Dunn/Reid smallpipes: refurbishment part 1

Here’s a very interesting set of pipes that came to me last year. It’s a hybrid set; a 9 keyed James Reid chanter (~1830’s) coupled with a much earlier set (1780’s) of John Dunn drones that almost certainly started life as part of a simple unkeyed set.

There are some interesting engravings on the drone sliders and also on the original stocks (of which more later). I’ve traced the set back through the 1900’s and back in to the 1800’s; this is the set of pipes illustrated in the painting which is currently on display at the Bagpipe Museum in Morpeth. The set played in the painting includes an early blackwood Reid chanter and Reid bellows. This chanter & drones became separated and formed part of another set in the early 1970’s and the drones were paired at that point with the current chanter. The chanter itself has been heavily played, snapped and long since repaired; unfortunately at some point the silver key pins have been replaced with copper wire which will prove difficult to extract.

I’ve been considering what approach to take to take with them – they’ll never be an everyday instrument but it will be great to bring such a significant set back in to full playing order. I’ll start by fitting everything to a new bag and getting the drones playing with a contemporary chanter – this should be completed shortly. Once this is done I can take a long slow look at the chanter to work out how to effect a repair that will hold the two halves together with minimal interference on the musical qualities.


Sold: Shaw 10k NSP (concert G)

This set is now sold.

Here’s a concert pitch set of Northumbrian Smallpipes made by Dave Shaw. Chanter & drones are Lignum Vitae, metalwork is brass. It’s a 10 keyed chanter with the standard 7 + F naturals and a middle B flat key; four drones with tuning beads and standard Shaw stoppers. The original rubberised bag has been replaced with leather – bellows are all original. The belt & bellows outlet as fitted are intended for a smaller person but these are easily changed. Fully reeded, full playing condition – soft case carrying case.

Fully reeded & in full playing condition – I’ve been playing this set for the last year or so having snapped my main ‘G’ chanter! I’ll have this set at ECMW (end of June) and at Rothbury Traditional Music Festival (mid July) amongst other places.

Price: £950 + delivery

Location: West Northumberland – and occasionally elsewhere

Contact me to buy or for more details.

Sold: Armstrong-Burleigh 7k NSP (F+)

No longer available – pipes have been sold

Here’s another set of Northumbrian Smallpipes for sale – this one was rescued about 12 years ago from a trophy shop in Sussex and turned out to be quite an interesting set. I’ve kept it as a ‘borrow’ set to get people started over the years but now I need to make space.

It’s a 7 key traditional pitch instrument (F+) made in blackwood & nickel silver with Catalin mountings (showing typical orangey/yellow for this age); four drones and single tuning bead on the big G drone. The chanter has been fettled and is currently playing quite sweetly at concert F. The drones are cane-reeded and the set has a new Boyce bag fitted with an interchangeable stock and blue velvet cover. The bellows are the basic design and the current waist strap is on the short side (easily replaced). It does however appear that at some point an original emblem has been removed from the outer cheek leaving an unvarnished outline. This could either be re-varnished or you could add your own badge.

This set is unusual in that it dates from the time before David Burleigh starting making pipes professionally and mass producing his instruments. At this time (late 1960’s or early 70’s) David was learning from and constructing sets with Jack Armstrong and this set is stamped ‘Amstrong-Burleigh’ on the low D key. Although it shares some characteristics with the later mass produced pipes, it is a quite distinct style and there is a much more personal feel to the set.

The drone sliders are made with thick walled nickel tube which has a more satisfying feel than the later thin brass and the drone ends taper down to a very narrow width at the tone hole – the stoppers are ‘acorn’ ended. The chanter keys are all hand made and sit quite nicely under the fingers. With the exception of one, all of the ferrules are plain & undecorated; the chanter foot ferrule has some poor quality inscribed lines. All of the stocks have been turned with exceptionally thin wood behind the ferrules – there has been some loss inside the blowpipe stock (shown in pictures). The standing part of the small D drone has also been repaired. Neither of these affect the utility, presentation or musicality of the instrument.

All in all it’s a very good quality instrument in full working order with a bit of history about it. Better musically than the average mass produced Burleigh set but perhaps less robust. It will make a very good starter set but could also be a instrument to enjoy over a long piping career. The set comes complete with handmade wooden box (which I think is original as well).

Price: £700 + delivery

Location: West Northumberland – note the wooden case is heavy and I would prefer to arrange collection / delivery within the UK

Contact me to buy or for more details.

Re-released as Digital Download!

It’s just over two years since Veteran Records release my CD: O’er Lang at the Fair. Traditional music is very much a niche musical audience; physical CDs are still very much the norm and I’ve probably met a fair number of the people who’ve bought the CD (thank you!).

Through the wonders of modern technology and by properly keeping up with music cataloguing standard, John has now made the whole of his catalogue available as digital downloads. All of this means you can now find me on loads of digital download services: play.com, emusic, amazon (and also once the catalogues update: hmv.com, itunes, napster)

John is also distributing the recordings from the sadly short lived Kyloe Records label – on which you can find the marvellous Andrew & Margaret Watchorn (Lecchemede) and the virtuso playing of Mr Chris Ormston on ‘Time Out of Mind’ . Sadly the Kyloe recordings aren’t available just yet – fingers crossed we’ll be able to keep these recordings available.