Old Tom Clough (1828 – 1885), was an English player of the Northumbrian pipes, or Northumbrian smallpipes. He was born into a family of miners who had also been pipers for several generations; his son Henry, grandson Tom, and great-grandson 'Young' Tom were pipers too. He is thus a central figure in a family tradition linking the earliest days of the modern instrument to almost the present day.
'Old Tom' is the first of the family whom we know much about. He was, like all of his family, a pitman, initially working at Old Hartley, where his father Henry also worked. Henry played both Union pipes and Northumbrian smallpipes, and parts of his Union pipes still survive, while his 9-key set of smallpipes by Robert Reid remained in the family's possession into the 20th century. Tom later moved to Newsham, being hired as a sinker in 1849, working on the Cowpen 'C', or 'Isabella' pit which was begun in October 1848.A sinker was a specialist in the sinking and lining of new pit shafts, a skilled and dangerous trade, and relatively well paid. He gave his occupation, more generically, as 'pitman' when he married in 1850. His wife, Jane Brown, was the daughter of Jane Frost, the landlady of The Willow Tree, then the only public house in Newsham. He was also, nearer the end of his life, after the pit where he worked was laid idle, himself the landlord of The Willow Tree. A 4/4 hornpipe believed to have been composed by him is entitled 'The Willow Tree', and appears in his grandson's manuscripts.
Tom (II) learned the pipes, not from his father, but from Thomas Hair, a blind piper and fiddler, innkeeper of The Blue Bell inn in Bedlington, who died in 1854. He also learned from one George Nicholson, of Blyth, who may be the man of that name, listed as a retired mariner in the 1891 census return for Morpeth, who was born in Blyth. According to Clough's obituary, the George Nicholson who taught Clough had been away from Blyth for some 25 years, and had only recently returned when Clough was dying. This is consistent with Nicholson being a sailor.
In later life Clough won several competitions, in particular those organised by the Society of Antiquaries in Newcastle Town Hall in 1877, 1878 and 1879 - the first prize in these was the substantial sum of 10 guineas. A photograph of him, taken in 1879, is at.On each occasion Thomas Todd placed second. After his third victory, Clough won, outright, a fine silver cup, then valued at £25, which is now in the Morpeth Chantry Museum. The tunes he played in these competitions were "Wylam Away", "The Duke of Athole's Pibroch", "Felton Lonnin", "Jackey Laton", "Little wot ye wha's coming", and "New Highland Laddie", all long variation sets, which are later found in his grandson's repertoire. The last of these was also said by his grandson to be the last tune he ever played in public. Other tunes in his repertoire were, according to his grandson, "Old Tom's Rant", played by him regularly, "Jockey lay in the Hayloft", a great favourite of his, and Old Tom is said to have composed some of the family's distinctive variation set on "Maggy Lauder". He was debarred from competing after 3 victories, but continued to attend and play. He on occasion played for the Duke of Northumberland and at lectures given by John Collingwood Bruce. In 1881 the census return gives his address as Winship Street, not far from The Willow Tree.
He died in June 1885, and had a substantial obituary, of one and a half columns, in the following week's Morpeth Herald .This confirms that he was a sinker of pit shafts, as others of the family are believed to have been, and lists his piping achievements, as well as stating that, as a young man, he won trophies and very substantial cash prizes (the then huge sum of £50 on one occasion - about a year's wages) for shooting. Another interest was keeping singing linnets - he both entered and promoted competitions for these. He may well be the "old piper ... and splendid performer", who told the young Tom Clough "If you want to be a good piper, listen to a linnet, and make your chanter as clear and as distinct. A linnet never choytes, and neither should a good piper". "Choyting" refers to open-fingered ornamentation as in Highland piping, which the Cloughs regarded as a grievous error. Tom could have been only four years old at most if he heard his grandfather say this in person, but Old Tom, as a linnet fancier, seems the likeliest piper to have made this analogy. Another obituary appeared in the Shields Gazette . It states that his piping was much in demand, and that on one occasion he played for the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle.
The family must have been affluent at the time of his death, as his grave is marked with a fine Cheviot granite tombstone, which still stands in Blyth Cemetery.
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.
Here Northumbria is defined as 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 smallpipes 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.
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.
Robert Reid 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 14 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.
Jack Armstrong was an authoritative and influential performer on the Northumbrian smallpipes.
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.
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.
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 was visible online. 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.
Thomas Hair was a violinist and player of the Northumbrian smallpipes, who lived in Bedlington. This town, and the surrounding district of Bedlingtonshire, were until 1844 a detached part of County Durham, but were then made part of Northumberland.
William Green (1775–1860) was a player of the Northumbrian smallpipes, and the Piper to the Duchess of Northumberland from 1806 until 1849. He was assisted in this role by his nephew Robert Nicholson (1798–1842), and his son William Thomas (Tom) Green (1823–1898). Tom then succeeded his father as Ducal Piper until 1892. Father, nephew and son thus held some of the most influential piping roles in the county for a period of almost ninety years.
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.
'Young' William Lamshaw was a player of the Northumbrian Smallpipes. Despite his early death, he was a significant figure in the history of the instrument, being appointed Piper to the Duchess of Northumberland at an early age, after the death of his grandfather Old William Lamshaw. He was active at a time when keys were being added to the instrument, and one of the most prominent early players of the improved instrument. Living in North Shields, it is very likely that he would have known Robert Reid, who had settled in the town in about 1802.