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History, Tradition, Heritage As related to the subjects of piping, drumming and pipe bands.

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Old 11-18-2018, 02:16 PM   #1
PiPeZiLLa
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Default First written evidence of pipes in battle

Can anyone point me in the right direction in which the GHBs are first mentioned as part of a battle or a military unit? I know that certain Piobaireachds named after conflicts have been dated to a certain period but I'm more curious about written primary documents (letters, journals, etc).
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Old 11-19-2018, 06:24 AM   #2
bob864
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Default Re: First written evidence of pipes in battle

The Wardlaw MS (ca 1680) mentions John MacCrimmon and "all the pipers in the army."

It does not specifically reference pipers in battle.

https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/musi.../kingshand.pdf

Hugh Cheape (in Bagpipes) says that some of the earliest evidence for Highland bagpipes is the 1715 Piper to the Laird of Grant.

John Gibson, in Traditional Gaelic Piping (p. 67) references a letter dated 15 Jan 1628 from Alexander Macnaughton. "Our Bagg pypperis & marlit Plaidis seritt us to guid wise in the persuit of ane man of warr and that hetlie followit us."

So perhaps the earliest reference to highlanders using pipes in battle are at sea.

The distinction between Cheape and Gibson is the former is referring specifically to an instrument we would recognize today as the Great Highland Bagpipe. We don't know what form of bagpipe Macnaughton's "bagg pypperis" played.
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Old 11-19-2018, 06:46 AM   #3
Adam Sanderson
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Default Re: First written evidence of pipes in battle

A French history, L’Histoire de la Guerre d’Ecosse published in Paris in 1556, mentions that 'the wild (sauvages) Scots encouraged themselves to arms by the sound of their bagpipes (cornemeuses)' at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547.

However, I very much doubt that they would have been the GHB as we know it. Bagpipes from the Jacobite era I have seen mainly had two tenor drones and that's it. The three "British Army" sets I have seen from this era also had only two small tenor drones, no bass.

To throw further confusion into the matter, in Joseph MacDonald's book, Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe, written in the 1760's, he complains that the bass drone has been "laid aside" by some pipers. He gives the inference that this is a new trend he disapproves of. Certainly there are many early medieval European illustrations that show a great pipe with only a bass drone, suggesting that it may have been the tenor that was the later addition.

Many of the Jacobite pipers were Lowland pipers, as bellows pipes were very common in those days. Even James Reid, the Jacobite piper captured at Carlisle and subsequently executed for playing an "instrument of war" was most likely a Lowland piper, as he was from Angus and played in Lord Ogilvy’s Forfarshire regiment, far from the Highlands.

Hugh Cheape's exhaustive research seems to lead to the Great Highland Bagpipe as we know it being developed in London and Edinburgh, (far, far from the Highlands), and used as a recruiting tool for the British Army in the 1800's.

I have seen quite a few sets of "GHB" from the early to mid 1800's, that are small and slender, not unlike a mouthblown version of the Border Pipes of today.
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Old 11-19-2018, 06:52 AM   #4
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Default Re: First written evidence of pipes in battle

I wonder did the troops ( from either side).... ‘RUN AWAY...RUN AWAY’ with the appearance of a third drone....
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Old 11-19-2018, 12:27 PM   #5
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Default Re: First written evidence of pipes in battle

The first problem with this sort of discussion is the fact that while today the 'highland pipe' dominates, prior to its adoption by the post 1707 'British Army' the Lowland pipers and pipes were numerically the largest group of pipers in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament legislated for the establishment of an infantry regiment in 1640 and that included payment for a piper. However between then and 1707 there are over 4500 company muster rolls in the National Records of Scotland covering the regiments of the pre-union Scottish Army and when pipers are present they were Lowland pipers and 'highland' pipers only start to appear after 1690.

Returning to one of the comments in the earlier post about MacNaughtan's Regiment. The Regiment was of Highland Bowmen, (Archers) and they were bound for La Rochell. The muster role for the regiment is also extant and while the archers had highland names the two pipers were Lowlanders, an Alester Caddell and William Steill. There was also a harper called Harry MacGraw.

The earliest clear reference to the highland part of a Scottish Army with pipers comes from a description in the Diary of John Alston now British Library Add Ms 28566
Comments on Leslies army camped at Duns Law in 1639 referring to the highland contingent of some 1000 men under the Laird of Buchannan.
Theise were about 1000 and had bagg-pipes (for the most part) for their
Warlike instruments'.


Regarding what the earlier pipes looked like the earliest picture we have for what it is worth is of a Bagpipe playing Pig in one of Thomas Wodes Part Books compiled between 1562 and 1590. It shows a sort of two drone pipe. A picture I provided to the then editor of Common Stock was published as the cover picture of volume 13 No 1, (June 1998).

Before drawing two many conclusions about the 1714 portrait of Wm Cumming the fuller background below should be considered.
https://www.academia.edu/30206941/Th...of_Sheriffmuir

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Old 11-22-2018, 08:17 AM   #6
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Default Re: First written evidence of pipes in battle

[QUOTE
The earliest clear reference to the highland part of a Scottish Army with pipers comes from a description in the Diary of John Alston now British Library Add Ms 28566
Comments on Leslies army camped at Duns Law in 1639 referring to the highland contingent of some 1000 men under the Laird of Buchannan.
Theise were about 1000 and had bagg-pipes (for the most part) for their
Warlike instruments'.
[/QUOTE]

Oops, a slight mistake as the diarists name was John Aston, an extraneous 'L' crept in, it comes from reading straight from my photocopy of the original document without first putting the brain in gear. For those not able to get to the British Library the diary has been edited by the Surtees Society and can be found in 'Six North Country Diaries', (page 28), which is online at
https://archive.org/details/sixnorth...00hodg/page/28

Keith
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Old 11-22-2018, 07:16 PM   #7
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Default Re: First written evidence of pipes in battle

In Cannon’a edition of Joseph MacDonald, he says the bit about the great drone being laid aside was added in the 1803 publication.

But in the MS there is this on p33: ...the original design of the bag pipe; which was to animate a sett of men approaching an enemy...

He does not say they were used in battle, but that they were used prior to battle. Knowing there were pipers in a regiment isn’t the same thing as knowing they played in battle.
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Old 11-23-2018, 05:51 AM   #8
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Default Re: First written evidence of pipes in battle

[QUOTE=bob864

. Knowing there were pipers in a regiment isn’t the same thing as knowing they played in battle.

[/QUOTE]

Well,...it was the point of the Pipers being there....and who knows any piper hamming it up to easily give up the center stage?
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Old 11-24-2018, 12:05 PM   #9
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Default Re: First written evidence of pipes in battle

The original question was looking for references to the great Pipe in Battle or a military formation so the previous two posts are both in a way correct but also illustrate how the answers are not straight forward. There is certainly evidence that during the period of the 17th to 18th C, at the start of the 'charge' the pipers handed their pipes to their servant drew their sword and went into battle with the rest.

Practicality would suggest that they could not have done otherwise as there is no way they could have continued playing while running at speed over rough ground which would have been required if they tried up with the rest of the charging men.

However, after the highland regiments were raised as part of the British Army, starting with the Black Watch and then the regiments raised for the American and Napolionic wars, there are references to some pipers actually playing in action. But, and it is a big But, the effect of a piper playing during the action was more likely to have been just visual rather than aural.

Battles have always been noisy and progressively more so with modern weapons. There was a BBC documentary in 2014 where at one point the sound levels of the Somme were recreated in an audio laboratory. The relevant part is about 18 mins in.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toy7A8rbZZU

The conclusion was that the pipes would not have been heard over the general din. However that was an experiment conducted on comparative decibels, which in fact only tells half the story. Sound waves travel via a medium, usually 'air' and in my youth there was a standard physics experiment where an electric bell was placed in a contraption known as a Bell Jar attached to a vacuum pump and as the air was removed although we could clearly see the electric bell was still ringing the sound disappeared altogether.

Using a piper as the case study, it is a fact that in a wind where the air around the piper is being moved, if the listener is up wind then they would need to get closer to hear the sound of the pipes than if they were down wind. Quite a basic point I agree but returning to the 'experimental' sound of the piper at the Somme, that experiment only tells part of the story.

Battles from as early as the invention of guns were also progressively enveloped in smoke and often dust as well. These alone would have a considerable sound suppressing effect but an even greater problem which that experiment does not take into account is the percussive effect of the guns going off and shells exploding. Leaving aside the effect on the soldiers, deafness and burst eardrums for example, the violent physical movement of the air caused by the explosions would have cancelled out the transmission of the sound of the pipes.

Then of course i do not think that anyone has devised a way of playing the pipes through a gas mask, it is bad enough trying to breath in one in any case, but to return to the original point. As a means of stiffening the morale of soldiers prior to action, for leading marching troops, and until recently most infantry marched to where they were going, and finally something which the muster rolls from circa 1770 on-wards make clear, for recruiting then the Great Pipe did have a military function.

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Old 12-21-2018, 01:29 PM   #10
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Default Re: First written evidence of pipes in battle

I don't think you should look at government forces for this alone. The pipes were certainly used in clan battles way back. Where you might find references would be in ancient ecclesiastical records and in Gaelic writings. Clan battles were not as noisy as the industrial warfare of WWI. Some of the time in clan conflicts a piper would be playing at a short distance from the affray proper. Sometimes he would be walking around the post-battle carnage gleefully composing a celebration of the massacre.
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