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Vintage/Remarkable Pipes

 

Vintage Bagpipes from McGillivray Piping:
Carrying piping's past into the future

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Donald MacPhee, circa 1870s
This set of ebony pipes mounted in ivory and engraved silver was made in Glasgow by Donald MacPhee in the 1870s. His shop would be taken over by Peter Henderson in 1880.

There is something in the mystery of the old instruments that captivates and motivates us. Is the old wood really better? Did the old makers know something we don't? Do musical instruments improve with age? Why do most of the great players play vintage pipes? Who was the greatest maker of all time? How did they do it with no electricity??

These questions and others continue to occupy the thoughts of vintage bagpipe afficionados.

I take pride in acquiring great old pipes. I take great care in their refurbishment and in playing them to determine their musical worth.

I also go to great lengths to make sure vintage bagpipe buyers know exactly what they are getting in terms of make, quality and repairs that have been undertaken.

If you're looking for an old instrument, I hope you'll trust me to help you as those who have written testimonials below have trusted me. If you're not looking for an old set, then please take the time to enjoy my photos and descriptions of bagpipe history below. If you have an old set you would like to part with, please email me.

If you would like to read my comprehensive article on the vintage bagpipe trade, published on pipes|drums in 2010, click here. You may need a subscription to view the article, but a pipes|drums subscription is well worth the modest price."

Scroll down for vintage pipes currently available



About McGillivray Piping Vintage Bagpipes


Working with vintage bagpipes is as much a hobby as a business for me. I enjoy the process of turning up old pipes and making sure they will be played for years to come. I think it is a good thing for piping. As such, I take great care in purchasing, examining and restoring old pipes.

My primary refurbisher is J. Dunbar Bagpipe Maker, and I also use Thomas Doucet of Thomas Pipe Works.  Not only do these pipemakers do masterful restorations, they have eagles eye for examining 150-year-old wood and discovering replacement pieces and flaws that should be addressed before you play the pipes. If a set of pipes has a replacement or repaired piece, you will know about it before you buy.

It is important to note that repairs to cracked pieces are not the bad news one might think. The two greatest woods from which pipes can be made are ebony and cocuswood. Both are tonally superior to blackwood, but they are much less resilient, so it is becoming rare to find pre-1900 pipes in these woods without cracks. An old set that has not been played in years dries out and existing cracks close up and become almost invisible to the average buyer. Thus, when people say they bought a vintage set and a piece cracked when the pipes were played, chances are the crack was there when the pipes were bought. Playing them puts moisture back into the wood, and the crack opens up. By removing the finish from virtually all pipes I acquire, I can uncover and address these problems before you have to! I make sure cracks are found and fixed before the pipes are sold.

"In short, I am delighted with the old pipes. They shall be fine company through the winter, as we prepare for the spring solo season, when I expect they will turn more than a few heads. Thanks again for your help with them, Jim.  Their tone is everything you said it would be."
Eddie Selden, Seabrook, Texas
(circa 1905 silver and ivory cocuswood Hendersons)

While some cracks can be sealed, fixed and rendered nearly invisible by proper  gluing, this is not always a reliable or long-lasting repair technique, particularly with cocuswood and ebony, which don't glue well.

I often employ a traditional and very effective technique called invisible whipping to fix cracks. This entails turning down some of the combing groups on a lathe, gluing the crack, then wrapping it with strong, thin cord that binds that crack closed forever. A mixture of blackwood dust and glue is then applied over the whipping. When this dries, the repairs are turned down, re-combed and polished. The crack will not open again, and there is no effect on the tone of the pipes. The repaired combing is only slightly noticeable as different from the original. The technique is virtually foolproof.

While I have all sets examined carefully for flaws and integrity, I keep my restorations to a minimum. Mounts are reafixed as required, and the wood is stripped and refinished as required. I do whatever is possible to retain all original pieces. I feel it is far preferable for the tonal and historical integrity of the pipes to repair a piece than to replace it.

It is still possible for an otherwise sound vintage pipe to crack once you start playing it. Again, while a disappointment, this is not a tragedy as the pipes can almost always be repaired to their original tone and steadiness. I cannot guarantee vintage pipes against new cracks, but if it happens I will work with you to see it repaired effectively.

If you have any questions about these techniques or would like to talk about vintage pipes available or some of the "coming soon" pipes listed above, please email me.

For more photos of vintage pipes and more information on them, you can go to Ron 'Ringo' Bowen's Bagpipe Museum site. Ron and I have pipe band connections that go back about 30 years and we consult quite closely about pipes.

For even more information on old pipes and pipemakers, consult Jeannie Campbell's superb book, Highland Bagpipe Makers, which I use constantly in my research and descriptions here. Click on the link to purchase it from the shopping cart.

One note about old pipes....  Over the years I've acquired and sold vintage pipes, I've noticed buyers gravitating toward the big names: Henderson, Lawrie, MacDougall. While these are great pipes to be sure, I frequently find 100+ year-old vintage sets that I won't put a name to because I'm just not sure. (Other sellers would do well to be less sure!) Many of these sets are absolutely outstanding instruments, yet they will sit on the site for a year because I haven't put a great name beside them. Finally some adventurous soul will snap them up and is blown away by a gem nobody else wanted. If a set looks attractive to you, and the description suggests they are a great set, email me. Tell me what you propose to use them for and I'll let you know if I think they are suitable. Don't let a real find pass you by just because it doesn't have an obvious pedigree!


"Jim: it was a pleasure working with you and purchasing my vintage pipes. I am also very pleased on your set-up selection that allowed me to play them as soon as I received them. I can't put them down! Your new poly JMcG solo chanter and the reed you selected for me is bright and crisp. I have never played a high A so cleanly and with such little effort. Your advice and patience was very much appreciated. You truly are in the business because of your love for piping!
Hoping to do business with you again."

John F. Shattuck
Andover Ma

 
Invisible whipping
These restored ebony MacDougall drone pieces are from the same set. Distinguishing the invisible-whipped combs from the untouched sections is almost impossible. They are almost perfect.


 

 

Moisture-control for vintage pipes
Moisture control is crucial when playing old pipes.
See the shopping cart at the bottom of this page for more information on these items.

Pipe Case Humidifer   The MP Watertrap
Pipe Case Humidifier
and Hygrometer
  The MP Watertrap



 

Coming soon (currently in refurbishment or in transit):
~circa 1890s Centers in cocuswood, button mounts, nickel ferrules and caps, imitaiton ivory bushes
~1930s Lawries, remounted in new artificial ivory, engraved silver slides




Pipes currently in stock...

R. G. Lawrie, silver and ivory, 1970s
Lawries, mid-1970s

These Lawries came to me as a circa 1940s set with the silver added later. The silver is Lawrie-produced, hallmarked RGL with a date that appears to be 1976. The style of the projecting mounts and other evidence suggest the pipes were actually made when the silver was hallmarked.

The set has been recently refinished. There are some very minor dents in the silver from normal wear, but overall the pipes are beautiful and are in fantastic shape.

The tone is full, though not as booming as the classic old Lawries of 100 years ago, and the pipes are priced appropriately. The pipes are very steady and very easy to reed.

For someone looking for a well-priced, beautiful silver and ivory pipe as a reliable work-a-day instrument, you could hardly do better than this.


Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $4,350 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 or McGillivray 'JMcG' solo poly chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords. Blackwood chanter: add CAD $180.
CAD $4,995  plus shipping

Lawrie drones, mid-1970s
Lawrie drones, end view
Lawries, mid-1970s
Lawrie bells
Lawrie tenor slides, ferrules, projecting mounts Silver drone caps
Stocks
Wood close-up

 

R. G. Lawrie, 1950, nickel, imitation ivory
1950 imitation ivory Lawries

This set of Lawries came in its original box. The pipes were packed in newspapers from 1950, thus the dating. The pipes have had minimal usage. They look almost brand new -- perhaps owned by a new piper who gave them a short go and decided piping wasn't for them.

They are blackwood, with iconic tapered Lawrie nickel ferrules. The projecting mounts are blackwood; caps and original chanter sole are imitation ivory.

The pipes play very well. Many Lawries from this era maintained a big, classic, seamless Lawrie/Henderson sound from the earlier part of the century, and this set is one of them -- steady, easy to reed, easy to tune, rich and vibrant.

They required no refurb aside from mimimal re-hemping.They have been oiled.


Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $2,650 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 or McGillivray 'JMcG' solo poly chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords. Blackwood chanter: add CAD $180.
CAD $3,185  plus shipping

1950 Lawrie drones
1950 Lawrie drones
1950 Lawrie drones
Tenor drones
Bells, drone tops Imitation ivory drone caps
Stocks
Original Lawrie box

 

Henderson, 1920s, cocuswood, natural, silver-plated brass
Cocuswood Hendersons 1920s


This set of circa 1920s Hendersons is tonally top-drawer, but comes with some visual compromises and is priced accordingly.

At first glance, the metal mounts appear to be engraved silver. However, there are no hallmarks, and it actually looks to be engraved brass, or perhaps German silver, and silver plated. The effect is very much like the real thing.

The pipes are cocuswood, but it appears the bass bottom joint has been stained to look more like blackwood -- perhaps an abandoned effort to make the pipes look like blackwood.

The projecting mounts are in good shape except for the bass mid-joint. About a quarter of this mount has been broken off and subsequently buffed smooth. The blowstock appears to be blackwood, with the original projecting mount. The blowstick has a repaired crack near the mouthpiece.

Tonally, the pipes are excellent -- full and steady in the Henderson cocuswood tradition. The tenors tune a bit lower than my own 1920s cocuswood Henderson.

These pipes are a good opportunity to acquire classic Henderson cocuswood tone without the price tag of a classic silver and ivory set.


Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $4,550 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 or McGillivray 'JMcG' solo poly chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords. Blackwood chanter: add CAD $150.
CAD $5,085  plus shipping

Henderson drones, side view
Henderson drones end view
Henderson drones, bottom view
Bells and drone tops
Slides, projecting mounts Drone caps
Stocks
Wood, combing close-up

 

David Naill & Co., full plain silver, 2009
2009 David Naill


SOLD - Though not the usual sort of item offered on this page, this particular set came to me for an exceptionally good price and can be offered here at considerable savings.

They were made by David Naill & Co. in 2009, and are hallmarked full plain silver. If they have been played it is hardly apparent from the appearance of the pipes. They are in mint condition and come with a Naill poly chanter.

Naill pipes have ben played at all levels, including the very highest, for close to 40 years.  The company was founded by Les Cowell, who learned the pipemaking trade with the Henry Starck company in the 1940s.

Naill pipes are steady, full, smooth and very reliable. The company has always use the highest quality wood.



Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only with Naill poly chanter
CAD $4,995 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, Naill poly chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $5,495  plus shipping

Naill drones
Naill drones, end view
Naill drones, bottom view
Naill tenor drones
Bells and drone tops Plain silver drone caps
Stocks
Wood close-up
 

 

REPRODUCTION: "The Breadalbane" by Dunbar Bagpipes and Jim McGillivray
The Breadalbane reproduction of a Duncan MacDougall bagpipe


"The Breadalbane" is a reproduction of a bagpipe made by Duncan MacDougall around 1880. The name comes from the stamp he used on his pipes during the time he lived on the Breadalbane estate at Taymouth Castle during the 1870s and early 1880s. Pipes he made at this time were stamped "D McDougall, Breadalbane."

I purchased the original bagpipe from a well known Scottish piping figure, the late Allan Beaton. He actually purchased it from the Taymouth Castle estate where it had resided for as long as anyone can remember.

This reproduction is made by Dunbar Bagpipes in St. Catharines, Ontario, a superb pipemaking firm founded by Jack Dunbar in the 1960s. Jack learned his trade at the Henderson shop in the 1940s.

These sets are currently made from high-quality blackwood that was harvested in 2005-6. The projecting mounts are of holly, the metal mounts are aluminum, hand-engraved by David Davidse of Truehand Engraving. Both craftsmen have captured superbly the lines and shapes of the original pipes.

Like the original, the tone is rich and subtle -- neither booming like a Henderson pipe nor subdued like David Glen's. The classic, enveloping Duncan MacDougall bass drone sound has been captured beautifully.


"The Breadalbane reproduction arrived. It is the best sounding pipe that I have ever bought. Odd, I've been experimenting with pipes for a while and were told that my sets sounded similar to MacDougalls. I now see what people meant.  Great sounding set. I would recommend them to anyone who is looking for a sound that is a cut above the rest. My hat is off to Rick Pettigrew at Dunbar and Jim McGillivray for bringing this into existence."
Stephen Anderson, Louden, TN


As pictured below, the bagpipe can also be fitted with closed, beaded aluminum ferrules, beaded ring caps and plain aluminum slides. ("Beaded" refers to the metal ring encircling one end of the ferrule or the bottom of the ring cap.) The bagpipe is also available with full holly mounts. The blowpipe is blackwood with a wide bore and polypenco lining to prevent splitting of the wood.

Original 1880s Breadalbane MacDougall
This is the original 1880s Breadalbane MacDougall bagpipe used in this reproduction.


These replica sets come with a one-year guarantee against cracking. Use the mp3 player below to hear Jim McGillivray play part of the piobaireachd "MacIntosh's Banner" on a "Breadalbane" bagpipe:


Email me about this set.

As shown in photo above, sticks only
CAD $2,450 plus shipping

Full holly mounts, sticks only
CAD $2,295 plus shipping

With beaded ferrules and caps, plain aluminum slides, sticks only
CAD $2,650 plus shipping

Unbeaded ferrules as shown in photo above, set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 McCallum poly chanter, Canning or Kinnaird Evolution drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $2,995  plus shipping


Full holly mounts, set up to play
CAD $2,850 plus shipping


With beaded ferrules and caps, plain aluminum slides, set up to play
CAD $3,195 plus shipping


McGillivray Piping Inc. is not associated with Mr. David Atherton or Atherton Bagpipes, and neither company sponsors or endorses the products of the other.
 

Breadalbane drones, end view
Breadalbane drones, side view
Breadalbane drones, bottom view
Bottom projecting mounts
Breadalbane tenor drones Close-up of hand-engraved aluminum ferrules
Bells and drone tops
Projecting mounts close
Engraved drone caps with holly bushes Stocks Wood and combing close-up  
Below are photos of the Breadalbane option with beaded, closed drone ferrules, beaded ring caps, and plain aluminum tuning slides.
The Breadalban option with beaded ferrules and rings and plain aluminum slides. Breadalbane beaded with plain slides, holly projecting mounts Beaded ferrules, plain slides Closed ferrules on tuning chambes
Below are photos of the Breadalbane option in full holly.

Fully-holly mounted Breadalbane

 

Holly-mounted Breadalbane Holly ring caps, bushes

Holly tenor ferrules

 

The Breadalbane in full artificial ivory.
Breadalbane artificial ivory

 

"These pipes are a revelation to me.  I've heard pipes described poetically before; about ease of play; about drones "locking in" and staying tuned, and so on. But I never really understood until now. These pipes WANT to be in tune. They're easy to tune and they stay that way. I'm not the steadiest blower (yet) but these drones stay solid. The sound is beautiful and the vibration on the shoulder is great. They are everything you said they were."
Bruce Landay, Andover, Massachusetts
(early cocuswood Thows)

 

"If you recall, a few months back I purchased a vintage set of David Glen pipes from you. The warm and mellow tone is exactly what I was hoping for. They are easy to play and I'm able to concentrate on blowing tone. Once I have them locked in, they really do sing. Comments on my score sheets have gone from 'harsh tone' to 'excellent harmonics', 'excellent instrument for this grade', 'bright and consonant pipe'.  As a player, I now feel that the onus is on me to improve my playing up to the level of the instrument, something that wasn't happening with my old setup.  This is the kind of motivation I was looking for. So thanks for the transaction. It was easy and I'm thankful for the great communication that we had via email throughout the process.  It was a pleasure doing business with you."
Matthew Wilson
Averill, New York

 

"This is the 5th set of silver and ivory pipes I have had and by far this is the nicest set, Jim!!! They are stunning!!!"
P/M Bill McFarlane, Ft. Lauderdale Highlanders Pipe Band, Florida
(1935 silver and ivory Lawries)


"I just played the pre-1916 Thows.  Outstanding set.  Very warm.  I had a set of Rocket reeds that SFU plays and plugged them in.  It brought the tuning right at the hemp line.  I must say they are one of the best sets I have played."
Evan Mackay
Carlsbad, CA


"You have definitely become the world's number one source for anyone looking to sell or acquire vintage bagpipes."
Troy Guindon, St. Andrews West, Ontario
(1914 silver and ivory Lawries)

 

"I must say that doing business with you has been a real pleasure.  In dealing with something as unique as vintage bagpipes  there’s always some degree of uncertainty involved. However, I can say without  any reservations that the two sets I have purchased from you have been top notch. I couldn’t be more pleased. You have been most helpful and very knowledgeable.  I’m sure we will do business again in the future."
Tom Bauman, Fallbrook, CA

 


 

Products 1 - 3 of 3 Page: « 1 »

This is the best pipe case humidifier I have found. I use it in my own pipe cases, and I use one in each of the individual storage boxes in which I store my stock of vintage pipes. It measures about 4 inches long and requires additional refilling every week or so, depending on conditions. More information.....Humidifier, hygrometer and replacement gel, CAD $54.50.
This remarkable book is a tour-de-force on the part of long-time College of Piping employee and researcher Jeannie Campbell. If you love old instruments, the history of pipes, or piping history in general, this comprehensive history of bagpipe makers is a must-have. CAD $54.50
Moisture control is crucial for pipers, and especially for pipers playing old wood. This is a specially constructed tube watertrap made to fit in the bottom of the blowstick stock. More information.... Cdn $35
Products 1 - 3 of 3 Page: « 1 »