View Full Version : Bagpipe Identification Sinclair MacPherson

06-03-2007, 12:29 AM
Hello all,

I just recently took a chance on a set of "old or vintage" bagpipes. I've recently recieved them and am eagerly trying to identify the date or circa of manufacture.

The chanter that came with this set (actually part of a set as the two top pins of the bass drone are missing)...appears to have an ivory sole (unconfirmed) and the hallmark reads as: Sinclair MacPherson Scotland, i've heard of those two manufacturers seperately, but never have seen them together on a hallmark. I hope someone can shed some light on the subject.

As far as the rest of the set: fully combed and beaded, the two tenor drones appear to have imitation ivory capes (but not positive) they are not orange...and i'd imagine being that these pipes look old they would have yellower or orange coloring. Blackwood projecting mounts and plain nickel furrels.

Thanks for taking the time to have a look! Anything will help



Ar Soner
06-03-2007, 04:53 AM
Any pictures ?

06-03-2007, 05:17 AM
Not yet I'm sorry, I will do it soon as I can. Probably not for a week, I'm having some camera issues at the moment. Thank you for looking at this...I'm lost


06-03-2007, 05:20 AM
Check out Jeannie Campbell's "Highland Bagpipe Makers". Under the Hugh MacPherson heading she says, "During the early years his pipes were described as the Sinclair-MacPherson Model and were made by William Sinclair and Son of Leith. In later years MacPherson bagpipes were made in their own workshop and were stamped MacPherson Edinburgh."
Under the Sinclair heading she says, "At this time (Campbell seems to mean in the late 1940's) the work's foreman at Sinclair was Willie Bryson, a well known figure in Edinburgh piping circles. In the 1950's he left to work for Hugh MacPherson."
The implication of all of this is that in the 1940's Sinclair pipes, both those stamped Sinclair and those stamped Sinclair-MacPherson, were made under the direction of Willie Bryson at the Sinclair shop, but that sometime during the 1950's Bryson was hired away by MacPherson to set up shop there. That is why MacPherson pipes are often indistinguishable, or nearly so, from Sinclair pipes. In any case your pipes must date from before the time in the 1950's when Bryson set up shop at MacPherson.

06-03-2007, 05:25 AM

That is really great. I appreciate it, I will certainly check it out. I think the two names appearing together will give me a good timeline.

Thanks again,


Ar Soner
06-03-2007, 04:17 PM

I think I saw the pictures of this "set" elsewhere, on some other well known site...
If I am right,only the chanter is Sinclair/MacPherson ; the rest must be Lawrie for some of the parts.

06-03-2007, 04:27 PM

Yes, I believe thats a distinct possibility. Once I am able to post some pics that should be a great deal of help. Upon further inspection of the tenor drone tops the inner cap appears to be ivory and is the same color as the chanter sole. I have know idea how many remounts this set could have gone through though, so I guess it will be wait and see situation. I actually polished one of the pieces I believed to be nickel originally, and now I'm about 95% sure they are silver. I will probably have a scratch test done. One other bit of information I'd like to add is that the wood projecting mounts are actually just that...mounts. They are not one piece of the pin. I hope that helps anyone browsing!



Ar Soner
06-03-2007, 05:26 PM
The pipes made by Sinclair have a one piece top, it means the bush and ring cap are made in one piece and are often flat (no bead). There is no wood ring there like in other makes.

Lawrie used rather late ivory bushes as the rest was made of some kind of plastic. Ivory there was supposed to improve the sound.
If the ferrules are slightly tapered they are for sure german silver, not sterling silver.

06-03-2007, 05:32 PM
Thank you. Every bit of info helps.

Is the bushing and cap made that way throughout time in the Sinclairs?

Do you know about what time period the German silver was used?


Ar Soner
06-03-2007, 06:04 PM
Sinclair bushes have always had this shape as far as I know.

German silver has become a very expensive alloy and no maker seems to use it nowadays. I think it became obsolete 40-30 years ago (am I right) ?
I think that some makers use genuine silver instead as it makes very little difference in the final price.

06-03-2007, 06:14 PM
I wasn't sure the time period. I think I have seen it forsale with Dunvegan from South Africa

Gord MacDonald
06-05-2007, 08:01 PM
Regardless of the look, I suspect they will have a nice big sound with a prominent bass, I had a set of 57 MacPhersons that I wish I had kept!!



06-05-2007, 10:19 PM
Yes indeed I am aware but thanks. What I was trying to figure out more accurately was the date in which they began/or stopped using what they refer to as German silver. Also does nickel last as long as silver...meaning can it always be bright or does it begin to break down, pit, and ultimately not keep a shine! IN RESPONSE TO POLISHING...LIKE SILVER

Any guesses?

Ar Soner
06-06-2007, 06:02 AM

german silver or nickel silver was invented in France buy two
men Mr Maillot and Mr Chorier in the 1820's as a "substitute" for
silver, and called in French after their names "Maillechort".
It is made of copper (at least 65%), nickel and zinc.

Copper and nickel are now some of the most expensive ordinary metals commonly used.
So the alloys produced with them are actually very expensive, like bronze e.g..
Farther more, german silver can only be found in sheets or wires (save in spacial industries) which means that it has to be shaped into a tube, soldered and then finished in order to make ferrules.
All this long process has a cost too.
I guess that's why it is no longer used as it is much easier to
take ferrules from existing tubes in stainless steel or even solid silver (that can be found in tubes very easily too).

On the final price of a set of pipes I am still conviced that silver can only make a minor difference compared to german/nickel silver if it does.

You can polish this with any product commonly used for silver or brass.
Just try not to put it on the wood as it may make greenish of whitish ugly marks.

Silver has a tendancy to tarnish and get black very rapidly as german silver keeps its polish much longer.

06-08-2007, 05:33 AM
Back to the issue of Sinclair MacPherson pipes, here is a photo (if this darn updated site will allow it to appear) of a Sinclair-looking set that's chanter is marked MacPherson. http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u196/pancelticpiper/pipes07005.jpg?t=1181303932

URL of picture (http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u196/pancelticpiper/pipes07005.jpg?t=1181303932)

Ar Soner
06-08-2007, 10:19 AM
Was this a question ?

This is actually a set of MacPhersons.

06-08-2007, 10:44 AM
No actually my pics are on the other listing, but I believe the consensus this far is that the pipes are vintage Lawrie. (the above listing pics is not mine).

Now my question is that since my chanter has a two name marking on it Sinclair + MacPherson (both appearing on the same chanter) we should probably be able to narrrow down a fairly accurate date of manufacture. I do have picture of that too.

Thanks, all...you've been a big help


06-10-2007, 09:23 AM
Interesting. This picture of Sinclair McPhersons looks identical to my Tweedies circa 1973.


06-10-2007, 11:50 AM
I wasn't aware that W. Sinclair or H. MacPherson were manufacturing powerhouses. Today's Sinclair shop isn't all that different from yesteryear.

I can't imagine that W. Bryson would have been needed as a shop supervisor at least as far as drones were concerned because the original owner was doing the turning. Bryson was instrumental in fielding the legendary chanter so I'm going to guess his expertise was limited to chanter production.

The story I've heard is that W. Sinclair, for whatever reason, sold the business to H. MacPherson and continued on as the shop's drone turner. At some later date Sinclair bought back the business.

Notice that both pipes have solid ivory or art. ivory caps with a characteristic double scribe. Notice that both pipes are combed BSW-24 using a nine-tooth tool (eight teeth sticking up).

Today's Sinclair drones are still BSW-24/9 but the double scribe is gone. The reason for it no longer exists.