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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 refurbisher is J. Dunbar Bagpipe Maker.  Not only do they do masterful restorations, they have eagle eyes 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 1900 cocuswood David Glen and Sons, button mounts, nickel ferrules, ivory caps
~1970s Lawries, imitation ivory mounts
~1956 full ivory Robert Gillanders - SOLD



"Hi Jim: I have been playing the remounted Lawrie set you sold me for almost a month now. It really is an outstanding instrument and I am very happy with it. It has a powerfull, yet round and very pleasent drone sound and great stability. I feel privileged to play a set like that and I will put them to good use, for many years on."
Jens Olsen
Nykoebing, Denmark


New Reproduction models coming soon --
-Donald MacPhee, circa 1870 (see photo of original at the top of this page; Donald MacPhee was the leading player of his day in the 1870s; his pipemaking shop was taken over by Peter Henderson after MacPhee's untimely passing in 1880 at age 38; the original MacPhees shown above behave for all intents and purposes like a pre-1900 Henderson bagpipe)
 

-Robertsons, circa 1940


Pipes currently in stock...
 

MacDougall, suspected Gavin, circa 1905, full ivory, plated brass slides
MacDougalls circa 1905

SOLD - This set is certainly MacDougall, but estimates of its exact age have ranged from early Duncan, circa 1860s, to late Gavin, circa 1910. Several experiened pipers think that it is a Gavin MacDougall set from around 1905, and I tend to concur. Nonetheless, what appear to be two-piece projecting mounts, and the stubby tuning pins do suggest an earlier date.

Whatever their exact origins, the pipes are superb tonally, beautifully made, and display great character.

The mounts are elephant ivory and the metal slides appear to be silver-plated brass. The blowstick stock is two-piece brass lined, though the original watertrap it was made to house is no longer present. The bone mouthpiece may or may not be original to the pipes.


There is no visible stamp anywhere, and all pieces appear to be original.

The pipes were not stripped or refinished as the current finish is in excellent shape. There are no visible repairs. The pipes appear to have lived most recently in Perthshire, Scotland.

The tone is vibrant, rich and full, with a solid bass. The set reeded quickly and was steady from the get-go.

Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $7,250 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, 'JMcG' or MCC2 solo blacwood chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $7,995  plus shipping

MacDougalls circa 1905 MacDougalls circa 1905 MacDougalls circa 1905 MacDougalls circa 1905
MacDougalls circa 1905 MacDougalls circa 1905 MacDougalls circa 1905 MacDougalls circa 1905

 

Henderson, circa 1930, cocuswood/Brazillian kingwood, nickel, ivory
Henderson cocuswood, circa 1930

This is a slightly unusual Henderson set. It appears to be a mixture of cocuswood and Brazillian kingwood. This was not an uncommon Henderson configuration in the 1920s and 1930s. The ferrules are nickel, and the mounts and caps are ivory.

This is a tonally
superb set, with a sweetness to the Henderson sound that is different from the more robust blackwood.

There are a couple of very slight dings in the projecting mounts, one on the blowstick, and a smaller one on the bass bottom.

The set has no original chanter (the chanter in the photographs was included by mistake). All stocks are replicas with matching ferrules, as there were no stocks with this set. The blowstick stock is a poly split stock, the rest are blackwood.

The pipes were refinished some years ago and the finish is still in excellent shape. The unusual wood configuration and replacement stocks result in a superb price for the classic Henderson sound.
 

Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $4,950 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, 'JMcG' or MCC2 solo blacwood chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $5,595  plus shipping

 

Henderson cocuswood drones Slides, ferrules, projecting mounts Ivory projecting mounts Stocks
Cocuswood bells Ivory caps Wood, combing  

 

Henderson, hallmarked 1950-51, silver and ivory
Henderson 1950-51 silver and natural


Here is a lovely set of silver and ivory Hendersons with a gorgeous silver pattern hallmarked PH 1950-51.

All pieces are original except for the blowpipe, which was missing. The new blowpipe is poly-lined to prevent cracking and the mount is an old ivory Henderson mount taken from some old drone pieces, nearly a perfect match for the set.

The set required no major repairs. Two small hairlines under the ferrule of the bass drone stock have been sealed and are quite invisible. The original finish has been left as is. The set was professionally cleaned and polished on a lathe.

The tone is full, rich and steady. In typical Henderson fashion, the drones are very easy to reed. This great old set would suit any piper at any level, from street-band player to top competitor.

Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $6,250 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, 'JMcG' or MCC2 solo blacwood chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $6,995  plus shipping

Henderson 1950-51 silver and natural Henderson 1950-51 silver and natural Henderson 1950-51 silver and natural Henderson 1950-51 silver and natural
Henderson 1950-51 silver and natural Henderson 1950-51 silver and natural Henderson 1950-51 silver and natural Henderson 1950-51 silver and natural

 

 

Lawries, circa 1950, silver plate and ivory
Circa 1950 Lawries, silver and ivory


This set of Lawries is in prime condition and was likely made around 1950. Lawries like this are usually called "silver and ivory," but in fact the metal is silver plated, explaining why lovely, classic Lawries like these are never hallmarked. Pipers can be forgiven for calling them "silver;" this is how they are usually referred to and they do in fact shine up and behave just like Sterling silver mounts.

These pipes came to me in excellent shape. They have been stripped and refinished. A tiny hairline crack was found just around the ferrule on one tenor drone stock and this has been sealed. The blowpipe was bored out to provide a restriction-free modern bore. The original ivory bulb was not present — these crack with moisture and rarely survive — but the engraved metal sleeve was, so the sleeve was fitted to an imitation ivory bulb.

This Lawrie set displays a classic, seamless, steady Lawrie sound that ranks with the best of this make. The set comes with the original chanter and sole. In truth, Lawrie chanters were never among the best made, but it is good to know that the set was cared for well enough that the original chanter is still present along with the sole.

Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $6,250 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, 'JMcG' or MCC2 solo blacwood chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $6,995  plus shipping

Circa 1950 Lawries, silver and ivory Circa 1950 Lawries, silver and ivory Circa 1950 Lawries, silver and ivory Circa 1950 Lawries, silver and ivory
Circa 1950 Lawries, silver and ivory Circa 1950 Lawries, silver and ivory Circa 1950 Lawries, silver and ivory Circa 1950 Lawries, silver and ivory

 

 

 
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 »