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.
North East England is one of nine official regions of England at the first level of NUTS for statistical purposes. It covers Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne and Wear, and the area of the former county of Cleveland in North Yorkshire. The region is home to three large conurbations: Teesside, Wearside, and Tyneside, the last of which is the largest of the three and the eighth most populous conurbation in the United Kingdom. There are three cities in the region: Newcastle upon Tyne, the largest, with a population of just under 280,000; Sunderland, also in the metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear; and Durham. Other large towns include Darlington, Gateshead, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, South Shields, Stockton-on-Tees and Washington.
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."
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 Pipers' Society was founded in 1928 in Newcastle upon Tyne, under the patronage of the Duke of Northumberland. The first President was G. V. B. Charlton, who had been active in encouraging the playing of the smallpipes, and particularly the revival of the half-long pipes. Its policy aim was to encourage and stimulate 'the younger generation of pipers and beginners in pipe playing'. Billy Pigg, an influential piper, was a vice-president from 1930, while Tom Clough, known as the 'Prince of Pipers', accepted a vice-presidency in 1933. At first they met in each other's homes to exchange tunes and to organise the occasional dance. In 1937 they acquired a permanent home in the Morden Tower in Newcastle. The Society's regular meetings and annual competitions are currently held the Chantry Bagpipe Museum, in Morpeth. It also holds an annual concert in Morpeth. It publishes a quarterly newsletter and an annual magazine, as well as many important collections of pipe music, including, in 2000 The Clough Family of Newsham,a detailed study of the music of Tom Clough and his family, and, in 1997, The Border Minstrel, which included all of Billy Pigg's known compositions, and some other tunes from his repertoire. Other important recent tunebooks include a new edition of John Peacock's early tunebook, and a book of James Hill's hornpipes and other tunes, adapted for the smallpipes, and a tunebook and tutor for the Border pipes. They also published an important book on pipemaking, by William Alfred Cocks and Jim F. Bryan, The Northumbrian Bagpipes, in 1967.
Newcastle upon Tyne, commonly known as Newcastle, is a city in Tyne and Wear, North East England, 103 miles (166 km) south of Edinburgh and 277 miles (446 km) north of London on the northern bank of the River Tyne, 8.5 mi (13.7 km) from the North Sea. Newcastle is the most populous city in the North East, and forms the core of the Tyneside conurbation, the eighth most populous urban area in the United Kingdom. Newcastle is a member of the UK Core Cities Group and is a member of the Eurocities network of European cities.
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.
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.
The relative popularity of the instrument today, compared to the small numbers of players in the early 20th century, the wider availability of well-made instruments, and the availability in print of much of the instrument's traditional repertoire, can all be ascribed, directly or indirectly, to the work of the Society.
The Society converted to charitable status on 1 April 2012.
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.
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.
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.
The Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum is located in Morpeth Chantry, Morpeth, Northumberland, England.
John Dunn was a noted pipemaker, or maker of bagpipes. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Dunn was a cabinet maker by profession, initially a junior partner with George Brummell. In the trade directories, he also appears in his own right as a turner and a plumb maker and turner. His address was Bell's Court, off Pilgrim Street. He was buried on 6 February 1820 in St. John’s, Newcastle. His father may have been one John Dunn of Longhorsley; if so, he was born on 3 September 1764. He should not be confused with one M. Dunn, the maker of several surviving sets of Union pipes.
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 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.
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.
The Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, the oldest provincial antiquarian society in England, was founded in 1813. It is a registered charity under English law.
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.
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.
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.