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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!

 
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 1960 Lawries, full silver retrofit (hallmarked 2007)
~circa 1890s cocuswood Glens, button mounts, nickel ferrules and rings
~circa 1920s Robertson, wood mounts, nickel ferrules, holly ring caps

~circa 1900 Gavin MacDougall, full ivory, brass inserts, original chanter, mint condition - SOLD


Pipes currently in stock...

Email me if you have an ivory-mounted set you would like to sell or trade, or if you would like to discuss having any of the sets below remounted in a non-ivory material.
 

Gavin MacDougall, circa 1900, ebony, full ivory, brass inserts, built-in watertrap, original chanter
Circa 1900 Gavin MacDougall, full ivory


SOLD - I've had numerous MacDougall sets on this site, but few as classic or in such great condition as this Gavin MacDougall set. The pipes are ebony, the mounts are ivory, and all tuning chambers are fitted with brass inserts.

While the pipes aren't stamped, the chanter is stamped "G.C. MacDougall, Aberfeldy," and appears to be a perfect match with the set. The cord guides are in Duncan MacDougall's wide style, suggesting that this set was made early in his son's career. Gavin took the business over when his father died in 1898, though he had been making pipes with Duncan for many years. Lots of pipes stamped with Duncan's name in the late 1890s were almost certainly made by Gavin.

The blowstick stock is uniquely Gavin: split, and fitted with a brass watertrap. This seems to be a special feature he offered, and I've seen only two others like this.

The pipes were stripped and refinished some months ago, and a hairline crack was lightly invisible whipped in one tenor top at that time. I've been enjoying playing this set for the past three months. It's a beauty, both visually and tonally -- seamless, with a lovely bass sound.


Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only with original chanter
CAD $7,500 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 or RJM blackwood chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $8,200  plus shipping

Gavin MacDougall drones
Gavin MacDougall drones, circa 1900
MacDougall, showing brass insert in bass mid-joint
MacDougall tenors
MacDougall bells and drone tops Ivory caps and chanter sole
Stocks, showing split-stock blowstick stock with built-in brass watertrap
Ebony close-up
 

 

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


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
 

 

 

Lawrie, circa 1920-1930, engraved silver, ivory
Lawries, circa 1900, silver and ivory


This set was purchased as a set of Lawries made around or before 1900, though input I have had suggests they are more likely at 1920-1930s set.

The pipes are ebony and appear ususually free of cracks or blemishes in the wood. The silver engraving is shallow, a Lawrie trait, though the ferrules lack the later conical Lawrie shape. The shallow bells suggest Lawrie, as do the larger ivory beads on the bottom drone projecting mounts.

The ferrule on the bass mid-joint has been replaced with a more recent engraved silver ferrule more in the tapered Lawrie tradition. The plain silver slides are a very recent addition, hallmarked 1999. The metal mouthpiece is also modern, likely engraved nickel. Despite the later additions the visual effect of the pipes is lovely and strong, and none of these pieces detracts from the overall appearance.

The tone is robust though not booming:  seamless, very rich and very steady, and very much characteristic of ebony. The lovely, natural, buffed finish suggests the pipes were refurbished fairly recently -- perhaps when the slides were added.


Email me about this set, or about having this set remounted with non-ivory material.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $6,550 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 McCallum or RJM Roddy MacLeod blackwood chanter, Kinnaird Evolution drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $7,150  plus shipping

Lawrie drones, end view
Lawrie drones, side view
Lawrie drones, bottom view
Lawrie bells
Lawrie tenors Silver caps, ivory bushes
Stocks
Close-up, wood, combing
 

 

Lawrie, circa 1910 ebony, full ivory
1920s Lawries


This is quite a pristine set of Lawries in ebony, mounted in full ivory, and thought to date from the years around 1910. They have been refinished, though it's possible they have had an earlier refurbishment.

The wood is flawless, and the ivory is in superb shape, except for a split in the ferrule on the blowstick stock, which has been repaired. The tuning chambers are perfectly even.

The pipes are rich and steady, thought perhaps not quite as robust as some some Lawries. This can be typical of some ebony pipes which are often not as loud a blackwood sets of the same vintage. It's a stunning visual set with a smooth and seamless tone much in keeping with its appearance.


Email me about this set about having this set remounted with non-ivory material.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $3,950 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 McCallum or RJM Roddy MacLeod blackwood chanter, Kinnaird Evolution drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $4,550  plus shipping

Ebony Lawrie drones
Ebony Lawrie drones
Full ivory Lawries
Lawrie tenor drones
Bells, drone tops Ivory drone caps
Stocks
Wood and combing close-up
 

 

Lawrie, full ivory, circa 1940s
Lawries, full ivory, circa 1940s



This elegant set of Lawries is blackwood, and mounted in full ivory. The large bead on the bottom projecting mounts on the drones suggests a manufacturing date in the 1940s or 1950s, with the ivory patina suggesting early in that era.

The set was free of cracks and has been stripped and refinished. There is some age-staining on the ivory mounts.


The original chanter remains with the pipes, though in truth, old Lawrie chanters were rarely prized for their tonal excellence. However, it is nice to have the complete bagpipe.

The pipes are full-bodied in tone and steady. Like Lawries in general, they are easy to reed. This is a lovely instrument visually, with great lines and character and a good Lawrie tone.


Email me about this set or about having this set remounted with non-ivory material.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $3,050 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 McCallum poly chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $3,650  plus shipping

 

Lawries, full ivory, circa 1940s Lawries, full ivory, circa 1940s Lawries, full ivory, circa 1940s Lawries,tenor drones
Bells Ivory caps Stocks Wood close-up

 

Pre-WW1 Lawries in ebony, full ivory
Pre-WW1 Lawries in ebony


This is one of the earliest R. G. Lawrie sets we've had on the site. It has been dated as made likely before 1915. It is ebony, with full ivory mounts.

The ivory is surprisingly white and was perhaps cleaned at some point. It does show aging in the form of hairline spider cracking here and there, none of which is threatening.

Typical of ebony of this age, there was some cracking.
The previous owner told me the pipes had been played for many years with these cracks, but I'm not one to take chances with cracks in 100-year-old ebony pipes. The set was stripped, all cracks found, and invisible whipping was done of the bass top, one tenor top and one tenor bottom. None of these cracks went to the bore.  As the bottom right photo shows, the whipping repairs in this case are visible, but structurally and tonally the repairs are sound and will never open again. The set was refinished.

The tone of this set is more refined than later Lawries: rich, steady and bold, but not quite as loud as some of the more robust Lawries. The blend of the drones with each other and with the MCC2 chanter was superb.

This is a pretty rare set. The visual compromises are not noticeable from three feet back, and you won't often find a complete Lawrie bagpipe of this age.


Email me about this set or about having this set remounted with non-ivory material.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $3,950 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 McCallum poly chanter, Canning tenors, Kinnaird bass, bag cover, cords.
CAD $4,495  plus shipping

 

Ebony Lawries, full ivory, pre-WW1
Lawrie drones, pre-WW1
Lawrie drones, bottom view
Lawrie tenors, ivory ferrules and projecting mounts
Bells Ivory caps
Stocks
Wood repair close-up

"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

 

Wm. Sinclair & Son, full ivory, circa 1960
Full ivory Sinclairs, circa 1960


This full ivory set by the Edinburgh firm of William Sinclair and Son was purchased new by the previous owner around 1960.

William Sinclair started business in 1931 and still operates today. They have gained a well-earned reputation as the best and most consistent modern pipemaker. The Sinclair sound is full -- not quite as full as Henderson -- but very rich and bright. I played a Sinclair set throughout the 1980s and won most of my major prizes in Scotland with them.

This set was stripped and refinished, including the chanter. There were no cracks or replacement pieces. The ivory ferrule on the chanter stock has a crack that has been filled. Though quite visible, it is stable and will not cause problems. If you look at the photo of the very typical Sinclair ivory drone caps, you'll see that someone has lightly etched a serial number into each. While visible up close, these do not detract from the overall appearance of ivory.

The set comes with its original Sinclair chanter. Unlike Hardie chanters of the same vintage, which age badly, the majority of good Sinclair chanters made from the 1950s to today still play very well with modern reeds, though at a flatter pitch than today's chanters. 

The lines, mount shapes, ivory and tone are all exemplary on this set:  lots of character here from one of the greatest modern pipemakers in their prime!

Email me about this set or about having this set remounted with non-ivory material.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $3,950 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, Canning tenors, Kinnaird bass, bag cover, cords.
CAD $4,485  plus shipping


 

Sinclair drones, full ivory
Sinclair drones, side view
Sinclair drones from bottom
Tenor ferrule, slide, projecting mount
Bells, drone tops
Ivory caps
Stocks
Wood and combing close-up

"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)


 

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 »