History: Iconic Bagpipemaker Peter Henderson’s Catalogue from the 1930s Part 2

We continue with our look at the Peter Henderson catalogue from the 1930s. It has a full page on how to make your own bag seasoning. In these days everyone played either sheepskin or hide bags. There were few proprietory brands of seasoning. Of those that did exist, Robertson’s ‘Airtight’ was the market leader.

The recipe for this mixture was bought by John Weatherston of RG Hardie & Co in the 1970s. (It was referred to yesterday by the Editor in his ‘Notebook’.)

Henderson’s method and seasoning recipe: ‘Cork up all the stocks except one. Mix a quantity of unrefined cane sugar with a small measure of water, melt to the consistency of syrup, and allow to cool until lukewarm.

Blow a little air into the bag to prevent the sides from adhering. Pour in the mixture, cork up the stock, and rub the bag thoroughIy between the hands until the sugar is spread over the inside. Hang up the bag for a few hours to drip through the chanter stock. Finish by wiping out all the stocks. The bag is now ready for use.

This treatment we have always used, and found it most satisfactory. The coating of sugar absorbs the distilled water arising from the hot breath blown in, and, therefore, keeps the reeds in form. Greasy or oily substances are in many cases used – they have the reverse effect on the reeds, and are not good for the skin. Treacle or syrup should never be used – it penetrates through and damages the clothing.

Another demonstration on how the bagpipe and piping have moved on in the past 100 years or so comes when we look at the page on ‘Bagpipe Accessories’. The practice chanters and chanters are all either ebony, cocus wood or African blackwood – no plastic to be seen; the reeds cane.

The pipe boxes are finely made in stiffened leather or of wood:

Henderson’s also sold a selection of piping books. In the list below, however, you will find no Willie Ross, no Kilberry Book, (though there is for sale Kilberry’s ‘Ceol Meadhonach’, middle music, slow marches, Gaelic airs), no Donald MacLeod, no Piobaireachd Society collection.

PS Book 1 dates from 1925/26 so this catalogue may be late 1920s rather than 1930s as we would expect such a well known piping shop as Henderson’s to be a willing distributor.

Glen’s collections feature strongly in the list and there are tutor books from Henderson’s themselves, James Robertson, Willie Gray & John Seton, Donald MacPhee and Logan:

The prices are in LSD, pounds, shillings and pence. Two shillings and sixpence, 2/6d (the Cowal Collection), translates as roughly 12p in today’s decimal currency. 2/6d was also known as a half crown. There were eight in the pound Sterling. The average wage in 1930 was £7 per week

Near the end of the catalogue is a tribute photograph of the 5th HLI Pipe Band, winners of the first World Championship at Cowal in 1906. The pipe major was John MacDougall Gillies, Henderson’s shop manager from 1903 until his sudden death from a stroke in 1925.

It is likely that this catalogue was produced under the aegis of his successor as manager, Archie MacPhedran a pupil of Gillies’s and later P/M of the Glasgow Shepherds Pipe Band.


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