A slightly bonkers boxing day tradition for Northumbrian Pipers is Wannies Yomp. Whatever the weather pipers gather at the top of Great Wanney crag at a sensible and not very strict ‘mid morning’ and play a few tunes – not the least of which is of course the “Wild Hills of Wannies”.
This year was no exception – although the post Wanney session in a local pub was definitely not on the menu. Numbers were sorely depleted with COVID restrictions – but one fool was up there in the gale:
The weather always clears the head – this was definitely one of the windier ones and playing was only really possible tucked down in the mini stell this year!
This is an older 7 key Burleigh ‘F’ set in good playing order – a great set to get started on or as a transition from a hire set. The chanter is numbered 1105 which dates to the mid 1980‘s and the wood is possibly cocobolo. The drones are blackwood and in the standard Burleigh pattern with a single tuning bead on the ‘big G’ drone. Although all the components parts are by David Burleigh, the drones & chanter were not produced together, they are however ‘matched’ parts in terms of age and style. They were each found languishing in various boxes and with a little TLC have made a good marriage. There are a couple of ‘extras’ as well; the set comes with an interchangeable stock – meaning that the chanter is easily unplugged and another chanter can be used and the bag has also been upgraded.
Sets of this age always come some wear & tear – there are however a couple of specific cosmetic ‘faults’ that you should be aware of. The lower decoration on the chanter has a significant ‘chip’ missing – this can be seen in the photos. The brass slider tube on the large G drone has been replaced as the original had failed. The chanter foot is also a replacement and does not match the orange-ish (aged catalin) of the drone ends. None of these affect the playability or musicality of the set.
This is a fully working & reeded set complete with bellows, blue velvet bag cover and standard Burleigh pattern case. The chanter plays brightly in traditional ‘F+’ and the keys all respond well – the drones are strong and steady.
This is an early Evans 7 key F set, approximately 30 years old and based on condition only lightly played in that time. The ‘pattern’ of this set is not as immediately recognisable as Richard and Anita’s sets produced in the last 20 years – but it is one of theirs! When the set came to me I soon had it playing and I could tell it had some quality about it but there are no makers marks. Fortunately an original initialed reed (dated 1991) was still in the chanter and when I asked Richard and Anita – they recognised the set immediately.
The key work is in the ‘Ross’ pattern and the chanter sits happily in concert F with the original reed. The drone standing parts are unmounted but each drone comes with a tuning bead which means you have a much wider choice of drone tunings. Bag and bellows are in excellent – almost as new – condition and will provide many years of service. It would also be relatively easy to fit, at some point, an interchangeable stock in the bag to take a multi-keyed chanter.
Overall, this is an excellent quality 7 key set that will provide a lifetime of playing. Set is all original, fully reeded and comes complete with bellows, bag cover and case.
Here’s a an interesting set of pipes that recently emerged from a long forgottern cupboard after the elderly owner passed away. It’s a well made set of Northumbrian smallpipes probably dating from between 1900 & 1920 and when I first saw them – from an unknown maker. Some of the work was reminiscent of Clough & Picknell – but subtly different and overall a little more refined. There were also some unusual features that should be considered definitive – the drone ferrule decoration is particularly deep, each of the ferrules are pinned and the bellows have a specific inlay pattern.
Based on photographs, comparison with other sets and in conversation with others, it had tentatively been identified as ‘that chap from Bebside’ and ‘somebody Elliott I think’ but it wasn’t until I had them in my hands that this could be confirmed. Both chanter and drone stockes are stamped ‘W ELLIOTT’ and the standing part of the two large drones are also stamped. Elliott is mentioned by Cocks in 1933:
Elliott, William; Bebside A colliery joiner by trade, aged 68 years, William Elliott has made several sets of small-pipes of African black-wood. He has also, with great ingenuity, devised and made a set entirely of aluminium, the various parts being cast with the bore ready made in them. This idea of metal pipes is not new, but the use of aluminium is William Elliott’s own; there is a set of brass small-pipes in the writer’s collection, having a cast chanter.
William Elliott is an excellent maker of bellows, and has experimented a great deal with unorthodox materials for reed-making. He has even made them from ordinary wood shavings on occasion, and his chanter reeds of pinewood are beautiful specimens of fine work. He is also a maker of violins, and as a piper was one of Henry Clough’s pupils.
This set is blackwood and brass with ivory mounts, and a 9 key chanter (standard 7k + G#’s).
Each of the drones has a tuning bead but with an unusual mechanism; the beads don’t have holes themselves, rather they slide up to expose the tone hole and have a surprisingly positive feel. There is a tiny stopper in the body of the drone to limit the travel of the bead (which actually turns out to be a tiny screw).
The chanter B hole has a neat wooden lining which indicates that this hole has been plugged and redrilled.
High G# key head has a flattened side which is reminiscent of Clough / Picknell
Drone ferrules are all pinned – hopefully none of these will need to be removed
Drone standing part inserts have a ferrule on the reed seating, this is to prevent splitting and is not a common feature
Interestingly a second set of Elliott smallpipes recently appeared in an auction – but these were a later set mounted and keyed in aluminium and had a more recent set of bellows. It turns out both sets belonged to the same player – it’s not known if there was a connection to the Elliott family .