between the Pastoral Pipes and the stage. The instrument would have been capable of accompanying ballad operas, secular cantatas and such like, for instance Allan Ramsay’s Gentle Shepherd (1725), John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera (1728) and Love and Liberty, a Cantata (1785) by Robert Burns, all of which used “traditional” tunes.³⁴ Although such a connection is more than plausible, there is no hard evidence for any of this. However, it is worth remembering that absence of evidence is not to be confused with evidence of absence. One may also assume that the Pastoral Pipes would have been used in the more raucous contexts of musical entertainments in gentlemen’s clubs and other informal gatherings.

The instrument underwent further development, and a modified variant of it acquired a new name. This modification came about by shortening the chanter. The first step towards this was probably to take off the chanter’s foot, the segment that had vent holes that always remained open. Without the foot, the chanter could be stopped on the player’s thigh. Thus, a staccato effect could be achieved. From the 1790s, people increasingly talked about such instruments with a short, that is, footless chanter as the Union Pipes. There is one hypothesis saying that “Union” refers to the complexity of the instrument, to its union of components and sounds. There is another saying that this might have referred to the political union of the Crown.³⁵ To begin with, the new instrument had been meant to appeal to a sense of neo-classical pastoral nostalgia. Other nostalgias and modes of self-fashioning followed. As the second half of the eighteenth century progressed, the pastoral past acquired a new meaning. It also came to be thought of as a past located in the pre-industrial British Isles. It could thus become part of a Romantic rather than a neo-classical nostalgia.

The instrument was used in theatrical representations of Scottishness. In 1791, the English actor and composer William Reeve wrote a piece called The Grand Pantomime Ballet of Oscar and Malvina, which was produced at Covent Garden.³⁶ Its subject matter was drawn from James Macpherson’s Ossianic poems. Oscar and Malvina had it all – sublime nature, love interest, Highland games and a grand battle scene. It was hugely successful for the next 25 years or so. The instrument was used to give the music of Oscar and Malvina a Scottish flavour.³⁷

In this case, we are very much looking at unionist stage Scottishness concocted for a Covent Garden audience.

The Pastoral or Union Pipes acquired associations of Scottishness outside Scotland. Two manuscript collections dating from the eighteenth and early nineteenth century suggest that in Scotland, a repertoire of predominantly Scottish tunes was played on the Pastoral Pipes.³⁸ However, from the early nineteenth century, yet another re-fashioning of the instrument’s identity was already under way. The instrument was now increasingly associated with Ireland and Irish music.

Patrick O’Farrell, the piper who performed in early nineteenth-century Covent Garden productions of Oscar and Malvina, published a collection of music for his instrument c1804. Its title was O’Farrell’s Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes.³⁹ On the title‑page, we find a rather interesting little vignette with a portrait of O’Farrell that indicates clearly that we are in a transitional phase regarding the perception of the instrument. It depicts, as it says underneath the portrait, “O’Farrell playing the Union Pipes in the Favorite Pantomime of Oscar & Malvina”. The piper is “dressed as a stage Highlander"⁴⁰. However, one unusual feature has been added to his cliché Scottish outfit. Three huge feathers attached to his cap form a highly conspicuous element of his costume. These would immediately have been recognized by Regency audiences as the Prince of Wales’s feathers, the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales.

The three feathers may have been stuck in O’Farrell’s cap for a number of reasons. Everything connected with the prince was regarded as fashionable.

Adding the feathers might have been an attempt at currying favour with the Prince in person as he was an habitué of Covent Garden. At any rate, the conspicuous use of this royal badge on stage was a useful indicator of loyalty to the Crown during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It was a visual equivalent of the loyal toast that became mandatory at all sorts of gatherings.

All in all, the title-page of O’Farrell’s Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes indicates clearly that we are entering a transitional phase in the perception of the instrument. It combines notions of Irishness ( National Irish Music) and Scottishness (the stage Scot in an Ossianic pantomime) with an indication of loyalty to the crown providing a unionist umbrella. One can see why the instrument’s name at the time, “Union Pipes”, whatever its origins may have been, could have been read as a reference to the Union and therefore as politically charged.

In a subsequent publication, O’Farrell called his instrument not just the Union pipes but, right on the title-page “[…] the Irish or Union pipes […]".⁴¹ The newly acquired Irishness of this expensive, high-tech instrument of course meant “Irish” as in affluent, Protestant and therefore Unionist.

This was the state of affairs in the early nineteenth century. In the Victorian period, the Pastoral Pipes and their later incarnation, the Union Pipes, disappeared first in England and then in Scotland. In Scotland they were elbowed aside by the Highland bagpipes which were adopted by the army. As Hugh Cheape has pointed out, by the mid-nineteenth century the Pastoral Pipes had totally dropped out of the narrative of English and Scottish music-making, and much the same happened to the instrument in the guise of the Union Pipes.⁴² In Ireland, the instrument gradually lost its upmarket status. It was increasingly played by poor Catholic musicians for poor Catholic audiences. The bagpipe invented for gentlemen became a bagpipe played by paupers. In the context of the Celtic revival in Ireland, it was just about kept alive by a small number of affluent gentlemen players taking an interest in it. Promoting the pipes became part of the agenda of Irish cultural nationalism.

This led to yet another re-naming of the instrument. As the term “Union” was odious from an Irish pro-Home Rule perspective, it is not altogether surprising that a new Gaelic term was popularised in 1911 by Grattan Flood, an Irish musicologist.⁴³ Now they were called “uilleann pipes”, ie. elbow pipes, as the bellows were placed under the player’s elbow. This linguistic camouflage, together with inflated claims of antiquity, helped to obliterate the earlier history of this bagpipe. It came to be regarded as an indigenous, traditional Irish instrument. Its documented early history in London and its initial associations with neo-classicism and English metropolitan elite culture were conveniently forgotten.

Thus, we see this peculiar type of bagpipe as a signifier that was time and again re-inscribed with meaning, with new social, cultural and political connotations: from neo-classicism via Scottish and Irish unionism to Irish cultural nationalism. The changing fortunes of this remarkable bagpipe turned it into an ideological chameleon.


First published in: Christoph Heyl, “The Pastoral Pipes: A New Musical Instrument and the Aesthetics of Neo-Classicism” in: Ina Knoth (ed.), Music and the Arts in England, c. 1670-1750 (Dresden: Musiconn, 2020), pp. 115-132.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0,

I am very grateful for Christoph Heyl and Ina Knoth for their help and generosity in allowing this work to be published in Chanter.

¹ John Geoghegan, The Compleat Tutor for the Pastoral or New Bagpipe, London n. d. [1746 or earlier, see below].

² For a detailed discussion of technical aspects of the Pastoral Pipes see Hugh Cheape, Bagpipes. A National Collection of a National Instrument, Edinburgh 2008, pp80–83.

³ The use of the bellows can also be regarded as an innovative element. Hugh Cheape discusses the hypothesis that the pastoral pipes may have been the first bellows-blown type of bagpipe in the British Isles. Hugh Cheape, “The Pastoral or New Bagpipe: Piping and the Neo-Baroque”, in The Galpin Society Journal 61 (2008), pp285–304, p287. However, paintings by Egbert van Heemskerck would seem to confirm the existence of bellows-blown sets of border / lowland pipes as early as the late seventeenth century. See Paul Roberts, “The Border Bagpipe in 17th Century Art. The First Images” in Common Stock. The Journal of the Lowland and Border Pipers Society 28 / 2 (2011), pp22–34, (last access 26 September 2020).

⁴ Cheape 2008, “The Pastoral or New Bagpipe”, p285.

⁵ Geoghegan n. d., Compleat Tutor; 32 pages plus frontispiece engraved title-page. Geoghegan’s tutor is our only early written source on the appearance of the instrument in London and it is reasonable to infer from the nature of the instrument and the way it was marketed that it originated in a metropolitan context. However, one must agree with Hugh Cheape that this is of necessity an educated guess: “To date, there is no clearly discernible evidence on where this type of instrument may have first been made or by whom, although suggestions may be made.” Cheape 2008, Bagpipes, pp79–80.

⁶ British Library Main Catalogue, (last access 15 July 2020), Music Collections d.47.f.(1.).

⁷ In the online catalogue it is described as “Book entitled ‘The Complete Tutor for the Pastoral or New Bagpipe’, by Geoghegan, published by Simpson, London, c1746”, however, in the same online catalogue entry, its date is given as “1740”. See explore-our-collections/collection-search-results/music-book/378086 (last access 22 May 2020), A.1947.129. Geoghegan’s Compleat Tutor went through multiple editions, the last one was published by Clementi & Co in the early nineteenth century. For an overview building on Roderick Cannon’s A Bibliography of Bagpipe Music, Edinburgh 1980, updated by Geoff Hore 2008–2015, see (last access 26 September 2020).

⁸ “Daily Advertiser, v. 20, Sept. ‘43”. Séan Donelly, “A Publication Date for John Geoghegan’s Compleat Tutor”, in An Píobaire 4 / 47 (2008), pp26–27. I am most grateful to Hugh Cheape for pointing me to this reference.

⁹ Cheape 2008, “The Pastoral or New Bagpipe”, p289.

¹⁰ The author is most grateful to Ross Anderson for making a high‑resolution scan of Geoghegan’s frontispiece available. This image can also be seen on his website, https://www. (last access 14 June 2020), along with a complete scan of Geoghegan’s Tutor.

¹¹ For a reproduction, see (last access 23 May 2020).

¹² This would seem to strengthen the case for a date of publication before the Jacobite rising of 1745.

However, we cannot be sure at all that there would have been a dominant perception of the bagpipes as “Scottish” in the 1740s. After all, this was long before the Highland bagpipes came to be regarded in the nineteenth century as the dominant and iconic embodiment of the instrument.

¹³ Geoghegan n. d., Compleat Tutor, title-page.

¹⁴ A great deal of very practical research has been done by Ross Anderson, who owns two playable antique sets of Pastoral Pipes. An assessment of the instrument’s capabilities and a wealth of additional material relating to it can be found on Ross Anderson’s website: (last access 4 June 2020). Anderson owns and plays two antique sets of Pastoral Pipes. The author of this paper can also attest to the instrument’s musical potential – he plays both an antique set and a modern one made by Jon Swayne (both illustrated in this paper).

¹⁵ Geoghegan n. d., Compleat Tutor, p1.

¹⁶ Ibid.

¹⁷ The author of this paper has often made such pipes and can therefore attest to the utter simplicity of the process.

¹⁸ We cannot be sure who first came up with this name. However, as Geoghegan was so adept at promoting the new instrument, I entirely agree with Hugh Cheape who thinks that he may well have been “the sole begetter” of this idea. Cheape 2008, „The Pastoral or New Bagpipe”, p289.

¹⁹ An oboe reed can be manipulated by the player. As it is held between the player’s lips, micro‑adjustments in pressure can be made which greatly facilitate the transition between the first and the second octave. A chanter reed for the Pastoral Pipes needs to be set up to achieve this transition automatically, just responding to an increase in air pressure. Making reeds, and especially chanter reeds, presents the greatest challenge when it comes to making antique sets of Pastoral Pipes playable again. Some of the difficulties that will be encountered are vividly described by Dave Singleton,

“Pastoral pipes – Can It [sic!] Find a place in 2016”, in Common Stock 33 / 1 (2016), archive-issues/138-june-2016/823-pastoral-pipes-can-it-find-a-place-in-2016 (last access 26 September 2020).

²⁰ We find boxwood in a list of goods exported from the Ottoman Empire during the eighteenth century that were subject to an export fee (masdariye). See R. Murphy, “Conditions of Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. An Appraisal of Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Documents from Aleppo”, in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 33 / 1 (1990), pp35– 50, p41.

²¹ See Harvey M. Feinberg and Marion Johnson, “The West African Ivory Trade during the Eighteenth Century: The ‘… and Ivory’ Complex”, in The International Journal of African Historical Studies 15 / 3 (1982), pp435–453. Indian Ivory would have been less commonly available in eighteenth-century England as the ships of the East India Company took most of it to China. So-called marine ivory (i. e. mostly walrus ivory) would have been another choice. It seems to have been less popular with makers of luxury woodwind instruments including Pastoral Pipes. Its appearance is not as smooth and white as that of elephant ivory.

²² (last access 22 June 2020).

²³ Geoghegan n. d., Compleat Tutor, pp6–8.

²⁴ [Anon.], The Compleat Tutor for the French Horn Containing The Best and Easiest Instructions for Learners to Obtain a Proficiency […], London n. d.. For a scan, see (last access 4 June 2020).

²⁵ [Anon.], The Compleat Tutor for the Harpsichord or Spinnet wherein is shewn the Italian Manner of Fingering, London n. d., “c1745” according to the British Library Main Catalogue; [Anon.], The Compleat Tutor for the German Flute, containing the best and easiest instructions for learners to obtain a proficiency, London n. d., “1746?” according to the British Library Main Catalogue.

²⁶ Geoghegan n. d., Compleat Tutor, pp27, 14, 18.

²⁷ For a concise account of its popularity especially in London, see Cheape 2008, Bagpipes, p. 89.

²⁸ Simpson also published an edition of James Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion, 6 vols. This edition is not dated; the catalogue of the National Library of Scotland dates it to 1745–1760. It contains Jacobite tunes such as “There are few good Fellows when Jamie’s awa’” or “The King shall enjoy”, which would have been instantly recognizable as “The King shall enjoy his own again”, or “Over the water to Charlie” ( The Caledonian Pocket Companion, London n. d., vol. 1, p20, vol. 2, p20 and vol. 3, p7).

Incidentally, we can see very similar strategies at work in the development of the Pastoral Pipes and the arrangement of the tunes found in Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion. Oswald’s Scottish tunes came with variations heavily influenced by baroque convention. In both cases, elements of technical sophistication were introduced to make a product associated with the ideas of simplicity and tradition more palatable to an elite group of metropolitan customers.

²⁹ Geoghegan n. d., Compleat Tutor, p10.

³⁰ Cf. Francis O’Neill (ed.), O’Neill’s Music of Ireland. Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Melodies. Airs, Jigs, Reels, Hornpipes, Long Dances, Marches etc., Many of which are now Published for the First Time. Collected from all available Sources, Chicago 1903, p113. For continental influences on O’Carolan, see Breandán Ó Madagáin, “Carolan, Turlough (Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin)”, in Oxford Dictionary of National Bi-ography, 2004, ref:odnb/20484 (last access 4 June 2020).

³¹ Geoghegan n. d., Compleat Tutor, p. 16. Hugh Cheape’s reading of this piece is intriguing: “It must also represent a residual form of piobaireachd music surviving in Ireland.” Cheape 2008, Bagpipes, p86.

³² Geoghegan n. d., Compleat Tutor, p14.

³³ For more information on The Royal Chace, see Ian Bartlett and Robert J. Bruce, William Boyce. A Tercentenary Sourcebook and Compendium, Newcastle upon Tyne 2011, p176.

³⁴ One tune in Ramsay’s The Gentle Shepherd, “Sang XVII. Tweed-side” (Allan Ramsay, The Gentle Shepherd: A Scots Pastoral Comedy, Glasgow 1758, p83) is also found in Geoghegan’s Compleat Tutor (p.11), which may or may not indicate a connection. In the absence of reliable and substantial sources, we are left with what, at best, may be tantalizing hints.

³⁵ Sarah Deters in Arnold Myers (ed.), Catalogue of the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments, vol. 2 , Part G: Bagpipes, Edinburgh 2013, p viii. The instrument’s name was used as a political allusion in a cartoon by William Dent entitled A Scotch Reel, or Sawny’s Jofull Turn into Office (1793, published by James Aitken). Here William Pitt is seen playing a bagpipe (mouth-blown, drones held in a common stock, transparent bag half filled with gold coins), with the words “UNION PIPES” on its bag. There is a copy of this print in the British Museum (accession number: 1948,0214.453), see collection/object/P_1948-0214-453 (last access 20 November 2020).

³⁶ For a detailed account, see Cheape 2008, Bagpipes, pp113–116. Libretto: [Anon.], The Airs, Duets, Cho-ruses and Argument of the New Ballet Pantomime (Taken From Ossian) Calles Oscar and Malvina; Or, The Hall of Fingal. As Performed at the Theatre-Royal, Covent-Garden, London 1791.

³⁷ There is a score entitled “Overture to Oscar and Malvina, with the Highland March & Battle Pieces. Composed by Mr. Reeve”, see scan in the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries & University Museums,

(last access 15 June 2020). The Rondo was originally played on the Union Pipes and the Harp “(Mr. Meyer)”, see ibid., p [4].

³⁸ See Cheape 2008, Bagpipes, p100. A very useful overview along with scans of several manuscripts and articles by Ross Anderson can be found on his website: (last access 14 June 2020).

³⁹ [Patrick O’Farrell], O’Farrell’s Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes, London n. d.

⁴⁰ Cheape 2008, Bagpipes, p104, where a reproduction of this detail can also be found. A scan of the entire title-page (from the copy held in Yale University Library) can be found here: (last access 14 June 2020).

⁴¹ [Patrick O’Farrell], O Farrels, [sic!] Pocket Companion for the Irish or Union Pipes, Being a Grand Collection of Favourite Tunes both Scotch and Irish, adapted for the Pipes, Flute, Flageolet and Violin, 4 vols., London n. d., “possibly between about 1805 and 1811” according to Cheape, Bagpipes, p112.

⁴² Cheape 2008, Bagpipes, pp100, 120.

⁴³ “The fact is that there were two classes of Irish bagpipes – the piob mor and the Uilleann pipes, the latter of which came into vogue about the year 1588. […] Curiously enough, the Irish name of the domestic Irish pipes has in more recent times been corrupted to ‘union’ […].” William Henry Grattan Flood, The Story of the Bagpipe, London and New York 1911, p95. Note the inversion of the development from “union” to “uilleann”.

Logbook from a Belgian Bagpiper, part I