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.
After Robert's death, James continued the business alone, in particular maintaining pipes, although there are a few sets made solely by James, who was also a piper. Robert's daughter Elizabeth, Elizabeth Oliver after her marriage, was a piper too, the first known female Northumbrian piper, and was, together with James, an informant of the Ancient Melodies Committee when they were collecting material for the Northumbrian Minstrelsy. She later wrote to J. W. Fenwick, and he stated that the set of "Dorrington Lads" was as played by Robert Reid, and his son James, also his daughter Elizabeth Oliver; in a letter to Fenwick in 1883, she said it was "most likely the same copy that poor Will Allen was trying to play when his Spirit was called Home to a more blissful rest." Given the similarity between this version and that in the William Dixon manuscript, she may well have been right. An identical version had appeared in the Rook manuscript, of 1840, suggesting that Rook learned it from the Reids, perhaps from Robert himself. As the two texts are note for note identical, despite a gap in time of more than 40 years, it can be seen that Elizabeth was a very careful informant. A complex variation set on "Maggie Lauder" in Fenwick's manuscript collection, not in his hand, is stated by him to be Mrs. Oliver's copy, 'as she had learned it from her father'. She seems to have had a significant collection of manuscript music from her father, but it is not known to have survived. A number of tunes from James Reid also appear in Fenwick's manuscript; in all there are 12 tunes there with a provenance from one or other of the Reids.
Simple closed chanter smallpipes had existed since the late 17th century (possibly being described in the Talbot manuscript from about 1695) but became standard in Northumberland during the 18th. Keys were not added until around 1800 -John Peacock's tune book (c1800) includes A compleat drawing of J. Peacock's New Invented Pipe Chanter with the addition of four keys.As John Dunn was closely associated with Peacock at this time, Dunn may well have been the first to construct such an instrument, but sets of Reid pipes from this time onwards started including keys, and more keys were added to the design over the following years.
The Clough family had a 7 key set with a Reid chanter that Tom Clough stated had been made for his great grandfather Henry (1789–1842); this oral tradition, if correct, would date the set to around 1810 or 1820.
Another such chanter, dated c. 1820, is shown below - the four views show respectively:
The stamp used by Reid to mark instruments he made is shown here.
Francis Wood, himself a pipemaker, has written"From an instrument maker’s perspective, the Reid chanters appear extraordinary objects, a fine example of ideal design, which mysteriously seems to have emerged fully formed without any apparent evolution with the exception of the rare examples of 6 key chanters lacking the D sharp key. Some changes of detail occur throughout Reid’s career but what remains evident and constant is the extreme economy and functionality of the design, in which little is purely decorative. Every detail is generally present for a practical reason, to a degree that is remarkable. The very compact keywork also conforms to that principle. The outline of the keys remains close to the chanter stem with no part unduly projecting, a particularly neat construction that reduces the vulnerability of the keywork to accidental damage. Players will notice an immediately comfortable hold on the chanter, with keywork that is lightly and evenly sprung and with pleasantly rounded key-touches which accommodate differing angles of finger action. These are all characteristics which are evident on some finely made modern pipes but they are by no means universal."
By the 1830s 14 key chanters were available, of which a fine example, with 5 drones, is found in the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum. Reputedly, Tom Clough described this as “the finest set I ever played on”. Some detail of this set's keywork is shown here.
The key arrangements found in this period have remained largely unchanged since.
A complex set assembled by James Reid, from parts made by his father, with six drones, was used as the frontispiece of James Fenwick's "Instruction Book for the Northumbrian Smallpipes", published in 1896. This set was probably one made for Cornelius Stanton shortly before Stanton's death. Only one such set is known.
Some 77 sets of pipes wholly or partially by Reid survive;some 45 in private hands and perhaps 10 are actively played; a number of sets by the Reids are also in public collections, most numerously in the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum.
Robert Reid was also active in making Union Pipes; the precursor to modern Uilleann pipes.
Henry Clough (I) was known to play a Reid set of Union pipes including regulators; surviving parts of this set are now in private hands.
The Scottish smallpipe, in its modern form, is a bellows-blown bagpipe re-developed by Colin Ross and many others. There are many surviving bellows-blown examples of similar historical instruments as well as the mouth-blown Montgomery smallpipes in E, dated 1757, which are now in the National Museum of Scotland. There is some discussion of the historical Scottish smallpipes in Collinson's history of the bagpipes. But more reliable research and information can be obtained in Hugh Cheape's "Bagpipes: A National Collection." Some instruments are being built as direct copies of historical examples, but few modern instruments are directly modelled from older examples; the modern instrument is typically larger and lower-pitched. The innovations leading to the modern instrument, in particular the design of the reeds, were largely taken from the Northumbrian smallpipes.
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, 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Old Tom Clough, 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.
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.
The J.W. Fenwick manuscript, compiled in the second half of the 19th century, is a compilation of Northumbrian pipe music, together with other material associated with the instrument. Fenwick was a tailor, who lived in North Shields from about 1841. The same town was the home of the Reid family of pipers and pipemakers, and several other prominent pipers lived nearby. By 1894 Fenwick was described as "one of the oldest and best-known small pipes players in the county"; by this time he seems to have been playing for about 50 years. The manuscript was apparently being compiled throughout this period.
The Rook manuscript, compiled by John Rook, of Waverton, Cumbria in 1840, is a large collection of traditional music from Scotland, Northern England and Ireland.
Cornelius Stanton was a Northumbrian piper.