April 30, 2007

Historic Wilson MacDougall pipes for sale

The historic MacDougall bagpipe played by the great John Wilson during his glory years in the 1920s and 1930s is up for sale. The sale is being managed by Jim McGillivray of Aurora, Ontario. He will turn all of the proceeds over to John Wilson’s widow Margaret, who has kept the pipes in the family for 28 years since Wilson’s death in 1979.

 John Wilson's pipes and their distinctive leather case see the light of day for the first time since early 1979.

The instrument is priced at $12,000 (CAD) in un-restored condition; $13,500 restored (without bag and reeds); and $15,000 set up by McGillivray in ready-to-play condition.

This previously unpublished photo shows John Wilson tuning up the pipes for competition at a games in Scotland (possibly Braemar) in 1931. [Photo courtesy Margaret Wilson].
The exact date of manufacture is not yet known, but the pipes were first owned by John Wilson’s uncle, John “The Baldooser” Wilson, who was certainly playing them in the 1890s and then gave them to his nephew as he began to win significant prizes.

John Wilson was one of piping’s great characters, and one of its best players ever. He won the Gold Medal at Oban in 1927 at the age of 21 and over the next 13 years until the war started won all of piping’s big prizes. In 1936 he won 70 prizes in 72 events on the Scottish games circuit, half of them firsts. He spent five years in a prisoner of war camp and then immigrated to Canada in 1949, where he became a very active teacher and a driving force in piping. He is credited with being one of the major reasons for the high standard of piping in southern Ontario. He was a prolific composer and published three books of music.

Wilson's pipes are shown here in the hands of John 'The Baldooser' Wilson, the uncle of the latter John Wilson, some time in the early 1900s. [Photo courtesy Margaret Wilson].
“Besides being the product of one of the greatest pipe-making firms ever, this bagpipe is also an incredible piece of history,” McGillivray says. “John was one of the great players in a golden age of piping, and as I opened the case I had shivers. My hope is not only to get the best return on the pipes for Mrs. Wilson, but to see them go to a piper who will appreciate them for the historic and outstanding pipes they are.”

McGillivray reports that the pipes are in need of some restoration, including the repair of two small cracks.

“Modern repair techniques by leading pipemakers will render such defects invisible and of no consequence,” McGillivray said, and added that at least one offer has been made for the pipes in as-is condition. Interested potential buyers should contact McGillivray by e-mail.

Further information on and photos of the bagpipe are available at McGillivray Piping.


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  1. $15000 is a steal if you think about it. I mean you throw away twice that much for a car that breaks down after four years and costs a fortune to maintain. $15k for an instrument like this that lasts a life time and is an heirloom is nothing. Not to mention that a decent violin BOW starts around $25,000.

  2. As much as I would love to own this pipe, my sincere hope is that it can get into the hands of a deserving, preferably up-and-coming player. What a great history, what an amazing career had PM Wilson, and what a wonderful legacy he left us.



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