The bagpipes arrive

I am pleased to say that my search for a set of second hand Bagpipes in good condition has been fruitfully concluded. Gareth Rudolph, the Somerset West based supremo sourced a 30-something year old set of African Blackwood Hardies for me up in Johannesburg.

They have no cracks and have generally been well looked after. The bag and the reeds needed to be replaced so Gareth did that for me and he delivered the set to me on Wednesday evening. The challenge now is to learn how to blow them unwaveringly whilst actually playing a tune on the chanter. It is no  small step from practice chanter to full pipes.

As soon as it was not rudely early yesterday morning, I shut the doors and windows of my apartment, put corks into the tops of the drones as advised, hoisted the apparatus to my shoulder and made my first attempt. I had been to a bagpipe recital the night before so I was sure I knew exactly what position everything should be in etc. (Nothing like being cocky).  I stuck the blow stick into my mouth and inflated the bag. When it seemed to be fully pumped-up, I prodded down on it with my elbow and then tried to keep up a steady pressure. The chanter emitted a piercing F-note like a burglar alarm going off and then stopped as abruptly as it had started. My cat’s legs went into a wheel spin as she catapulted off the couch and skidded through the lounge and out through her cat hole into the big world of outside. When she came in much later she skirted the edge of the room giving me a wide berth. She shot me a look of pure hatred as she sidled past and to this moment we have not resumed full cordial communications. Well, after a while I tried again. I blew and pushed and on each occasion, I ended up getting a single clarion note from my bagpipes before they quit again. I have been warned though that this is how it goes so I will not give up just yet. If you find me suddenly deceased on the carpet with a spider like instrument sitting triumphantly on my chest, read the instructions in the plain brown envelope on the wall behind my desk.

So a new chapter in the life of Neal the would-be piper opens. My teacher, Peter Odendal says he will help me get started next time I have a lesson scheduled with him. Watch this space.

For those reading this who are pipers or have an interest in pipes, here are a couple of photos and the specifications of the quintopus I have procured.

Pipes day_1 web
The full set of pipes – What I have called the Quintopus
Bag & Bottle snip
Composite bag – Zipped open to show moisture trap bottle

Here’s what my pipes currently consist of

Bag: New Bannatyne hybrid bag (i.e. cowhide exterior bonded to an interior membrane). Side zip giving access to inside of bag and moisture control system.

 Moisture control system: At this stage only a single moisture control bottle is fitted. It appears to have a moisture absorbing membrane inside it and apparently, this swells up as it absorbs moisture and needs to be dried out from time to time.) Optional crystal systems are available for this bag but were not supplied to me.)  (See photo)

Stocks and drones: R.G. Hardie of Glasgow. Combed and beaded African Blackwood with synthetic ivory projection mounts. The mounts are a yellowish colour. I am told that R.G. Hardie is a major supplier to the military and the yellow mounts are standard military issue. Well Mil-spec can’t be bad.  I do have an RG Hardie practice chanter and it seems to work fine. The stocks and drones are 30 years old but have no cracks or damage. The ferules are silvered and the silvering has become a bit tarnished. This I do not perceive as a train smash.

Blow stick: African Blackwood and matches the stocks and drones. But the mouthpiece appears to be Polypenco (plastic).

Chanter: There is no manufacturers name on the chanter and unfortunately, it also appears to be Polypenco. (plastic). I’m sure it will be quite adequate for now anyway.

Drone reeds: The Bass drone is fitted with a Canning fiberglass reed and the tenor drones with standard Canning reeds .

Chanter reed: The chanter is fitted with a molded Shepherd  reed

Tone enhancers: Tone enhancers have been fitted to the drones



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