Volume XIX Number 1 - January 2007

We rang in the New Year at Wilfy MacManus' annual Hogmanay bash with the new pipes, now fully identified as made by Thomas Glen, father and precursor of John and Robert Glen, circa 1860, which makes them almost 150 years old. The National Museum of Scotland photo archive has pictures of the Ross/Glen collection on their website - and it's free. A great aid in identifying old pipes. Speaking of pipes, boy, did I get a bargain on these....couldn't resist reposting the pic from last month:

This marks our TENTH ANNIVERSARY on the net, and I've recently been told that we have the record as the 'oldest continuous piping blog' in existence. Kewl. It's also our TWENTIETH anniversary in business. Hooda Thunkit?

NEW PRODUCTS: Michael Grey's fifth book of tunes, a valuable addition to your piping library, $32.95; we've finally re-connected with our original embroidery supplier, so pipe banners and badges will be back to their previous quality and workmanship.

OLA GORIE CLOSES DOWN - after forty-seven years as the leading jeweller in Orkney, and one of the finest jewellers in the UK, OIa Gorie Ltd. are ceasing jewellery production as of Jan 15. They are currently negotiation with another firm to produce their patterns, but it does not bode well. There is some stock remaining, but once that sells out - that's it. The good news is that we will soon have SHETLAND JEWELLERY in our inventory; check back in March or April to see the new line.

Sad to report the passing of Magnus Magnusson, historian, journalist, BBC presenter, and cultural icon of the 20th century, on January 7th at age 77. Not as well known over here, he was a pillar of the BBC for many years, host of the quiz show Mastermind from 1972-1997, a prolific writer of Icelandic, Viking, and Scottish history, he had a career that spanned over fifty years in television, journalism, and culture. His book VIKINGS, from the late 1960s, was one of my favourites, as is his comprehensive overview Scotland - a History of a Nation. His wit, insight, and understanding of Scottish culture will be sorely missed.

HIGHLAND DRESS DEPORTMENT DEPARTMENT: This month's tirade is on footwear. Starting from the ground up, there are several choices, depending on the occasion. Ghillies, of course, for almost any situation. Brown for daywear (yes, BROWN) as well as the ubiquitous black, in a sturdy brogue, with a 'marching' sole - the old leather-soled foot killers just don't make it anymore. Black for semi-formal day or evening wear. Black patent bar-and-buckle brogues for evening wear. Yes, I know, to some they look like poofter boots, but they really are the correct shoes for evening wear, bar none.

For re-enactors, depending on the period - pre-1660 - cuarans (bag shoes), made from deerskin, or Jacobean shoes available from re-enacting suppliers, esp. Gedney Godwin. For 18th-century, one-last buckle shoes for the diehards, regular buckle shoes for those intent on foot comfort - which will still be a problem. There's no relief for the period-accurate Highlander. Buckles can be had from Godwin's or other sutlers, or you can make your own, for the craft-conscious and masochistic.

Hose and garters - daywear - white (shudder), offwhite, lovat shades, or a colour that matches your jacket (except black - don't wear them unless you're at a funeral) are all proper for daywear. Heavy patterns in the knit -great, they look much better than the skin-thick $15 socks they sell with kilt packages. DON'T wear white hose for evening wear. Please. Just don't. It's a fashion started by kilt-hire agencies in the 1970s as a money saver, and one that should be forgotten. Call me the Kilted Cojo, but diced or tartan hose are really the proper form for evening dress. Expensive - yes, but you're not going to wear them every games, unless you're a re-enactor, and they really do look good, and after all, isn't that what we're all after? Castellated tops or regular turndown, they're the last word in looking a proper Highlander. Garters - elastic if you must, but I prefer our wrap-around 1880-s style real garters that you can adjust the tension on when you put them on. Again, they're not cheap, but they'll last just about forever and look great. You can also go for the original garters - just a length of material, tied in a clove hitch aroung the leg, then the ends tucked to form a rosette, similar to our Atholl Highlanders pattern for castellated or plain-top hose. See our Hose and Garters page for details.

Re-enactors - before 1800 - the hose should be cut from cloth, not knit, which makes them REALLY expensive. I have sources for cada cloth, yep, it's expensive. SQUAW BOOTS or any other kind of boot are NONOs! Highlanders diod NOT wear boots of any kind! They couldn't afford them!

Here endeth the lesson.


One of my customers suggested a piece about bag size and blowpipe length. Well, this is it. Many people play a bag that's too big, resulting in discomfort and limited playing time. Too often I see pipers in solo and band competition straining to keep their pipe going, with the bag bulging under their forearm, their heads skewed off to the side by a too-long blowstick, or trying not to gag on it. Some are playing a blowstick that's too short, resulting in a look reminiscent of the Hunchback of Notre Dame....

The size of your bag is determined by the length of your arm. Measure your arm from crown to cuff - that's from the shoulder seam of your shirt to the wristbone. If it's 20" or under, you should play an extra-small bag, or a 'Livingstone' Ross bag. If it's 21-23," a small or 9-1/2-10" bag will fit. If it's 24," a medium hide or sheepskin, 10-1/2" L&M, or extended small Ross will fit just fine. 24-25" - a large L&M, medium Ross, or large Gannaway or sheepskin, and over 25" - a large roo, XL L&M, 11-1/2" sheepskin. These are not fixed numbers, only a rough guide.

Blowpipe length is another problem area commonly seen in beginners. Pipes come with a standard length blowstick, usually 11 or 12 inches, which is way to long for anyone under six feet tall. Universals come in 1/3" increments from 8-12" in length. One way to determine correct blowpipe length is to measure your forearm from elbow knob to fingertips, then subtract the full span of your hand. This will give you a rough idea of what length blowstick you should be playing.

If you're in a band, and a beginner, ask to try the pipes of someone approximately your height and arm length - so long as they have a comfortable setup. Your instructor or P/M should be able to help you here.

Thanks to Scott Bryant for the topic suggestion. Scott wins a 'skull and crossed drones' patch!

Black Part Speaks: he's ho;ding off his salvo until after the Boat

(The management of Cuillinn Craft takes NO responsibility for any editorial statements made by John Eric Partanen PhD. Any and all comments should be directed to BLACK PART)


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