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.
William was born in 1775 in Morpeth. An elder brother, also William, had been born in 1772, but died young. This seems to have led to some confusion about his birth date. His father Thomas was baptised at Rothbury, and his family came from Thropton nearby. This is the area where the Allan family of pipers lived, and it is likely they would have known each other. William's mother Isabel was the elder sister of William Cant, also a famous early piper.
Sources for William's early career are fragmentary, and there is little surviving record of any military service. However, his obituary, as well as later accounts, do refer to him having served; there is a record of a William Green in the Northumberland Militia in the 1790s, but it is not certain that this refers to the piper. There is also a record of him serving very briefly in a Volunteer Company in Morpeth from 1799-1800.
He may perhaps be the William Green who married in Tynemouth in 1818, then giving his profession as 'master mariner'; certainly his son William Thomas was born there in 1823. However, after 1806, Green would have had regular duties several times a year in different parts of the county in his role as Piper to the Duchess, which would surely have been incompatible with sea voyages. These duties included regular appearances at Tynemouth, for instance at the proclamation of Tynemouth and North Shields hiring fair. In 1816, a newspaper articlestates that the Duchess's Piper being prevented from playing there by illness, his young nephew Robert Nicholson, then 18, "just the age of the late famed Wm Lamshaw, when he bore away the prize at a musical match at Elsdon Court Baron" , deputised for him. It is clear from this that Green would normally have been expected to play at this event. Again, the following year, at a celebration of Earl Percy's wedding, in North Shields, Nicholson deputised for Green.
If William Green the piper was indeed still living in Tynemouth, he would have been living near Robert Reid, the pipemaker and piper, who lived and worked in North Shields. In any case, he would have had regular opportunities to visit Reid. There is no definite evidence for Green living elsewhere before his move to Morpeth, where he first appears in the 1841 census, as landlord of The Seven Stars. In 1834, the landlord of that inn was still Robert Richardson, so Green must have taken over the business subsequent to this date.
The earliest record of him as a piper is of him being appointed Piper to the Duchess in 1806, on the death of Young William Lamshaw.. A photograph of him, with his pipes, and wearing the crescent badge of the Percys, was taken later in his life, and is at .
He was succeeded as Ducal Piper by his son William Thomas (Tom) Green, on his retirement in 1849. A photograph of Tom is available at .
Over a period of decades, from 1822 until 1857, there survive newspaper accounts of William Green and Robert Nicholson playing together, for instance at a meeting of the Society for the Improvement of the English Marygold, in 1816.Nicholson died in Morpeth, on 11 October 1842, "unrivalled as a musician on the Northumberland small pipes, and was one of the Duchess of Northumberland's late pipers" and there are subsequent accounts of William and Tom Green, playing together; these include a Burns Supper in North Shields, the Duke's manorial court in Newburn, and the launch of a ship in West Hartlepool.
At some point before the census of 1841, but apparently after 1834, he became an innkeeper; in 1841 he was living at, and running, The Seven Stars in Morpeth, and in 1834 that business was still run by Robert Richardson. As many inns were run by musicians, such as Thomas Hair running The Blue Bell in nearby Bedlington, or Green's uncle William Cant running The Blue Bell at the head of Side in Newcastle, this may have been a natural change of career.
On his death in 1860, he was given an extended obituary in The Alnwick Mercury.This confirms that he had been a well-known figure throughout the county for fifty years. He was a tall man, more than six feet in height, and 'with a muscular development that entitled him to be classed among the forms gigantic', he cut an imposing figure. Despite his massive build, he was something of an athlete: 'and this welterweight could have been backed to any amount to run one hundred yards against any individual in the county'. The obituary states that he assisted in extending the compass of the Northumbrian smallpipes, until it was in some degree a new instrument. The two pipemakers most involved in this redesign were first John Dunn, and later Robert Reid; it would have made sense for Reid to work closely with an expert piper like Green, as Dunn had done earlier with John Peacock. It also states that he originated the 'new arrangement' of duet playing, so that with the aid of his nephew Robert Nicholson, or of his own son Tom, he achieved results of which the older instrument, with a single-octave compass, had been incapable. That these pipers were able to play well in tune with each other shows that at least one of them had considerable skill in making and adjusting reeds.
He seems to have been a convivial host in The Seven Stars, possessing 'a rich fund of anecdote'. This source confirms he had been running the inn for 'some twenty years', suggesting he had not been there long before the census of 1841. The article considered that he was at least the equal of pipers of previous generations, Turnbull, Gilley, Lamshaw and Peacock. Turnbull had been, according to Green, the first piper to the Earl of Northumberland, and after the creation of the dukedom, to the Duke of Northumberland; he was succeeded by Old William Lamshaw and then his grandson Young William Lamshaw. John Peacock is believed to have been the first piper to play on a keyed chanter, with a range of more than one octave. Of Gilley, however, there is little surviving record; now only his name is remembered.
In 1857 he had performed at Alnwick Castle, together with his son Tom and with James Reid, to provide musical illustrations for a report of the Ancient Melodies Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne to the Duke. He was one of the Committee's main informants on the music and history of Northumbrian pipes and the Ducal pipers. A note in the minutes (17 November 1857) of this Committee quotes Green, as saying that Peacock was the best player he ever heard in his life, whereas "Jamie Allan was a wild player, he was neither first, second nor third."Green also reported that his uncle William Cant had been postboy to Joseph Turnbull, the postmaster at Alnwick as well as an innkeeper and the first Ducal Piper, and that Cant had learned the instrument from him. Green also stated that Peacock had studied first with Old William Lamshaw, and later with Turnbull. As Turnbull died in 1775, when Peacock was only 19, Green's account, 75 years later, and at second hand presumably via Peacock, may have been at fault here.
Green was thus, besides his reputation as a piper, a link between the piping tradition of the 18th century, and the antiquarians who sought to keep the tradition alive in the mid-19th. Their work eventually led to the publication of The Northumbrian Minstrelsy, a substantial part of which concerned Northumbrian pipe music.
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 250 years. The family of the Duke of Northumberland have had an official piper for over 250 years. The Northumbrian Pipers' Society was founded in 1928, to encourage the playing of the instrument and its music; Although there were so few players at times during the last century that some feared the tradition would die out, there are many players and makers of the instrument nowadays, and the Society has played a large role in this revival. In more recent times the Mayor of Gateshead and the Lord Mayor of Newcastle have both established a tradition of appointing official Northumbrian pipers.
Duke of Northumberland is a noble title that has been created three times in English and British history, twice in the Peerage of England and once in the Peerage of Great Britain. The current holder of this title is Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
Robert Whinham (1814–1893) was a fiddler, composer and dancing master from Morpeth, Northumberland. Many tunes composed by him are still played, notably the Remember Me hornpipe, Whinham's Reel, and The Cambo March. A 1995 book on his life and music, called Remember Me by Graham Dixon, summarises most of what is known about him.
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.
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.
Joseph Turnbull was a player of the Northumbrian smallpipes, and the first, in 1756, to be appointed Piper to the Countess of Northumberland. He is the earliest player of the instrument of whom a portrait survives, in the collection at Alnwick Castle. There is a copy in the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum. In this portrait, he is wearing a blue coat, which is known to have been the uniform of the Alnwick Town Waits. From the creation of the dukedom in 1766, Turnbull was known as Piper to the Duchess. The portrait is labelled "Piper to the Duchess", so the caption postdates the creation of the Dukedom. However Turnbull was first appointed as the family's piper in 1756, and the portrait must be later than this.
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.
'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.
"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.
William Cant (1753–1821) was a Northumbrian piper and violinist in the early part of the 19th century.
Robert Nicholson (1798–1842) was a Northumbrian piper and fiddler. He was the nephew and pupil of William Green, who was piper to the Duke of Northumberland, and was later appointed as his assistant in this role.
Cornelius Stanton was a mid-19th-century Northumbrian piper.