Thomas Todd (piper)

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Thomas Todd (c.1832 – 1908) 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. [1] A photograph of him is in the Cocks Collection, and was visible online. [2] It is known that Todd taught the pipers Tom Clough and Richard Mowat to play, [3] as well as Mary Anderson, known as 'Piper Mary'. [4] W. A. Cocks later noted that she was herself 'well known in her day as a piper of the first order'. [5]

Contents

Biography

Todd can be tracked throughout his life through census records. He seems to be the same as the Thomas Todd who appears in 1841 in Longframlington, apparently aged 7; later census appearances are largely consistent with this, but with his being born in 1832, and there is a record of a Thomas Todd being baptised in Longframlington in 1832; later appearances show that he was a miner, living in pit villages in the Bedlington area, first Nedderton (sometimes called Netherton), later Bedlington itself, then Choppington Station, Northumberland. A vivid contemporary picture of the Choppington area is found online. [6]

William Cocks noted that he was a favourite piper of Dr J. Collingwood Bruce, one of the editors of The Northumbrian Minstrelsy, and that he played at Bruce’s lectures, for instance in 1888. [7] He also played at the Crystal Palace, in London, and, late in his life, at the Riding of the Bounds, in Morpeth, in 1889; a photograph, one taken on this occasion, are in the Cocks Collection, and may be viewed at the Woodhorn archive website,. [8]

He lived in or near Choppington for most of his adult life, but a few months before his death, he moved to live with his son-in-law at Bedlington. He died in July 1908 aged about 76, and is buried at Choppington. His obituary said that around 1880 "he was undoubtedly one of the ablest players of the Northumberland Smallpipes alive ..... His execution was remarkable, but he excelled more in the quality and sweetness with which he embellished the old and now nearly forgotten Northumbrian and Scottish airs". [9] It also states that 'considerably over 50 years ago', he was host of the Shakespeare Tavern in Guide Post, Choppington, where he was certainly living in 1862. [10] As the tavern was sold by auction in March 1860, and again had a different landlord by 1867, it seems he did not make a success of the business. The article continues that "many came long distances to hear him play", and "he played all over Northumberland and in many parts of Durham". One story told by Todd, and recorded in the obituary, and by Cocks, tells that 'Todd once was to play a concert at Allendale and lost his way on the fells. He played his pipes "for company", was heard by a shepherd and rescued.'

Repertoire

On several occasions, Todd is recorded as having played at benefit concerts; one, in Blyth, was for the widow of Mr. William Beadon, a fellow miner who had "distinguished himself at the Hartley Calamity in trying to rescue the miners", [11] one, in Sleekburn, was for the Teachers' Orphan and Orphanage Fund, [12] and another in Cambois, for the widow and family of another miner, Mr. Forster. [13] From these and other reports, as well as competition records, one can get a partial understanding of the kinds of tune he played, and some of their titles. Todd's repertoire included Northumbrian pipe variation sets, such as I saw my love come passing by me, Wylam Away, New Highland Laddie, The Keel Row, Meggy's Foot and Felton Lonnen, Scottish dance tunes such as Monymusk, song tunes such as Caller Herrin, Auld Lang Syne, Last Rose of Summer, as well as more popular pieces, Carnival of Venice, and an aria, Sweet Spirit, Hear my Prayer, from the opera Lurline. In the manuscripts of his pupil Tom Clough, the setting of "The Suttors of Selkirk" is described as the "favourite tune of Thomas Todd". Clough also attributed the last two triplet variations on "Corn Rigs" to Todd, but this must be an error on Clough's part, for almost identical variations are found in the John Hall manuscript, dated 1833; Todd was born in about 1832. This firm but mistaken attribution of the piece to Todd, from his ablest pupil, does suggest that Todd knew, played and taught these variations.

Competitions

He entered the competitions organised by the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries from 1877 onwards, which were won for three years by 'Old' Thomas Clough (II), the father of Henry Clough - Todd was placed second in 1877 and the next two years. He won this competition in 1882, winning the substantial sum of eight guineas, (worth about £750 in 2015, based on RPI). [14] [15] He was later a judge at the Northumbrian Smallpipes Society's Third Annual Contest, 1896, sitting with G H Thompson and Charles F Bowes.

Compositions

He also composed - The Barrington Hornpipe, which requires fluent use of every key on a 7-keyed chanter, is his, and remains popular today. It is unusual for pipe tunes in G to require all seven keys, including c sharp and d sharp, so it may well have been composed as a test piece. Forster Charlton, who knew Tom Clough, wrote that when learning from Todd, Tom had the ambition to play The Barrington Hornpipe, but at first was forbidden to try it, instead being given exercises to practice on. After mastering these, he was allowed to tackle the hornpipe, and found "he could play'd straight away". A manuscript of a setting in E minor of the jig The Laird of Cockpen, suitable for smallpipes, is marked with his name and address, and is believed to be by him. [16]

His pipes, a fine silver-mounted set in ivory, are in the Cocks Collection, and may also be seen at the Woodhorn museum website. [17]

Related Research Articles

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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.

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Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum

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Richard Mowat or Mowatt (1865–1936) was a renowned and award-winning player of the Northumbrian smallpipes.

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 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 (1915–1989), 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.

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.

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.

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.

"Old" William Lamshaw, (c.1712-1798), was one of the earliest players of the Northumbrian Smallpipes of whom much is known. Besides being a celebrated piper in his own right, appointed to the post of piper to the Duchess of Northumberland after the death of Joseph Turnbull in 1775, he was the teacher of several other known pipers, and the grandfather of Young William Lamshaw, who succeeded him as piper to the Duchess.

References

  1. Letter, Morpeth Herald, 7 June 1890, from British Newspaper Archive.
  2. "Archived copy". www.experiencewoodhorn.com. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2022.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. The Clough Family of Newsham, Northumbrian Pipers' Society, ed. Chris Ormston and Julia Say (2000).
  4. Morpeth Herald, 20 October 1888.
  5. Northumbrian Pipers' Society Magazine, vol. 7, 1987.
  6. "Our colliery villages choppington 1873". Sixtownships.org.uk. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  7. https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000344/18881013/065/0004 . Retrieved 13 August 2020 via British Newspaper Archive.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. "Woodhorn archive". Experiencewoodhorn.com. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2020.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. Obituary, Morpeth Herald, 25 July 1908.
  10. The Morpeth Herald, 13 December 1862.
  11. Morpeth Herald, 26 December 1885, from British Newspaper Archive.
  12. Morpeth Herald 18 November 1882, from British Newspaper Archive.
  13. Morpeth Herald, 21 April 1888, from British Newspaper Archive.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 May 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. Morpeth Herald - Saturday 16 December 1882.
  16. The Yellow Pipers' Pocket Book, Matt Seattle, 2nd ed., Dragonfly Music (1999), ISBN   1-872277-14-4.
  17. "Woodhorn Museum". Experiencewoodhorn.com. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2020.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)