Published: January 26, 2016

Seasoning dispute could get messy

with packaging design that is similar to colours, shape and typeface found in the existing iconic Airtight tartan container.

“I actually have the original handwritten recipe handed over by John Weatherston,” Ogilvie said. “Jock [John Weatherston] lived 100 yards from where I lived, and I used to go into the workshop during many lunch breaks at school to see him and Bobby [Robert Hardie]. It’s kind of neat that it’s gone full circle.”

The Robertson Bagpipes company was a pipe-making firm started in 1908 by James Robertson Sr. and his son, James “J.B.” Robertson, the famous Scots Guards pipe-major and solo piper who holds impressive records for light music success at the annual Scottish Pipers Society of London competitions. Many Robertson drones survive today and are known for their distinctive bulky projecting mounts and quality wood.

The older version of the R.G. Hardie Airtight tin. [Image used with permission of R.G. Hardie]
By most accounts, it was young James Robertson who in the 1920s invented the seasoning recipe, and subsequently brought out one of the piping history’s first packaged products. Until then pipers made their own seasoning from honey and treacle, which worked to a degree but inevitably attracted all manner of insects and maintenance problems.

“Robertson’s Airtight” became a product popular with customers and profitable for business. Despite attempts to create alternative seasoning products from glycerine and other materials, Airtight has had the seasoning market for all purposes cornered for the last 90 years.

With a high profit margin on the apparently cheap ingredients, and the growing brand allegiance and loyalty with pipers worldwide who, as the can said, would not trust their bag with anything else, the Airtight recipe was closely guarded.

The common wisdom is that the famous solo piper and Muirhead & Sons Pipe-Major Robert Hardie took over Peter Henderson Bagpipe Makers in the 1950s. In fact the Henderson company remained under the ownership of the Henderson family. But the Henderson business deteriorated after World War II. Greig Sharp became the company’s manager in the early 1960s.

Meanwhile, Hardie started up his own pipe-makiong business in the 1950s, and in 1965 brought on board as a partner John Weatherston, pipe-major of the 277 Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (Territorial Army) Pipe Band, which had won the 1962 World Championship. Weatherston was also pipe-major of the now defunct Grade 1 Red Hackle, a band that won major championships and once finished second in the World’s, narrowly missing for Weatherston the distinction of being the first (and he would still be today) pipe-major to lead two different Grade 1 bands to a World Championship victory.

The name of the company was adjusted to R.G. Hardie & Co. & Weatherston Ltd. Hardie & Weatherston made Henderson pipes, stamping PH in the cords-stays for many years.

In 1965, James Robertson was in his eighties and sold the secret recipe for Airtight to R.G. Hardie & Co. & Weatherston Ltd., which dropped the “Robertson’s” name, and continued to market the product in the same iconic tartan metal can.

In the 1980s, as both Hardie and Weatherston advanced in age, they looked to sell the business and allegedly found a buyer in the same Greig Sharp, who had left the Henderson company to start Kintail Bagpipes, which invested heavily in . . .

 

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