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.
Halton Lea Gate is a small Northumberland village, situated on the A689 road close to the boundary of the counties of Northumberland and Cumbria. The village is part of the parish council area called Hartleyburn.The village borders the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Halton Lea Farm has a Grade II listed farmhouse, the eastern end of which probably represents a large bastle. A long distance footpath, The Pennine Way runs just to the east of the village.
Haltwhistle is a small town and civil parish in Northumberland, England, 10 miles (16 km) east of Brampton, near Hadrian's Wall. It had a population of 3,811 at the 2011 Census.
Northumberland is a county in North East England. The northernmost county of England, it borders Cumbria to the west, County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south and the Scottish Borders to the north. To the east is the North Sea coastline with a 64 miles (103 km) path. The county town is Alnwick, although the County council is based in Morpeth.
In 1955, he obtained, from Tommy Breckons, a fine 17-keyed ivory and silver set of pipes. These had previously belonged to P.J Liddell, and are widely believed to have been made by T. Errington Thompson, of Sewingshields, about 1870. He played this set, the first set he had ever heard, for the rest of his life. In 1978, he retired from farming and settled in Rothbury, in the centre of the county. This enabled him to concentrate much more on piping, at a time of growing interest in the instrument and its traditional music.
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.
His playing was largely based around dance music, mostly from Northumberland as well as Scotland and Ireland - later on he added tunes from Shetland, Canada and the USA. His playing of hornpipes was excellent as a model, with a clear and steady pulse, and tasteful but relatively sparse ornamentation. His playing of slow tunes, such as the Irish slow air 'Boulavogue' was much more ornate, though without obscuring the shape of the tune. His style was far less complex and ornate than Billy Pigg's, but notable for its rhythmic drive; in his early career, he had played a lot for dances, and throughout his career, he played duets with fiddlers. His earliest recordings, such as Roxburgh Castle which appears on the LP Holey Ha'penny, which must show the greatest influence of his teacher G.G. Armstrong, are remarkable for their precision. His piping has thus been very influential, being highly accessible to learners, but a fine example for them to follow.
Billy Pigg (1902–1968) 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.
Some early recordings of the playing of various Northumbrian musicians, including Joe and his father, were made in the summer of 1954 for the BBC by Peter Kennedy; these were later compiled into the disc Holey Ha'penny Topic 12T 283 (1976). In 1959, Joe, with his wife Hannah, moved to Rowhope, at the head of Coquetdale, close to the Scottish border, where he farmed for the next 17 years. In 1973 the Northumbrian Pipers' Society and Topic Records recorded a selection of Northumbrian pipers, including Joe, on The Wild Hills o' Wannie 12TS 227(1973), and another recording featuring Joe, again from Topic, is Bonny North Tyne 12TS 239 (1974). In retirement after 1978, he continued to play, making a solo record Joe Hutton of Coquetdale MWM Records 1024(1980). Together with the fiddler Willy Taylor, and Will Atkinson (musician) on moothie (mouth organ), they performed as The Shepherds, making a recording Harthope Burn MWM Records 1031 (1983); both records were produced by Geoff Heslop. Other non-professional recordings of him may be found on the FARNE archive, and the British Library sound archive.
Topic Records is a British folk music label, which played a major role in the second British folk revival. It began as an offshoot of the Workers' Music Association in 1939, making it the oldest independent record label in the world.
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.
Geoff Heslop is an English record producer and musician
In 1975, as Joe approached retirement from farming, he agreed to start teaching weekly evening classes in Northumbrian smallpipes in Rothbury, which continue to this day. Joe, along with the pipemaker David Burleigh and others, was one of the founders of the Rothbury residential piping course, which began in 1979 and was always known as Joe's Course. This course has had a considerable influence, enabling many people from outside the county to study the smallpipes intensively.
In 1979, the Northumbrian Pipers' Society granted him Honorary Membership, in recognition of his services to piping.
The border pipes are a type of bagpipe related to the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe. It is perhaps confusable with the Scottish smallpipe, although it is a quite different and much older instrument. Although most modern Border pipes are closely modelled on similar historic instruments, the modern Scottish smallpipes are a modern reinvention, inspired by historic instruments but largely based on Northumbrian smallpipes in their construction.
The Northumbrian smallpipes are bellows-blown bagpipes from North East England, particularly Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. In a survey of the bagpipes in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University, the organologist Anthony Baines wrote: "It is perhaps the most civilized of the bagpipes, making no attempt to go farther than the traditional bagpipe music of melody over drone, but refining this music to the last degree."
Here Northumbria is taken to mean Northumberland, the northernmost county of England, and County Durham, as is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary. This area, together with Tweeddale, was the ancient British tribal kingdom of Bernicia (Bryneich) and is notable for the stable ancestry of its present indigenous population, which has been identified by DNA analysis to be an offshoot of the group Scotland, Cumbria and the North of Ireland, but not so closely related to the other peoples of the UK. The area was the core of the outstanding artistic culture that developed during the Northumbrian Golden Age of the 7th and 8th centuries; it would be unwise to suggest that the area did not have a flourishing musical culture at that time, or that it was not of similar sophistication - Bede makes reference to the playing of the harp.
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 (1855–1936), was a 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.
Jack Armstrong (1904–1978) was an authoritative and influential performer on the Northumbrian smallpipes.
Colin Ross is an English folk musician who plays fiddle and Northumbrian smallpipes; he is a noted maker of Northumbrian smallpipes, Border pipes and Scottish smallpipes, and one of the inventors of the modern Scottish smallpipes. Ross played both Northumbrian smallpipes and fiddle in the English folk music band the High Level Ranters which was formed in 1964 and specialised in the music of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, playing a major role in the revival of Northumbrian music from the 1960s. In 1977, each of the Ranters was given the chance to produce a solo album; rather than do this alone, Ross collaborated with various other musicians to produce Cut and Dry Dolly, an album of early Northumbrian music, simple dance tunes from the late 18th century William Vickers manuscript together with long variation sets, particularly from the Peacock tunebook from the beginning of the 19th century. This was very influential in reviving interest in this early strand of Northumbrian music.
Robert Elliot Bewick (1788–1849) was the son of the engraver Thomas Bewick. He was trained in engraving by his father, but is primarily remembered now as a 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.
Willy Taylor was a fiddler from Northumberland, England. He performed with Joe Hutton and Will Atkinson as the Shepherds.
John Armstrong of Carrick was a 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.
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.
George Hepple (1904–1997) was an influential traditional Northumbrian fiddler. He was born at Sook Hill Farm, Haltwhistle, West Northumberland. He went to a nearby school in Melkridge. He began his working life as an apprentice blacksmith at Cawfield's Quarry at the age of fourteen, before moving to Ventners Hall Colliery where he remained until its closure in the 1950s. He then worked at Bardon Mill Colliery. He later worked in a plastics factory in Plenmellor, South of Haltwistle, until his retirement. In the last years of his life, he lived with his wife Edna in sheltered housing in Haltwhistle. At this time, he also had a pacemaker implanted and when the doctor said he should return to have the battery replaced, in 10 years, he replied "I don't need to worry about that then!".
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.
The Northumbrian Small Pipes Society was founded in 1893, by members of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne to promote interest in, and playing of Northumbrian smallpipes, and their music. As it only continued in existence for seven years, it is now regarded primarily as a short-lived precursor to the Northumbrian Pipers' Society. However, despite its short life, it played a significant role, publishing the first tutor for the instrument, J. W. Fenwick's Instruction Book for the Northumbrian Small-Pipes (1896), holding regular meetings, and organising annual competitions. In 1894 and 1896-7, the society published Transactions, as well as publishing an account of their Annual Meeting of 1897. As well as Members, who paid an annual 5s. subscription, there was a category of Honorary Playing Members. Since the society's records include the names and addresses of all members, of either kind, they have listed the names and addresses for 37 known pipers. Two articles in the Newcastle Courant, in April 1900, gave an account of their Annual General Meeting, at the Literary and Philosophical Society, and referred to the society as flourishing, with 200 members, of whom almost half were pipers. Officers were elected for the following year; however there is no subsequent record of any formal activity of the society, such as meetings or competitions. In 1906, when the Cloughs played for King Edward VII at Alnwick Castle, an account of this in the Berwickshire News stated that the Northumbrian Small Pipes Society had done some good work in reviving interest, but that 'seven winters had passed without it giving any signs of life'. This suggests that the society had been largely inactive for some time before its final AGM.