What’s old is new: McGillivray launches “Victorian” line of pipes made to original specs

Published: July 8, 2013
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Capitalizing on the appeal of vintage pipes and modern technology, McGillivray Piping has launched a “Victorian” line of three instruments, each manufactured by a separate pipe-maker from specifications taken directly from 19th century bagpipes.

Renowned piper Jim McGillivray, proprietor of McGillivray Piping Inc., has been working with Dunbar Bagpipe Makers of St. Catharines, Ontario; Thomas Pipe Works, also of St. Catharines; and David Naill & Co. of England, for the last two years to create reproductions of drones by Duncan MacDougall, John MacDougall, and J&R Glen.  

He was inspired to develop the pipes after numerous requests from pipers interested in securing one of the vintage instruments he specializes in refurbishing, but unable to due to the prices. The solution was to try to develop modern sets but with exact specs from select older models not made for more than 100 years.

“The sets we are reproducing are priced within the budgets of most pipers, while the original vintage instruments could be three or four times that value,” McGillivray said in a statement.

Thomas Doucet is reproducing a set of cocuswood and ivory pipes made by J&R Glen in Edinburgh around 1880, that he is calling “The Edinburgh.” Made in blackwood with holly wood mounts, at $2,050 the pipes are the least expensive in the range.

Dunbar is making a reproduction of a set of silver and ivory Duncan MacDougall pipes, also from around 1880, and stamped “Dn MacDougall, Breadalbane,” and has named the instrument The Breadalbane with a price ranging from $2,450 to $3,195, depending on ornamentation.  

“The Perth” model at $2,450 without bag and chanter is being made by Naill, and is a reproduction of a set of MacDougall pipes from the 1850s, likely made by John MacDougall. The major change from the instrument is a modernized bass drone section that had shrunk over 150 years.

“Anyone who has been on my vintage website can tell I love the history, the aesthetics and the tonal beauty of old pipes,” McGillivray said. “For me this is as much fun as it is business. It’s creating something musical that isn’t actually notes on a page. The philosophy of my business has always been to do what I love to do, so this line of reproductions simply brings another dimension to my love of vintage pipes.”

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  1. Bagpipermann

    Fantastic news! It’s always good to have more choices available for sound tone and colour. I wonder if new models/dimensions of drone reeds will be needed to optimize the volume and tone quality…..

  2. kiegelmann

    I think the imperfections in old pipes is what makes them so special. This is a great venture and will do well. I bought an old set of Hendersons off of Jim a little over a year ago and if this option was available then I would have seriously considered it. Good Luck!

  3. Lawrie

    Good luck with the venture. They certainly look wonderful. I’m sure there will be a market, especially in North America. Not wishing to sound dismissive of this, but the reality is that old bagpipes (the reputable ones) standout because of the quality of the wood used. Wood is cut much younger these days and is not as dense. One only has to look at old photos of Glen cutting through huge logs to appreciate this, versus the neat little, less mature, ‘billets’ of today. Modern pipe makers already use similar, if not identical, dimensions to those of the great pipe makers of years gone by. Plus their workmanship is often far more accurate due to tooling and technology. The point of difference appears to be the quality (density) of the wood used, in my opinion. So I can’t help but wonder if this will be more about aesthetics (mentioned as a sales pitch in the article) and owning a set of “MacDougal” pipes factor.

  4. gordonmacrae

    Lawrie: Curious what your thoughts are about the old Glens, etc., that were manufactured with brass lining? Would wood density even be a factor in the quality of sound achieved by those instruments? I suppose certain pieces (bell) would still have a non metal surface! Thoughts ?

  5. LEITHER

    Listening to Jim was very interesting , I find that there is very little discussion on the old & new bagpipes . I would welcome any future panels or videos relating to this subject . Thanks / cheers john f

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