Archie Dagg (1899 – 1990) was a shepherd and traditional fiddler, piper and composer from central Northumberland. He was born at Linbriggs, in Upper Coquetdale, and except for his time in the Army at the end of the First World War, lived all his life in that region.In the late 1930s, he was a member of the English Sheepdog Trials Team; when competing with them in Scotland, he would play Scottish tunes on the Northumbrian smallpipes, and found he would get a steady supply of free drams.
Dagg learned the fiddle from his father, who forbade him to play anything but hymns on a Sunday;later he led the Hillbillies Dance Band during the 1920s and early 1930s. He was also an early member of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society; later he played as one of The Border Minstrels, along with Billy Pigg, John Armstrong (of Carrick), and Annie Snaith, from 1938. They did not play much during the war years, but restarted after the war. In a taped interview, another Border shepherd, Willie Scott, recalled that traditional musicians were rarely influenced by records or radio, Archie Dagg the piper certainly wasn't. he also stated that very few musicians could read music, one old piper, a cousin of his fathers, could "trace out an air" from scores, though it took him a long time before he could play it right, Archie Dagg couldn't, he needed to hear an air.
After retiring from farming, and settling first at Swindon, near Rothbury, and later at Rodsley Court, Rothbury, Dagg took to pipemaking, and particularly reedmaking, for which he became highly respected. Kathryn Tickell has stated that she learned on a set made by him; she still uses the bellows made by Archie Dagg with her current set. Francis Wood, himself a pipemaker, writes that "Dagg's best reeds were scraped relatively thin, giving a clear bright tone with a very rapid response, highly suitable for original Robert Reid chanters and others made after this pattern." Distinctively, he signed his reeds on the inside, in reverse, so his name is visible when the reed is held up to the light.
In the interview cited above,Willie Scott referred to "a tremendous set of pipes
that Archie Dagg had recently made from ivory". He signed his name on these musically, with the notes A DAGG shown on a stave.
An image of Archie himself playing these pipes was the cover photograph of The Northumbrian Pipers' Society Magazine, vol. 7, 1986.
His home at Rodsley Court was the venue for a regular weekly pipers' session for many years.He also composed tunes - his tunebook, 'A Coquetdale Garland' published in 1978, was reissued in an expanded edition after his death, in 1995, with a foreword by Joe Hutton. It includes 19 tunes, many of which have since become standards, regularly played at sessions, having been reprinted by the Northumbrian Pipers' Society and the Alnwick Pipers' Society. A recording on the FARNE Archive, by Joe Hutton includes three of these.
In taped interviews for a B.A. thesis,Dagg discussed how he started with the pipes, learning with Billy Pigg. In another tape, he talked in detail about pipemaking, and in a third he recalled Tom Clough, Richard Mowat, G.G. Armstrong and 'Kielder Jock' Davison. The recordings also include some of his playing, including his own 'Foxglove Hornpipe'. In the 1986 interview he remembered these musicians, and stated that Mowat was one of the best pipers ever, recalling his playing of the air "Caller Herrin"; he also recalled the playing of Harry Clough and Tom Clough, whose special tune was the variation set on "Maggy Lauder". He noted that formerly, most pipers were ear players, while nowadays they tend to play from written music; he preferred a happy medium. He deplored the tendency of some pipers to play tunes too fast, holding that to do so was not music at all.
The Northumbrian Pipers' Second Tune Book
Northumbrian Pipers Society Magazine, Vol. 7
The Coquetdale Garland
The Northumbrian Pipers' Third Tune Book
The Alnwick Pipers' Society, A Selection of Locally Composed Music
The Northumbrian smallpipes are bellows-blown bagpipes from North East England, where they have been an important factor in the local musical culture for more than 200 years. The family of the Duke of Northumberland have had an official piper for over 250 years, and in more recent times the Mayor of Gateshead and the Lord Mayor of Newcastle have both re-established the tradition by appointing official Northumbrian pipers.
Northumbria, as is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is Northumberland, the northernmost county of England, and County Durham. According to 'World Music: The Rough Guide', "nowhere is the English living tradition more in evidence than the border lands of Northumbria, the one part of England to rival the counties of the west of Ireland for a rich unbroken tradition. The region is particularly noted for its tradition of border ballads, the Northumbrian smallpipe and also a strong fiddle tradition in the region that was already well established in the 1690s. Northumbrian music is characterised by considerable influence from other regions, particularly southern Scotland and other parts of the north of England, as well as Irish immigrants.
Billy Pigg was an English player of Northumbrian smallpipes. He was a Vice-President and an influential member of the Northumbrian Pipers Society from 1930 until his death.
The Northumbrian Pipers' Society was founded to promote both types of Northumbrian bagpipes – the Northumbrian smallpipes and the half-long pipes, now generally known as the Border pipes. There had been several attempts to encourage the pipes and their music during the 19th century, but no society was formed with this specific aim until the Northumbrian Small Pipes Society in 1893. That society organised a series of competitions, in which Richard Mowat and Henry Clough were both prizewinners. However it was short-lived, dissolving around 1899. Today the society is divided into two branches, the main branch based in Morpeth, and the Cleveland branch based in Sedgefield.
Tom Clough (1881–1964), known as "The Prince of Pipers", was an English player of the Northumbrian pipes, or Northumbrian smallpipes. He was also a pipemaker, and the pipes he made with Fred Picknell include several important innovations, and have a distinctive tone. He had studied the instrument with the noted piper Thomas Todd, and from his own father Henry Clough. His three surviving recordings, among the earliest recordings made of the instrument, and his considerable body of music manuscripts, including his own compositions, give considerable insight into the traditional playing technique and style of the instrument. This is particularly so because at least four previous generations of the family had been pipers, as was his son 'Young Tom' (1912–1987) – they thus form a continuous link between earliest players of the modern instrument, and contemporary players. In contrast to the widely accepted notion of traditional folk music as an essentially rural activity, he and his family lived in the mining community of Newsham in south-east Northumberland, and were miners themselves. At the end of his life, "Young Tom" recalled piping sessions at the 'Willow Tree' in Newsham, with his father Tom, grandfather Henry Clough, and Richard Mowat all playing – Henry's and Richard Mowat's playing would get more furious and inaccurate as the evening progressed; Tom was teetotal. Young Tom had the job of carrying his grandfather's pipes afterwards. There is a composite photograph of the Clough family at. Here Tom himself is on the left, his pipemaking collaborator Fred Picknell standing behind him, his father Henry Clough and son 'Young Tom' standing towards the right, while an older image of Tom's grandfather "Old Tom", seated piping in the foreground, has been added subsequently. Old Tom died in 1885, and the main photograph was taken in 1924. The other figure, seated on the far right, is believed to be Captain Nicholson of Haydon Bridge, a traditional fiddler.
John Peacock was one of the finest Northumbrian smallpipers of his age, and probably a fiddler also, and the last of the Newcastle Waits. He studied the smallpipes with Old William Lamshaw, of Morpeth, and later with Joseph Turnbull, of Alnwick.
Henry Clough was an English player of the Northumbrian pipes, or Northumbrian smallpipes. He was a miner, listing his trade as a hewer, and he lived in Newsham, in south-eastern Northumberland. He was the father of Tom Clough, 'The Prince of Pipers'. Several previous generations of the family had also been pipers, Henry's father, 'Old Tom' (1830-1885), and grandfather Henry (1789-1842) among them. Since the instrument assumed its modern keyed form at the beginning of the 19th century, the family's playing tradition goes back unbroken to that time. There is a photograph of Henry with his son at, while a photograph of Henry, his son Tom (III), and grandson Tom (IV) playing at Bellingham Show in 1926, is at.
Will Atkinson was a noted traditional musician from northern Northumberland. He started off as a player of the English diatonic accordion, but was best known as a harmonica or moothie player. His playing was distinguished by a very clear sense of rhythm, with a definite lilt. He was a major figure in Northumbrian music. He was also the composer of several tunes that have entered the tradition and are played at gatherings and sessions.
Robert Reid (1784–1837) is widely acknowledged as the creator of the modern form of the Northumbrian Smallpipes. He lived and worked at first in Newcastle upon Tyne, but moved later to the nearby town of North Shields at the mouth of the Tyne, probably in 1802. North Shields was a busy port at this time. The Reids were a family with a long-standing connection to piping; Robert's father Robert Reed (sic), a cabinet maker, had been a player of the Northumbrian big-pipes, and an associate of James Allan, his son Robert was described later by James Fenwick as a beautiful player as well as maker of smallpipes, while Robert's son James (1814–1874) joined his father in the business. Robert died in North Shields on the 13th or 14th of January 1837, and his death notice in the Newcastle Journal referred to him as a "piper, and as a maker of such instruments is known from the peer to the peasant, for the quality of their tone, and elegance of finish". He is buried in the graveyard of Christ Church, North Shields. His wife Isabella died in 1849, of cholera. There were repeated outbreaks of the disease at this time especially in the poor 'low town', near the river, where the Reids lived.
Adrian D Schofield is a player of the Northumbrian smallpipes, the traditional bagpipe of North East of England. In 1988, Schofield joined with pipers Pauline Cato and Colin Ross in forming the band Border Spirit.
Colin Ross was an English folk musician who played fiddle and Northumbrian smallpipes. He was a noted maker of Northumbrian smallpipes, border pipes and Scottish smallpipes, and one of the inventors of the modern Scottish smallpipes.
Joe Hutton (1923–1995) was born in Halton Lea Gate, near Haltwhistle in the west of Northumberland. Like his father, Jake, he was a shepherd, and a musician - he started on the fiddle, but took up the Northumbrian smallpipes after hearing P.J. Liddell and G.G. Armstrong playing at a concert in 1936. He started on a James Reid set from Halton Lea Gate, refurbished by G.G. Armstrong, a noted piper from Hexham, and he took lessons in the instrument from Armstrong. He made rapid progress, and won a competition as a novice, the following year. Armstrong made him a new set of pipes in January 1938, and Joe was photographed, standing at the left, with other competitors at the Bellingham Show piping competition in 1938. He continued to play the fiddle at dances during the war years, but he continued piping, upgrading to a 17-keyed chanter, again by Armstrong, in 1943. In 1950 he began piping in competitions again, winning all the Open competitions for two years. He was very isolated living out on the border with Cumberland, and to play with Tommy Breckons, a noted piper from Bellingham, he recalled "it meant walking 8 miles to Gilsland, bus to Hexham, another bus to Bellingham....Man, it was a day's work getting there". On another such piping trip, to Carrawbrough on the Roman Wall, he met his future wife, Hannah, whose brother John was also a piper.
Tommy Breckons (1928–2009) lived all his life on his family's Foundry Farm, Bellingham, central Northumberland. He was a noted player of the Northumbrian smallpipes.
George Grey Armstrong (1877–1961) was a noted player, teacher and maker of the Northumbrian smallpipes. He also composed several tunes for the instrument. He lived in Hexham, Northumberland. He learned to play the instrument from the Clough family, and studied pipemaking with John E. Baty. There is a photograph of him with his pipes, from the Cocks collection, at.
Richard Mowat or Mowatt (1865–1936) was a renowned and award-winning player of the Northumbrian smallpipes.
Thomas Todd was a noted player of the Northumbrian smallpipes, considered by William Cocks to be 'of highest rank'. One account, from 1890, states that he learned the pipes from Thomas Hair, a blind piper and fiddler of Bedlington, who also taught Todd's contemporary, Old Tom Clough. A photograph of him is in the Cocks Collection, and is visible at It is known that Todd taught the pipers Tom Clough and Richard Mowat to play, as well as Mary Anderson, known as 'Piper Mary'. W. A. Cocks later noted that she was herself 'well known in her day as a piper of the first order'.
William Alfred Cocks (1892-1971) was a master clock maker from Ryton, near Newcastle upon Tyne. He had a lifelong interest in the history and culture of the North-east of England, and particularly in the Northumbrian smallpipes and half-long pipes. He assembled a large collection of historic bagpipes, their music, and related materials, which forms the core of the collection now housed at the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum. He was elected to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1920, remaining a member until his death. In 1928, he was one of the earliest members of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society, being elected one of the technical advisers, with responsibility for smallpipes. He became a Vice-President of the Society in 1938. When an exhibition of historic pipes was held in the Black Gate Museum in 1961, most of the exhibits were from Cocks's collection.
John Armstrong of Carrick was an English farmer, huntsman, stick dresser and traditional musician from near Elsdon, in central Northumberland. His nickname refers to High Carrick, his hill farm on the edge of the Otterburn Army ranges, near Elsdon; Armstrong is a common name in the Borders. He claimed descent from the Border reiver Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie. His wife was descended from Muckle Jock Milburn.
William H. Hedworth, (1900–1994), was a noted maker of Northumbrian smallpipes who for a period between about 1950 and the mid-1960s was the only significant maker of new instruments; he continued making sets of pipes until late in his life. He was thus of considerable importance in maintaining the availability of instruments for beginners, particularly at a time when the traditions both of making and playing the instrument were in decline.
John Forster Charlton (1915–89), was an English traditional musician, originally from near Hexham, Northumberland, who later settled in Gateshead. He at first played fiddle, but later also took up the Northumbrian smallpipes. He was a major figure in the folk music revival during the 1950s and 1960s, and an active member of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society. He was a founder member of the High Level Ranters, playing fiddle and smallpipes on their first record, Northumberland for Ever, but he subsequently left the group. Later he played in a country dance band, The Borderers.