Iconic Bagpipe Maker William Sinclair, Leith, is Back in Business

The world-renowned Sinclair Bagpipemaking business is now back up and running and fully operational. Ewan Sinclair, grandson of William Sinclair jnr. and son of Allistair, has teamed up with master craftsman Tim Gellaitry and the firm are once more manufacturing instruments of the highest quality.

This week, myself and Brian Lamond went along to their workshop in Leith to test the first batch of chanters and drones. The standard was everything we have come to expect from this company.

By Barry Donaldson

Both of us were very impressed with the end product and consider the instrument as good as any which was made in the past by Ewan’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

For those who are unaware, Tim Gellaitry served his apprenticeship as a bagpipe maker under the guidance of William Sinclair jnr. and remained with the firm from 1976 to 1989.

He has been a maker of quality bagpipes ever since. This new arrangement between Ewan and Tim will ensure the Sinclair bagpipe continues to be produced in their Madeira Street premises in Leith – produced to the exacting standards which have always been synonymous with the company.



The manufacturing process has not altered, every set of pipes and every chanter hand made using traditional methods. The tools and lathes are the same, as passed down through the family.

After the death of his father Ewan was unsure as to what was the best way forward for himself. His decision now to carry on with the family business and their unique pipe-making skills, will be welcomed throughout the piping world.

The late Allistair Sinclair at the lathe

The Sinclair attentioin to detail is well-known. I often watched as chanters were hand-turned by Allistair. He usually could only finish off six in a given day. He used his hand to feel when the chanter he was working on was ready. Sometimes he had skin damage and it had to heal before the next batch could be processed.

For decades the Sinclair chanter was considered THE pipe band chanter par excellence. Its reputation began with the collaboration between P/M Tom McAllister Snr. at Shotts and old ‘Pa’ Sinclair as he was affectionately known.

Between them they fashioned a chanter and reeds which were the basis of the Shotts success right up to the 1970s. Other bands followed the MacAllister/Sinclair combination, notably Strathclyde Police.

Sinclair chanters were also played by Simon Fraser University and Lothian and Borders Police who were both renowned for their sound.

(L&B’s pipe major Harry McNulty is a nephew of William Sinclair junior.) The firm’s pipes and chanters have also been played by many top soloists winning prizes at the very highest level.

There’s more on the interesting origins of this company here.


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7 thoughts on “Iconic Bagpipe Maker William Sinclair, Leith, is Back in Business

  1. Great to hear the news of Sinclair pipes. As a member of the Lanarkshire Constabulary band I also played these magnificent chanters and won many competitions. Resident now in South Africa, I still gave my neighbours and Scotish Society music from my Sinclair pipes at 81 years old!

  2. What great news. A chanter to match ‘The Great Highland Bagpipe.’
    My visits to the workshop were a highlight of my trips with Vic.Pol. Pipe Band.
    It was always a pleasure to catch up with Harry.
    Nat Russell

  3. I’m delighted to hear that Ewan will continue the business.
    The history of the Sinclair family is an important part of the story of Leith.
    My cousin was a leading player in the 1ST Leith BB Pipe Band ( they had a different title for PM) which was supported by The Sinclairs.
    My own dealings with Alastair and Ewan have always been most cordial and rewarding.
    A fine family.

  4. Sinclair – a great name in piping. Back in 1966, the company sent me (a 17-year-old student) three silver-soled pipe chanters at the behest of my teacher (P/M William MacLeod of Elgin (ex- Seaforths during WW2) so that he could choose the best of the three for me. I still have that chanter.

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