Our Uilleann Pipers

The first reference to the bagpipes in Ireland is found in a topographical poem, Aonach Carman, the fair of Carman, a composition of the eleventh century found in the Book of Leinster:

Pipes, fiddles, men without weapons,
bone players and pipe blowers,
a host of embroidered, ornamented dress,
screamers and bellowers…

There is no record of the pipes or any other musical instrument being played on the field of battle in pre-Norman Ireland. In later times foreign commentators see the pipes as being the martial instrument of the Irish.

“To its sound this unconquered, fierce and warlike people march their armies and encourage each other to deeds of valour”.

The pipes had a more peaceful use. Writing in 1698, John Dunton, an English traveller, describes a wedding in Kildare:

“After the matrimonial ceremony was over we had a bagpiper and blind harper that dinned us with their music, to which there was perpetual dancing.”

Piping was at its zenith in pre-Famine Ireland. Thereafter the old dances began to give way to the various sets and half-sets based on the quadrilles and the pipes were superseded by the melodeon and concertina. Towards the end of the 19th century it seemed as if the Irish pipes were fated to follow the Irish harp into oblivion.

Fortunately, when the national revival, initiated by the Gaelic League, got under way in 1893, all aspects of the native culture began once more to be cultivated. Pipers’ clubs were founded in Cork (1898) and in Dublin (1900).

Thanks to Breandán Breathnach, ‘Pipes and Piping’ – published 1980 in conjunction with the National Museum of Ireland as a guide to an exhibition of the Museum’s collection of pipes.

Read more: http://www.pipers.ie/home/Resources_History%20Pipes.htm


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