IT'S A MACDOUGALL?

 

I purchased this bagpipe in November of 2006 from a dealer in Canada who advertised it as 'an old set of Glens, from about 1900.' When I got them and was able to examine them closely, the chanter was marked 'Edinburgh,' but an old repair had obscured the maker's name on the throat. The chanter profile was very close to an old Glen chanter I own, large flare at the bottom, but the projecting mounts and drone profile didn't match any Glen pattern I'd seen. I looked up the NMS (National Museums of Scotland) archive of the Ross Collection, which has an extensive inventory of Glen bagpipes. There I found several pipes made by Thomas Glen, some of which had really interesting thistle-shaped drone tops, among many sets of pipes made by the Glen family for four generations. One set of drones was very close to my pipe, and so I thought, 'Wow, these could be Thomas Glens,' which would date them between about 1840 and 1866, when he retired, leaving the business to his sons John and Robert (J&R Glen, 1866-1978).

Was I wrong - REALLY wrong. I sent these pictures off to Ringo Bowen, whose 'Bagpipe Museum' site is extensive has many detail photos of many old makes, catalogued by maker, with dates when possible. He wrote back pointing me to his pictures of pipes made by Duncan MacDougall, and the detail on the flange of the projecting mounts, as shown here:

Most Edinburgh makers put a cut bead with an angled flange on their projecting mounts, rather than the round bead seen above. Note that the flange below the round bead is concave, and ends with a little lip where it meets the wood. This flange is a mark of pipes made by John or Duncan MacDougall. Note also that the pin on the bass midsection (bottom in the photo above) is almost an inch shorter than the pin of the bass bottom section, or longjoint. Now look at the drone bottom sections in this picture:

The bottom sections, or longjoints, are 'straight tapers,' not concave like the later MacDougall profile seen on pipes made by Duncan and Gavin MacDougall (when their shop was in Aberfeldy, from 1871 to the cessation of business in 1909 when Gavin died). This means they're most likely early Edinburgh pipes, or late Perth pipes, made possibly when Duncan's father John was still active. Lastly, look at the cord rings and chanter ball:

The cord rings are wide, another MacDougall feature, and the chanter ball has the same concave flange seen on the projecting mounts. You can see clearly where the chanter was broken and repaired long ago; this is where the maker's name is obscured. When I asked Ringo, he said, 'Gun to my head, I'd say MacDougall, possibly late John or early Duncan.' They're also cocus, a wood rarely used by Duncan MacDougall, which makes them even - rarer. So, as far as we can tell,

IT'S A MACDOUGALL!

The sound is really something, rich with overtones - especially with cane reeds. They don't really like synthetics, and I can get only Kinnairds to play efficiently in them - just tenors with an inverted cane bass from George Lumsden. I played them publicly for a memorial service Jan. 27th using all cane, and the sound was - amazing. I'm in awe of this pipemaker and his work. The precision of the boring, turning, comb and beading, the detail beading on the chanter ball and ringcaps - it's immaculate - and all done on a treadle lathe! The deep reed seats are original - apparently they played larger diameter drone reeds in those days to get the lower pitch (low 460s) needed for the chanter.

Now for some specs: the tenons are long; 1.58" for the bass, 1.26" for the tenors, and 1.13" for the original chanter. The bass sections are all 11.5," the tenor joints are 8.9375" and the tops are 8.125."

The bores: bass and tenor longjoints are the same - .324;" bass midjoint - .683" diameter tuning chamber 2.8" deep, mid-top diameter .410"; bass top tuning chamber .678" diameter 3.8" deep, ,630" bushing. Tenor tuning chamber .678" diameter 3.28" deep, .575" bushing.

These specs vary slightly from known MacDougall bores and chamber lengths, more indicative of a special-order, custom pipe - or perhaps earlier production.

And no, I'm not accepting offers on this pipe. Not yet, likely not ever!

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All images on this site used with permission from Tamarsha B.V. / Twice Blown Music and Sharp and Co Bagpipe Makers LTD