Jim Gilchrist article in the Scotsman

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We don’t know whether they much appreciated it, but during the mid-18th century, the good people of Haddington were roused at five o’clock every summer morning by the town piper and drummer doing their rounds. It was a familiar enough dawn ritual in many a Scottish Lowland town.

In Haddington’s case, the town piper until 1783 was one James Livingston and the drummer Andrew Simpson, and their daily procession through the East Lothian burgh is rather charmingly captured for posterity in a contemporary engraving by Robert Mabon showing the pair on their rounds, accompanied enthusiastically by Harry Barry, a local simpleton. This glimpse into a bygone age shows Livingston playing bellows-blown Lowland or Border pipes – an instrument which was popular with many of the burgh pipers but which would all but disappear from use, partly through the vagaries of fashion and the increasing popularity of other instruments such as the violin and the chromatically scaled union or pastoral pipes, but also as burghs dispensed with such costly luxuries as municipal pipers. Or perhaps it was that 5am serenade…

Over the past three decades, however, there has been a major revival of interest in Scotland’s bellows-blown bagpipes – the Border pipes and the Scottish small pipes, too long consigned to silence in museum cases – and next Wednesday the great hall of Lennoxlove Castle at Haddington will echo with sounds which may have been familiar enough to James Livingston in a “Grand Concert of Bellows Piping”. Part of this year’s Haddington Festival and a “Lennoxlove 2010” series of concerts at the castle, the home of the Duke of Hamilton, the concert will feature four masters of their particular pipes, Gary West, Head of Edinburgh University’s School of Celtic and Scottish Studies and presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s Pipeline, on Scottish small pipes, Andy May on Northumbrian small pipes, Fin Moore on Border pipes (with Sarah Hoy on fiddle) and Jarlath Henderson, a triple all-Ireland piping champion, on uilleann pipes. There will also be singing from Judy Barker, who accompanies herself on small pipes.

The concert has been organised by the Lowland & Border Pipers Society, which has played a seminal role in the “cauld wind pipes” revival. And these rejuvenated bellows pipes seem to be cropping up everywhere – not least in Italy, where Fin Moore will heading later in the month to teach at the first Barga School of Scottish Music Song and Dance. The school, held from 20-27 June in the Tuscan hill town these days regarded as the most Scottish town in Italy, due to the large volume of emigration from the area to the west of Scotland, is run by Fin’s father, the piper and pipemaker Hamish Moore, who has been nurturing affiliations with Barga since he was musician-in-residence there in 2008. (articles here)

Other tutors include Allan MacDonald (pibroch), Sarah Hoy (fiddle), Chris Norman (flute) and Frank McConnell (stepdancing). We doubt whether Haddington’s auld toun piper, James Livingston, ever made it to Barga, although he is supposed to have fought, along with drummer Simpson, at the battle of Fontenoy in Belgium in 1745. For all his bagpipe dawn chorus, Livingston seems to have been well enough liked, and when he died he was lamented in traditional Scots “standard Habbie” metre by a local poet, Richard Gall:

When the grey morn began to keek,

And ‘boon the toun is seen no reek

Jamie wad rise, and his pipes cleek,

An* then wi’ speed,

He’d rouse the tounfolk frae their sleep,

But now he’s dead.

Gall and his fellow burgh pipers may have sounded their last, but, as Wednesday’s concert should demonstrate, their instruments are clearly alive and kicking.

• For further information or tickets, see or telephone the Haddington Festival box office 01620 824836. The festival runs from 26 May to 6 June. For the Barga summer school, see

Article by Jim Gilchrist in the Scotsman – source
in the Scotsman

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