June 30, 2012

A new “Highland Pipe” – accessible only to society types?

If you have a copy of Dr. William Donaldson’s 1999 book, The Highland Pipe  and Scottish Society, take care of it; if you’re looking to purchase a rare new edition be prepared to cough up upwards of $5,000, as booksellers around the world are pricing mint condition volumes of the controversial work at prices usually associated with a vintage set of silver and ivory pipes.

Two new copies of the book are currently available on Amazon, one for $9,612 and the other for $10,620.  A seller in South Africa recently was asking more than £2,000. Used copies are dramatically less expensive, available from $150 to $250, depending on condition.

The Highland Pipe  and Scottish Society was printed in hardcover only once by Edinburgh-based publishers Birlinn. The book subsequently appeared in softcover.

After its publication the book was critically acclaimed by academics. A pipes|drums review by Jim McGillivray that described it as “wonderful.” The Highland Pipe was not so well considered by traditional-minded protectors of piobaireachd, who saw the study as a threat to the credibility of the music that they had so diligently learned.

The crux of the book discusses the impact that the Scottish aristocracy had on piobaireachd as a music. The Piobaireachd Society of most of the 1900s was controlled by wealthy “amateur” pipers, chief among them Archibald Campbell of Kilberry. Donaldson argued in The Highland Pipe that by controlling the once-thriving music of the Highlands, the Piobaireachd Society could thus control competing pipers.

Dr. Wiliam Donaldson is the author of several other books on Highland bagpipes and Scottish music, as well as more than 130 piobaireachds that he has analyzed in his groundbreaking Set Tunes Series on pipes|drums.

The phenomenon of non-competing “amateur” solo pipers comprising the well-to-do upper-crust still exists in the United Kingdom, led by the Royal Scottish Pipers Society in Edinburgh, which still prohibits females from joining.




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