HC is of the opinion that because he hasn't found any physical evidence that highland pipes (in their current guise) existed before the 19th century then they must not have existed. Hopefully, the book will give some insight into how detailed his search has been over the last 30 years, in order that we can make an informed decision on whether it's been in-depth enough for us to believe his claim.
Just because you don't find what you're looking for, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. As HC himself says - maybe he's just missed what he's looking for.
Maybe I'm just one of those Scots that he talks about though because, in my psyche, there's just something that refuses to believe he's right, even though I've nothing to back it up.
I have to admit, I'd like nothing more than for this book to prompt someone to come out of the woodwork saying "what do you mean they didn't exist before 19th century....look at this frail set I have from 1650" or similar.
Let's be clear about what Hugh is saying - he is not trying to claim that a nine note bagpipe, with three drones and a mixolydian scale, did not exist before the early 19th century. What he is saying is that there isn't a single example of a bagpipe built to today's sizes and dimensions before Donald MacDonald.
Applying Occam's razor, knowing that there were plenty of pipemakers before MacDonald, the chances are that they were making something that we wouldn't recognise as the modern GHB. That does fit with surviving bits and pieces of very old pipes, which tend to be small and often roughly constructed.
Personally I suspect that there was a continuum of sizes but the smaller sizes were easier to maintain, carry, look after, and use indoors than the more difficult to produce (and easier to break) larger sizes. For example, I find it hard to believe Joseph MacDonald's self portrait would have been that badly misjudged!
I will "assume" some effort was made at proofreading and editing Mr. Cheape's comments for the sake of clarity?
If the answer is "yes", I have to scratch my head when the response to a well thought out question begins with: "No. Well, no not necessarily at all. No, well there are obviously..." (see for yourself on page 4 of this article).
I have no idea what Cheape's point of view was, is or will be. As an amateur historian myself, I am concerned that Cheape has pretty much opinied something along the lines of "If I can't find it, it must not have existed" very disturbing.
Pipers: The golden rule when working with a reed is, "You can always take material off the cane, but you cannot put it back." So, remember, when removing the slightest amount of material, blow the reed again.