The Eleventh Day of Christmas: Pipers Piping

Today we have a jolly piece from our extensive art collection. As we are based in Scotland our pipers piping are, of course, tartan clad bagpipers leading a hunting procession.  The magnificent, if slightly annoying, bagpipes take centre stage in this 1836 colour engraving, originally painted by T. Allom and engraved by R. Sands, of Castle Gordon.


Castle Gordon was originally built, in the heart of Speyside, in the 1470s, and then massively extended by the 4th Duke of Gordon in the 1770s. Our engraving was actually published in the year that the 5th Duke of Gordon died without leaving a legitimate heir, instead the estates and title ended up going to his nephew the Duke of Richmond.

You can find out more about Castle Gordon and its history here.

Back to the song and our pipers piping the unforgettable, and iconic Scottish bagpipes. But are the bagpipes Scottish? Well they seem to appear in Scotland for the first time around 1400, however there are some suggestions, still uncertain, that there is evidence for bagpipes in the Roman and pre-Roman era, with a sculpture supposedly of bagpipes being found in the Middle East dating to 1000BC, and the Second Roman Emperor, Nero, being described as playing the tibia utricularis, or pipe.

These are contested references to bagpipes, but it does seem to appear that the earliest bagpipes are not linked at all to Scotland. How about when the bagpipes start cropping up in history more regularly and with more certainty? Nope still not a hint of Scotland! The bagpipes appear, in many different forms, in the 13th century Cantigas de Santa Maria, a text compiled in Castile, Spain!

Bagpipes don’t actually get a clear mention in connection to Scotland until 1396! This mention comes in the form of the records of the Battle of the North Inch of Perth which states that “warpipes” were carried into battle. So when you are listening to the bagpipes on Hogmanay remember that this instrument has a long and interesting history beyond the borders of Scotland!


About uoamuseums

The University of Aberdeen's Museums include King’s Museum and the University's Zoology Museum. The museums can claim to be Scotland's oldest, with records of museums and collections as far back as the late 17th century. Thanks to their status as a Recognised Collection of national significance, the Zoology Museum’s displays are currently being improved, while King's Museum hosts changing exhibitions drawn from across the collections, particularly those formerly in Marischal Museum. Visitors are warmly welcomed to the museums, and there are no charges for admission. Marischal College now houses the Museums Collections Centre, caring for and conserving many of the collections.
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One Response to The Eleventh Day of Christmas: Pipers Piping

  1. Pingback: Happy New Year! | University of Aberdeen Museums

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