Welcome to
the forums at bobdunsire.com
bobdunsire.com forums bobdunsire.com forums
You can reset your password by going here. Be sure to try your current email and any email addresses you may have had in the past.
Otherwise please use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the forums. In order to help you, please provide the following info: Your Display Name from the old forum and any possible email addresses you would have used before. Without that info we cannot locate your account.


Go Back   Bob Dunsire Bagpipe Forums > Great Highland Bagpipe > Technique & Instrument
Register FAQ Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Technique & Instrument Related to techniques, to the instrument, to the components, to maintenance.

Platinum Sponsors
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 06-28-2019, 09:37 AM   #1
Glyn_Mo
Forum Clasp
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Edinburgh
Posts: 967
Default John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

Hi, I've recently been given a set of pipes to take a look at, which I believe to be made by John Ban Mackenzie, who according to Jeannie Campbell's book, was making pipes between 1840 and his death in 1864, and apparently made the prize pipe for the Northern meeting in the years 1849 to 1864.

I'm going to get them refurbished, but I'd be grateful to hear from anybody who's actually seen or played a set of these pipes. I'm not sure what to expect from a set of pipes as old as these.

I'm also wondering if one of the tenor tops is perhaps made by one of the Glenns..

Pictures are here: John Ban Mackenzie Bagpipes

Many thanks
Glyn
__________________
Glyn Morris
www.scottishbagpipers.com
Fife Police Pipe Band
Glyn_Mo is offline   Reply With Quote
Gold Sponsor
Old 06-28-2019, 04:32 PM   #2
Glenurquhart
Holy smoking keyboard!
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Aix-en-Provence, France
Posts: 2,222
Default Re: John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glyn_Mo View Post
Hi, I've recently been given a set of pipes to take a look at, which I believe to be made by John Ban Mackenzie, who according to Jeannie Campbell's book, was making pipes between 1840 and his death in 1864, and apparently made the prize pipe for the Northern meeting in the years 1849 to 1864.

I'm going to get them refurbished, but I'd be grateful to hear from anybody who's actually seen or played a set of these pipes. I'm not sure what to expect from a set of pipes as old as these.

I'm also wondering if one of the tenor tops is perhaps made by one of the Glenns..

Pictures are here: John Ban Mackenzie Bagpipes

Many thanks
Glyn
Hi, this is a difficult matter. I have personally inspected the two MacKenzie pipes in the former COP museum, a full-size set in cocuswood allegedly made by John Ban because it was found with a MacKenzie chanter - though the chanter is made of ebony and not necessarily original to the pipe. This set depicted in Jeannie's book does not look like your pipes at all, but very much like a post-1820 MacDonald. The other pipe is a reelpipe, made by John Ban for sure and handed down by members of his family, is also rather different, quite similar to the three MacDougall/Perth 3/4 sets that I have seen (one of these being in my keeping). A third pipe, definitely by John Ban according to an engraving dated 1861 if I am not mistaken, is published in Jeanne's third book. This set, however, is also different. Anyway, the very fat and flat beads of your pipes are very unusual and they appear on none of the sets attributed to MacKenzie that I know of.

Years ago I purchased a pipe in cocuswood and ivory that came with a MacKenzie chanter made from ebony, but perfectly matching the size and the design of the stock. These pipes, however, are nearly identical in style, specs, combing and beading and mounts to a stamped Malcolm MacGregor/London set in my collection (ca. 1820), so either this pipe is a MacGregor fitted with a mismatched chanter or a MacKenzie copied from an earlier MacGregor. It would not seem unlikely that MacKenzie copied MacDonald, Robertson and MacGregor in his early days since they were the best makers of their time, who also produced the prize pipes for the piping competitions organized by the Highland Societies of London and Edinburgh. John Ban might also have sought inspiration from Allan and John MacDougall in Perth.

So my conclusion is that MacKenzie did not have a specific and unique style of his own that he kept for a long time, so your pipes may or may not be MacKenzie's. By the way, you don't show the chanter inserted into its stock: if the bulb is not flush wih the stock ferrule, or just slightly (!!) less large by maybe one fourth or third of a millimeter, hardly more, it is not the original chanter and does not identify the maker of the drones, unless confirmed otherwise.

Your chanter features the same unusual ivory bulb as one of the chanters in the COP museum and the chanter that I bought from Tabby Angier which is published in Jeannie's book. The date on the sole of your chanter is of course wrong, John Ban did not start pipemaking as early as 1820, the style of your pipes being consistent with a mid-1800 date (ca. 1840-1855 give or take).

I found the John Ban chanters very difficult to reed, both my MacKenzie chanters, which are quite different though carrying the same stamps, appear to be unplayable with any type of modern or classic 20th century reed, unlike MacDonald and Alexander or Thomas Glen chanters from the same period.

If you have your pipes overhauled, please let me suggest that you dont have them "refurbished" but respectfully restored by a pipemaker who will not interfere with the wood, nor buff the mounts, nor "refresh" the combing and beading. The heavy black coating may be removed but please don't ever let anyone touch the combing and beading with abrasive stuff, nor "whip" cracks unless old whipping that existed before is redone with new thread. Whipping means carving grooves into the wood, which inflicts irreversible damage to the surviving substance of the instrument. Cracks can be successfully sealed otherwise with removable fillers like cyanolite, and if they remain obvious they are like the scars of an old warrior who can be proud of the battles he fought. It does not make any sense to treat an early instrument like this one like any used pipe that is "refurbished" "as new". Your instrument is a rare survivor, and if it should look like one.
__________________
Glenurquhart
Glenurquhart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-29-2019, 04:06 AM   #3
Glyn_Mo
Forum Clasp
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Edinburgh
Posts: 967
Default Re: John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

Many thanks for the useful info, and I note your points.

I do know the pipes were being played regularly until 20 years ago.

I'll get a photo of the chanter in the stock, after business at the Europeans in Inverness is finished.
__________________
Glyn Morris
www.scottishbagpipers.com
Fife Police Pipe Band
Glyn_Mo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-29-2019, 09:07 AM   #4
CalumII
Holy smoking keyboard!
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: London Town
Posts: 5,389
Default Re: John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

Wonder if that's maybe a 4 rather than a 2 on the chanter, making it 1840.
CalumII is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 06-30-2019, 10:06 AM   #5
Glyn_Mo
Forum Clasp
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Edinburgh
Posts: 967
Default Re: John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

Photo with the chanter in the stock. Looks like the chanter and stock ferrules match:



And the seasoning of the day :



Quote:
Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
Wonder if that's maybe a 4 rather than a 2 on the chanter, making it 1840.
Pretty sure it's a 2. No doubt whoever inscribed the chanter in 1870 for some reason had it in their head that the pipes were made in 1820. Could that be person be right, and Jeannie Campbell incorrect? I thinking that she's done thorough research, so I'm assuming that whoever inscribed the chanter stock didn't have the correct information.
__________________
Glyn Morris
www.scottishbagpipers.com
Fife Police Pipe Band
Glyn_Mo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-02-2019, 02:14 PM   #6
Glenurquhart
Holy smoking keyboard!
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Aix-en-Provence, France
Posts: 2,222
Default Re: John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glyn_Mo View Post
Photo with the chanter in the stock. Looks like the chanter and stock ferrules match:



And the seasoning of the day :



Pretty sure it's a 2. No doubt whoever inscribed the chanter in 1870 for some reason had it in their head that the pipes were made in 1820. Could that be person be right, and Jeannie Campbell incorrect? I thinking that she's done thorough research, so I'm assuming that whoever inscribed the chanter stock didn't have the correct information.
Great pictures. Yes, the stock and bulb seem to match. I love the details of the ivory-mounted bulb. I also love the seasoning, I wish I could find such a tin for my collection. I have a Robertson from the same period. The old seasoning inside rattles like a stone...

Imho it is unlikely that John ban started pipemaking as early as 1820, when he was in his early twens. Jeannie usually has excellent material and would have mentioned any corresponding evidence. Oral tradition or family lore are not necessarily reliable - Angus MacPherson mentions the family bagpipe made by Donald MacDonald in 1800 - probably before Donald started pipemaking. Others have claimed that Peter Henderson's father Donald made pipes in the 1860's and that he even made a prize pipe, though there is no evidence for that at all.
__________________
Glenurquhart
Glenurquhart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-03-2019, 01:40 AM   #7
K Sanger
Forum Silver Medal
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Scotland
Posts: 315
Default Re: John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

I would agree with all of Glenurquhart's comments. Having over some 20 years worked my way through the Campbell of Breadalbane Archives (and indeed supplied Jeannie with some of the material she quotes), I have seen nothing to indicate that John Ban started making pipes until much later in his life.

It is questionable how until he had become a more established figure, his income would have enabled him to acquire the expensive tools required for the making of instruments. After all his salary was mostly in kind and included enough ground to grow potatoes that could be manured by one cow along with grazing to feed said cow.

In the case of Donald MacDonald there is no evidence that he started making bagpipes until after he left the army in 1802 and probably in the first instant was making 'Military Bagpipes' for Muir Wood the Edinburgh music supply buisness. That would have initially given him access to tools. However as Donald's father John was a wood worker he probably had access to those tools when he went on his own circa 1805.

Keith

Last edited by K Sanger; 07-03-2019 at 01:43 AM. Reason: Spelling
K Sanger is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-03-2019, 11:27 PM   #8
William McKenzie
Forum Clasp
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 917
Default Re: John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

Love the photos. Can the chanter play? I've always been curious about what the chanters from the 1800s actually sounded like.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
Wonder if that's maybe a 4 rather than a 2 on the chanter, making it 1840.
My initial thought was it said 1870 but perhaps there was a blemish at the bottom of the '7' reading instead as a '2' for 1820.

Quote:
Originally Posted by K Sanger View Post
I would agree with all of Glenurquhart's comments. Having over some 20 years worked my way through the Campbell of Breadalbane Archives (and indeed supplied Jeannie with some of the material she quotes), I have seen nothing to indicate that John Ban started making pipes until much later in his life.

It is questionable how until he had become a more established figure, his income would have enabled him to acquire the expensive tools required for the making of instruments. After all his salary was mostly in kind and included enough ground to grow potatoes that could be manured by one cow along with grazing to feed said cow.

In the case of Donald MacDonald there is no evidence that he started making bagpipes until after he left the army in 1802 and probably in the first instant was making 'Military Bagpipes' for Muir Wood the Edinburgh music supply buisness. That would have initially given him access to tools. However as Donald's father John was a wood worker he probably had access to those tools when he went on his own circa 1805.

Keith
Thanks for this, I found it pretty interesting.
__________________
Will
William McKenzie is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2019, 02:33 PM   #9
Glenurquhart
Holy smoking keyboard!
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Aix-en-Provence, France
Posts: 2,222
Default Re: John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

Quote:
Originally Posted by William McKenzie View Post
Love the photos. Can the chanter play? I've always been curious about what the chanters from the 1800s actually sounded like
I have two MacKenzie chanters, both are made of Gaboon ebony (as every MacKenzie chanter that I have seen so far) and their construction and ivory bulb design are different. I cannot tell which would be the earlier of both. One sounds quite similar to a MacDonald chanter but has a somber tone and F is too flat, the scale of the other (which I puchased from Tabby Angier, it is the chanter depicted in one of Jeannie Campbell's book) is untrue with any reed that I have tested, including a large range of vintage reeds from the earlier 1900's so I suspect that either a very special reed design is required or the chanter is not good.

There is no answer to your question because the design, pitch and sound of early pipe chanters is very variable : pitch, scale, bore, size and spacing of finger holes, reed seat : nothing is standard. Individual specimens of the same type of chanter made by the same maker may or may not sound different. My Donald MacDonald chanters, obviously from two different periods, are nearly identical when played with the same reed. I have three Duncan MacDougall/Breadalbane chanters two of which are of identical design and construction but the scale of one of the latter is completely off-track though the other two are quite fine. My two Gavin MacDougall chanters are extremely different, one is made from cocuswood and of classic later Victorian design, the other, made of ebony, is of a much heavier construction and recalls strongly the design of Allan and John MacDougall chanters made two or three generations earlier. I have four Alexander Glen pipe chanters (and used to have three more) which are all quite similar but with notably different shades. I could just go on and on...
__________________
Glenurquhart
Glenurquhart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2019, 04:37 PM   #10
William McKenzie
Forum Clasp
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 917
Default Re: John Ban Mackenzie bagpipes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenurquhart View Post
I have two MacKenzie chanters, both are made of Gaboon ebony (as every MacKenzie chanter that I have seen so far) and their construction and ivory bulb design are different. I cannot tell which would be the earlier of both. One sounds quite similar to a MacDonald chanter but has a somber tone and F is too flat, the scale of the other (which I puchased from Tabby Angier, it is the chanter depicted in one of Jeannie Campbell's book) is untrue with any reed that I have tested, including a large range of vintage reeds from the earlier 1900's so I suspect that either a very special reed design is required or the chanter is not good.

There is no answer to your question because the design, pitch and sound of early pipe chanters is very variable : pitch, scale, bore, size and spacing of finger holes, reed seat : nothing is standard. Individual specimens of the same type of chanter made by the same maker may or may not sound different. My Donald MacDonald chanters, obviously from two different periods, are nearly identical when played with the same reed. I have three Duncan MacDougall/Breadalbane chanters two of which are of identical design and construction but the scale of one of the latter is completely off-track though the other two are quite fine. My two Gavin MacDougall chanters are extremely different, one is made from cocuswood and of classic later Victorian design, the other, made of ebony, is of a much heavier construction and recalls strongly the design of Allan and John MacDougall chanters made two or three generations earlier. I have four Alexander Glen pipe chanters (and used to have three more) which are all quite similar but with notably different shades. I could just go on and on...
Interesting! Thanks for sharing this.

It sounds as if based on the instruments you have that chanters pre-Victorian then were not standard and were potentially made to a more regional or personal preference. Versus today where things are (more or less) standardized across makes and across the world.
__________________
Will
William McKenzie is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Silver Sponsor

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 06:23 AM.