A bagpipe’s journey…

I’ve recently been making some progress on a long term project.

My R.G. Hardie pipes came to me via my Father, he gave them to me soon after I began taking pipe lessons. I’d barely learned my first tune on practice chanter and had my own pipes. As soon as they were home with me, I started wrestling with them and trying to strike in and squeeze out something that didn’t sound wretched. I had no idea how to tune them and even when I began to learn, I was playing the old wooden Hardie chanter which came with them and the numbers on tuners confused me compared to the modern poly chanters being played in the rest of the circle.

Sadly, I have no information on the history of my pipes prior to getting them but I played them in numerous competitions, parades, charity events, weddings, funerals, a Bull’s game, at Arlington Racecourse, and Winter Storm between 2013 and 2018. I compared them to others’ similar pipes, looked at a lot of pictures online, read Ringo’s book and website and verified the Hardie stamp in the bass drone cord channel. I believe they were made somewhere in the 1980’s but have no idea who originally owned them or where they were purchased from.

Being tuned by Richard Parkes

Initially, I played them with the green synthetic bag and Wygent drone reeds they came with. I added a Moose Valve, changed the blowstick, played Croziers for a while then switched to some of Bruce’s yellow reeds. Soon I realized almost everyone I knew was playing a Gannaway so I started doing some research. I switched to a Canmore hybrid then eventually to a used Gannaway and back again to the hybrid. Next, I began to hear about what the top players were doing. Pros and cons needed to be considered but I was growing curious about tie in vs. grommets and, of course, sheepskin.

Time was starting to show its effect on my instrument; the shiny lacquer finish was chipped in some areas and worn in others yet I never coveted a fancy new set. Well, maybe some nice Athertons. A conversation with Brian Donaldson led me to send them his way to be stripped of that old finish and buffed to look almost new. The ferrules now shine like new and even the yellowed drone caps were whitened.

While they were away, I played a similar set of Hardies with an old L&M hide bag and after trying different drone reeds, I settled on some Crozier tenors with a Canning bass. They sounded really full… I kept playing them.

Back to my project. I remained interested in trying different bags and recently came upon a nice barely used Lee and Son’s Sheepskin Premium and after a conversation with Jack, I decided to give that a try. The drones and blowpipe have collars and clamps and I could clamp the chanter stock too but instead, I’ll soon be having a friend tie it in. I’ll get some fresh T-Zip on the zipper and make sure everything is properly air tested.

They have almost new drone cords on them but when I begin playing them again I’m going to slightly increase the distance between the drones. The set was completely rehemped when refinished so I’m sure I’ll be messing with them a little until I’m happy with how everything is fitting. I’ve also grown tired of replacing the rubber tubing tips on my mouthpiece at inopportune times so at one point I picked up a Reedwrangler but needed to trim it and cut down a spare blowstick end to get the length where I need it. I’m looking forward to trying this out as well!

Next up will be some new drone reeds… I’m addicted to what I hear coming from the set I’m currently playing and I’m hoping to replicate that but don’t have a clue what will be vibrating in them a few months from now. Assuming I’m happy with the new hybrid bag setup, I can stop picking the goop out of my reeds and stocks coming from the old seasoning clumps that have been rattling around in my current bag; I have no idea how old that bag is!

What’s your pipe’s story?

Author: Dan

Dan has been with the Highlanders since 2013 and was a student under fellow Highlander Joe Schreiber. Dan's inspiration to take up piping was his father who was a member of the Billy Mitchell Scottish Pipe Band in Milwaukee when Dan was a kid. Dan took a few lessons back then but it didn't stick. Professionally, Dan works in IT and also enjoys helping Senior Citizens be a little less anxious with technology. In his spare time, Dan enjoys real beer without all the trendy flavors and too much hops, and is a bit of an Audiophile. Dan has also been known to use his Photoshop skills to put friends into some places they'd never expect!

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