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"The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots as a joke, but the Scots haven't seen the joke yet."
~ Oliver Herford
Highland Bagpipes
Highland Bagpipes

Scotland is internationally known for its traditional music, which has remained vibrant in the modern world at a time when many traditional musical forms lost popularity worldwide to pop music. Outsiders associate Scottish folk music almost entirely with the Great Highland Bagpipe, an instrument that has become an internationally-recognizable icon of Scottish culture. Although this particular form of bagpipe originated and developed in the Hebrides, it is not the only form of bagpipe in Scotland. The history of the Scottish bagpipe is difficult to trace, but its traditions almost certainly grew out of an English piping tradition inherited from the Roman period. Textual evidence indicates that pipers had established themselves, especially in a military context, by the end of fourteenth century: the Clan Menzies, for example, claims to own a remnant of a set of bagpipes said to have been carried at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Evidence of a form of pipe peculiar to the Highlands appears in a poem printed in a 1598 edition of The Complaynt of Scotland, a sixteenth century miscellany:

"On hieland pipes, Scotte and Hybernicke
Let heir be shraichs of deadlie clarions."


The pìob mór, or Great Highland Bagpipe, was originally associated with both hereditary piping families and professional pipers to various clan chiefs; later, pipes were adopted for use in other venues, including military marching. (It was the British military that spread the Great Highland Bagpipe throughout the Empire.) Piping clans included the MacArthurs, MacDonalds, McKays and, especially, the MacCrimmons, who were hereditary pipers to the Clan MacLeod.

The Piobaireachd, also known as ceol mor, or "great music," is Scotland's only native genre of classical music, and is performed on the Great Highland Bagpipe. Gaelic for "piping," this type of composition is the nation's finest contribution to the culture of European music. Many ethnomusicologists believe that the form originated in the Hebrides out of Irish harp music, although piobaireachd is the only style in which the harmonics and tone of the bagpipe can be completely realized. The composition of this music is highly sophisticated, which suggests that the musical styling developed over a long period of time, reaching its apex in the golden age of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Symphonic poetry written in song meter, piobaireachd was passed through the centuries in the oral tradition.

The Great Highland Bagpipe features prominently in many civilian and military bands across the world. Windsor has produced many outstanding pipe bands, including the Windsor Police Pipe Band and the Scottish Society of Windsor Pipe Band.

Windsor Police Pipe Band

The Windsor Police Pipe Band competes during the 160th Annual St Andrew's Society of Detroit Highland Games in 2009

  1. Collinson, Francis M. The bagpipe: the history of a musical instrument, Routledge: London, 1975. 141
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