Richard Mowat or Mowatt (1865–1936) was a renowned and award-winning player of the Northumbrian smallpipes.
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."
A miner, born in Backworth in 1865, Mowat studied the pipes with Thomas Todd, and played in public alongside Old Tom Clough at a concert in 1880. In a competition that December, won by Todd, Mowat was the only beginner to enter, and was awarded a prize of three guineas. In 1882, he entered the open class, and placed second, behind Todd, winning four guineas. He won the Northumbrian Small Pipes Society's piping competitions for three successive years 1894-6, and was subsequently barred from competitions. That society was short-lived, between 1893 and about 1899. In this period it awarded two pipers its Gold Medal; one was Mowat, and the other was Henry Clough. There are several photographs of him in the Cocks Collection; these can be viewed at.
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'.
'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.
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.
Although Mowat, like his younger contemporary Tom Clough, had studied the pipes with Thomas Todd, he evolved a very different style from the Cloughs' close-fingered playing. He had, contrastingly, an unusual fingering style, occasionally lifting several fingers at a time, and sometimes his entire right hand, particularly on long notes in slow airs, such as Roslin Castle. He was evidently not penalised in competitions for this, as he would be today. Archie Dagg considered Mowat to be one of the best pipers ever, citing his playing of another slow air, "Caller Herrin'". Despite their differing personal piping styles, Mowat and the Cloughs often played together in sessions at 'The Willow Tree' and the Cloughs' home. Billy Pigg learned from Mowat as well as from the Cloughs. In 1906, Mowat was one of the pipers who played on the occasion of the King's visit to the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle; the others were Henry and Tom Clough, and the Duke's piper, James Hall.
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.
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.
"Caller Herrin'" is a Scottish song, the music by Nathaniel Gow (1763–1831), and the words by Carolina Nairne (1766–1845).
Mowat was chairman of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society from 1933 until his death in 1936. The Society's tunebook was first published at this time; the elaborate 9-strain variation set on Felton Lonnen in that book, distinct from both the Peacock and Clough versions, is taken from his own playing. His repertoire is known to have included Todd's composition The Barrington Hornpipe, the variation sets Holey Ha'penny and Felton Lonnen, and popular tunes such as The Bluebells of Scotland, and The Last Rose of Summer; on one occasion in 1889 he played this last tune as a duet with Henry Clough, while another piece they played together was Caller Herrin. He was also regarded by his contemporaries as an expert reedmaker.
The Northumbrian Pipers' Society is a society, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Thomas Hair (1779–1854) 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.