New Information for John and his Ancient Bagpipe Identification Research

There are so many old makers that we have yet to positively attribute works to, that short of carefully removing all of the lacquer in the hope of trying to find a maker’s stamp, we may never really know who made this set until something very similar surfaces. Not just one or two of the features being similar, but all.

By George Hannah

Some of the features that stand out to me include:
1. Slim, almost parallel ‘Edinburgh’ profile.
2. Made from Jamaican cocuswood.
3. Bone material seems to have been used for the mounts (Haversian canals – microscopic tunnels in bone that house nerve fibres – can be seen in the material), though there is a chance it may be walrus tusk and it’s just the secondary dentine I’m seeing. The sole of the chanter appears to be elephant ivory (curved intersecting Schreger, cross-hatching, lines).
4. Two lots of double scribe lines on the caps and ferrules.


Check out the pipes again by scrolling through these pictures:

5. Wide diameter, parrot shaped, cord beads.
6. Course combing (low tpi thread chasers used).
7. Old profile, pro-mount design, with parrot beak shaped smaller bead. The thickness of the larger bead, the fountain, the smaller bead and the flourish that blends in toward the timber seem to be equidistant, and there is a fine raised portion on top of the pro-mount that would meet with the ferrule of the top section.
8. Tuning pins are quite small in length.
9. Other than combing at the bottom of the bell fountain (above the top cord bead), there does not appear to be any use of decorative scribe lines elsewhere in the bell fountain area.
10. Combing & beading count, though this isn’t always useful – use with a grain of salt!
11. The bush profile (can’t see in pictures).
12. Tuning chambers sleeved or not (can’t see in pictures).


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Any one of these on its own is not enough to attribute it to a maker, rather one has to carefully consider all of the features.

The instrument was clearly made by someone who had made numerous pipes previously i.e., the set was skillfully made, with thought having gone into the aesthetics of the instrument. My feeling is this was made by a notable maker in his day.

The question is who? Some of these features match with what I know of particular makers, but not all. Chanters travel and are rarely an indicator of the maker of the bagpipe they were found with.

Again, careful removal of the lacquer covering the timber may reveal a makers stamp. Do not get them skimmed clean on a lathe, as you’ll likely loose any faint stamps that may exist. A very nice find!

  • In reply to other messages he received John says: ‘Thanks to everyone who has responded. I wonder if photographs could be sent to me for comparison? My email address is j.nevans@btinternet.com. Alexander Glen is certainly in the frame as he was active from 1842. In my limited research I can’t find a source for Indian cocus wood as mentioned by one correspondent. Would anyone have any threads I can follow as it is an important element in the development of this story as it related to the dating process for manufacture? The Raj would have been a big factor in bringing elephant ivory to the UK too, so that puts our pipe in a particular time frame as it is decorated with more home grown materials.’ Check out the original story here.

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