Info on early London contests / Thoughts on piper painting


We have received a couple of interesting responses to the two items that appeared in yesterday’s post.

Firstly, piping historian, Jeannie Campbell of Glasgow, Scotland has provided more information on those early piping competitions held in London.

Jeannie says: “The first reported Highland Gathering in London took place on the 21st and 22nd June, 1849. It was organised by the Scottish Society of London and took place in Lord Holland’s park in Kensington with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert present.

Aerial photograph of Stamford Bridge stadium in 1909.

“Contemporary newspapers reported that, ‘It was attended by many thousands of persons, who, although chiefly English, evinced a great interest in the progress of the games.’ These gatherings continued over subsequent years.

“The first reported Gathering at Stamford Bridge was advertised in many of the London papers in May 1883. One advertisement states: ‘The Scottish Gathering Annual Highland Games at Stamfordbridge Grounds, Chelsea, on Whit Monday at 1 p.m. Pipe Music, Dancing, Competitions, Ac. The Band of the Royal Highlanders (The Black Watch) will attend.’”

We are grateful to Jeannie for this. She tells us that she is currently delving through many more reports of these competitions and hopes to be able to write a more comprehensive account here in due course.

We are also grateful to Pete Stewart, editor of Common Stock, the journal of the Lowland & Border Pipers’ Society for sharing his thoughts on yesterday’s other item, the one regarding the oil painting on wood depicting a piper, pictured.

We speculated that the piper was probably not from the British Isles and that the painting itself possibly dates from the late 17th century/early 18th century.

Pete writes: “I would say the painting was earlier than you suggest; most of the ‘genre paintings’ of pipers playing for weddings or dancing are from around the mid-17th century, but clearly, judging by the costume, later than the famous Breughel ones [Pieter Bruegel the Elder was the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting].

Martin Agricola’s sackpeiff, and (inset) the man himself (1486-1556)

“The pipes in the painting are almost identical to the ‘sackpfeiff’ depicted in 1629 by Martin Agricola [the famous Polish-born German composer of Renaissance music].

“There are dozens of similar pipers painted in ‘the low countries’ in the 17th century (‘genre paintings’). These pipes are typical and match what Agricola depicted in 1629. The pipes, and others similar by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), the famous German composer and music theorist, are well enough known in musicolgical circles.

“I would that this is a sketch made for a larger work.”

Many thanks, Pete. Perhaps readers have other thoughts?