Sunday, July 31, 2011

"The Lowland hatred of the Celtic bagpipes (declared to be a favourite musical instrument of Satan)"


The details shown above are from John Derrick's famous 1581 engravings of 'The Image of Irelande' showing scenes and battles between Irish and English forces of the time. A set of them is available to view here on the Edinburgh University Library website. Two of these feature 'pypers' within the Irish 'woodkerne', one of which has been killed and has his pipes lying beside him.

'Many instances of the Lowland hatred of the Celtic bagpipes (declared to be a favourite musical instrument of Satan) imply no more than that the more musical Saxons could not bear the sound of an instrument which brought to their remembrance ruthless foes who, it is said, also played the pipes during the Irish massacres in 1641. In 1641 Lord Lothian [ William Kerr ] had a piper in every company when his regiment lay at Newcastle, and at the same time there was not a sober fiddler in the Scots army there. The Scots loved the harp, the harpsichord, the viol, and the flute, and still more the sweet voices which sang those martial ballads and love lyrics which still charm the dainty ear'. (thanks to Jack for this reference, from Hewison in 1908).

Pipe bands seem to have been popularised by soldiers returning from the First World War (1914-1918), where they saw and heard Highland regiments of the British Army - for example Gilnahirk Pipe Band from East Belfast was formed in 1919. So nowadays we don't have the same reservations about the pipes as our ancestors did. Time moves on and things change. The story of music and the Ulster-Scots is still to be properly researched and written.

> The Highland Bagpipe by W.L. Manson (1901) on
> Bagpipes in War from the North East Folklore Archive