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 is visible at It is known that Todd taught the pipers Tom Clough and Richard Mowat to play, [2] as well as Mary Anderson, known as 'Piper Mary'. [3] W. A. Cocks later noted that she was herself 'well known in her day as a piper of the first order'. [4]

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.

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.

'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.



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 at .

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. [5] 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,. [6]

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". [7] 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. [8] 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.'


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", [9] one, in Sleekburn, was for the Teachers' Orphan and Orphanage Fund, [10] and another in Cambois, for the widow and family of another miner, Mr. Forster. [11] 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.

Hartley Colliery disaster 1862 mining disaster which led to safety legislation

The Hartley Colliery disaster was a coal mining accident in Northumberland, England that occurred on Thursday 16 January 1862 and resulted in the deaths of 204 men. The beam of the pit's pumping engine broke and fell down the shaft, trapping the men below. The disaster prompted a change in UK law that henceforth required all collieries to have at least two independent means of escape.

<i>Lurline</i> (opera) opera

Lurline is a grand romantic opera in three acts composed by William Vincent Wallace to an English libretto by Edward Fitzball. It was first performed on 23 February 1860 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden by the Pyne and Harrison English Opera Company with Louisa Pyne in the title role. The libretto is based on the legend of the Lorelei.

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.


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 [12] ). [13] He was later a judge at the Northumbrian Smallpipes Society's Third Annual Contest, 1896, sitting with G H Thompson and Charles F Bowes.

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.

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.

In the United Kingdom, the retail prices index or retail price index (RPI) is a measure of inflation published monthly by the Office for National Statistics. It measures the change in the cost of a representative sample of retail goods and services.


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. [14]

His pipes, a fine silver-mounted set in ivory, are in the Cocks Collection, and may also be seen at the Woodhorn museum website. [15]

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  1. Letter, Morpeth Herald, 7 June 1890, from British Newspaper Archive.
  2. The Clough Family of Newsham, Northumbrian Pipers' Society, ed. Chris Ormston and Julia Say (2000).
  3. Morpeth Herald, 20 October 1888.
  4. Northumbrian Pipers' Society Magazine, vol. 7, 1987.
  5. Morpeth Herald, 18 October 1888
  6. Woodhorn archive
  7. Obituary, Morpeth Herald, 25 July 1908.
  8. The Morpeth Herald, 13 December 1862.
  9. Morpeth Herald, 26 December 1885, from British Newspaper Archive.
  10. Morpeth Herald 18 November 1882, from British Newspaper Archive.
  11. Morpeth Herald, 21 April 1888, from British Newspaper Archive.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 May 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. Morpeth Herald - Saturday 16 December 1882.
  14. The Yellow Pipers' Pocket Book, Matt Seattle, 2nd ed., Dragonfly Music (1999), ISBN   1-872277-14-4.
  15. Woodhorn Museum