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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 1950 silver and ivory Robertsons- NOW POSTED
~circa 1940 full-ivory Robertons - NOW POSTED



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...

 

 

Robertson, silver and ivory, 1950
Robertson circa 1950 silver and ivory

James Robertson was one of the most remarkable and consistent pipe makers of all time. He made pipes in Edinburgh from 1908 until his death in 1948, though the company continued with pretty much the same consistency after his death and until it ceased operations in the mid-1960s. Though not hallmarked, this set had only one owner, and he said it was purchased in 1950.

When I test pipes, some sets require 10 minutes of playing before I can really assess them. This set locked into tune 30 seconds after I struck up and I was mightily impressed by the sound and steadiness. From the maker of remarkably consistent pipes, this set is exceptional.

They are in superb condition, and the finish is original. When I acquired them, the upper bass tuning pin was broken off at the projecting mount. This is the easiest fix on a set of pipes and the old pin was matched and replaced with a new one.

All other pieces are original, including the original Robertson chanter and engraved silver sole. There are a few very minor dings in the wood, and a couple of yellowish stains on the ivory. The original ivory mouthpiece bulb has a barely visible hairline crack. It doesn't leak, but it could open up over time. 

The wood, ivory and silver have been professionally polished on a lathe.

This is as fine a set of Robertson pipes as you will ever play.


Email me about this set.

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

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 or McGillivray 'JMcG' solo blackwood chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $7,250 plus shipping

Robertson circa 1950s
Robertson 1950
Robertson 1950
Robertson 1950
Robertson 1950 Robertson 1950
Robertson 1950
Robertson 1950

 

 

Robertson, full ivory, circa 1940
Circa 1940s Robertson

James Robertson was one of the most remarkable and consistent pipe makers of all time. He made pipes in Edinburgh from 1908 until his death in 1948, though the company continued with pretty much the same consistency after his death and until it ceased operations in the mid-1960s. This set was likely made around 1940, and exhibits the flared stock bores typical of Robertsons made during the founder's lifetime.

Though I would never sell a set of pipes that I haven't thoroughly tested, I have always thought I could send out a set of Robertsons that I had never played and still be confident that they would be good. They always exhibit the same full, rich and steady tone no matter when they were made. The excellent workmanship reflects the stellar tone.

This set came to me from a pupil, Pipe Major Ian McDonald of the Grade 1 Toronto Police. They were originally owned by his father John, also a former Toronto Police Pipe Major. When I taught Ian as an up-and-coming young player in the 1980s these are the pipes he played.

All pieces are original, and there are no repairs or major flaws. There are a few very minor dings in the wood, and some tiny chips in the ivory ring caps, obviously the result of close quarter countermarching at some point in the past.

The pipes required no refinishing, but both the wood and the ivory have been professionally polished on the lathe.

This is a superb set of pipes tonally and visually and they come with a solid pedigree.

This set is being used as the model for a Robertson reproduction bagpipe being produced by myself and Dunbar bagpipes, scheduled for release in May.


Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $4,050 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 or McGillivray 'JMcG' solo blackwood chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $4,750 plus shipping

Circa 1940s Robertson
Circa 1940s Robertson
Circa 1940s Robertson
Circa 1940s Robertson
Circa 1940s Robertson Circa 1940s Robertson
Circa 1940s Robertson
Circa 1940s Robertson

 

R. G. Lawrie, circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation ivory
Lawrie circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation ivory

This outstanding Lawrie set has been dated to around 1930. It is blackwood and came to me with a number of chipped and broken ivory mounts, so they have been completely remounted in imitation ivory. The engraved Sterling silver slides were added in the early 1990s. The chanter stock, blowpipe stock and blowpipe were missing. Blackwood replicas were made. The blowpipe and blowpipe stock are poly-lined blackwood to prevent cracking. The set has been refinished.

For someone looking for a classic, vintage Lawrie tone on an ivory-free bagpipe, you could hardly do better than these. They are rich, seamless, full and steady, with a big, cradling bass sound.

They are offered with a brand new Naill chanter with matching imitation ivory sole.


Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only with new Naill chanter
CAD $4,050 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $4,495  plus shipping

Lawrie circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation ivory
Lawrie circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation ivory
Lawrie circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation ivory
Lawrie circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation ivory
Lawrie circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation ivory Lawrie circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation ivory
Lawrie circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation ivory
Lawrie circa 1930, engraved silver slides, remounted in imitation 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 »