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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."

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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):

Pipes currently in stock...

David Glen circa 1900, cocuswood with nickel ferrules
Glens, circa 1900, cocuswood

Here is an ivory-free set of David Glen pipes in cocuswood with button mounts and nickel ferrules and rings. Estimated date of manufacture in 1900-1910. The chanter does have an ivory sole, so it may or may not be original to the pipes.

The pipes are in excellent shape. One hairline crack was invisible whipped in one tenor top. Someone has previously put a brass insert in the blowstick stock. This work has been done very well and there was no reason to remove it.

All pieces are original. The set has been refinished.

David Glen's workmanship is superb and well respected by modern pipemakers. His sets are renown for their steadiness, ease of reeding, and a tone which is very rich and harmonic but a little mellower than the larger bore Hendersons and Lawries.

The pipes are lightweight and suitable for any level of piping, from parade use to professional level competing.

Email me about this set.


As shown, sticks only
CAD $3,450 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, MCC2 poly chanter, Kinnaird Evolution or Canning drone reeds, bag cover, cords.
CAD $3,950  plus shipping

Glen drones, side view
Glen cocuswood drones, end view
Glen drones, showing stock bores
Drone slides, nickel ferrules
Bells, drone tops Caps

Wood, combing close-up



Dave Atherton MD model, MacDougall bores, nickel and imitation ivory, 2009
Atherton MD

SOLD -This set of Athertons was made in 2009 and owned by me until a couple of years ago. They were purchased and have recently come back from a player who has had to sell off his collection due to financial strife. They are blackwood and mounted in nickel and imitation ivory. The blowstick and stock are poly, as was Dave Atherton's usual practice. The chanter stock is blackwood, not Dave's usual practice.

The only visible flaw in this set is a slight nick in the wood just below the hemp on the bass bottom tuning pin. The mark is not visible when the pipes are together and being played.

Dave Atherton is regarded by many to be the best pipemaker of modern times. His attention to detail, quality materials and perfect workmanship are legendary. These pipes were a reproduction of a Duncan MacDougall cocuswood bagpipe previously owned by the late Roddy MacDonald of Wilmington, Delaware, and now owned by his son Calum.

The tone is bold and steady with Canning tenors and a Kinnaird bass and the pipes are as steady as any set you will find.

Email me about this set.

As shown, sticks only
CAD $2,750 plus shipping

Set up to play - Ross Bag, new JMcG poly chanter, Canning tenors, Kinnaird bass, bag cover, cords.
CAD $3,285  plus shipping


Atherton drones, bottom view
Atherton drones
Atherton tenor drones
Bells, drone tops
Drone caps
Tuning chambers
Wood, combing close-up



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

SOLD - 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
Wood and combing 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
Wood 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


Close-up of ebony, combing


"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 »