A Bit About the Bagpipes

Posted by @ celticgoods on

I would assume most people when they here the word "bagpipes" would think of Scotland or Ireland and rightfully so. For hundreds of years, bagpipes have been associated with each country but they didn't originate in either country.

Cantiga bagpipes Bagpipes appear throughout history in many places around the world in a number of different variations in structure. Their origin is one of speculation, some citing its usage dating back to 1000 BC as their appearance is thought to be reflected on a sculpture found on a Hittite slab at Euyuk in Anatolia while others assert a Roman origin. There is however an increasing appearance in western Europe dating back to the 13th century.

Relative to Celtic culture, it's thought that the bagpipes arrived in the British Isles during the 14th century as its presence spread from mainland Europe. They are specifically referenced in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. There are record of depictions of bagpipes on wooden choir stalls in the late 15th and early 16th century, especially throughout Europe.

piper with bagpipes There are two primary types of bagpipes in Scotland - the Great Highland and the Lowland, also known as Border pipes. One of the primary differences between the two is that with the Highland pipe, the piper blows into a pipe to keep a bag filled with air which then escapes thru four other pipes. Three of these are called the drones, while the 4th, known as a chanter, is used to play the notes. The Lowland pipes are played using bellows squeezed under their arm which blows air into the bag. The sound of the Lowland pipes is softer than the Highland pipes.

One of the first references of the Scottish Highland bagpipes mentions their use at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547. of the bagpipe, which reflected its martial origins, with battle-tunes, marches, gatherings, salutes and laments. As far as the Irish bagpipe is concerned, one of the first mentions of its military usage is depicted in 1544 in Henry VIII's siege of Boulogne. Today, the Irish bagpipes are commonly known as uilleann pipes, although there are no specific references to this name prior to the 20th century.

While the bagpipes are common to folk music and dancing, there is a great association with the tradition of fielding pipe bands to military and other cermonial events. You can find the bagpipes embedded in many police and fire services throughout Scotland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as well as the United States.


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