Reid Northumbrian Pipes
Robert Reid (1784–1837) is widely acknowledged as the creator of the modern form of the Northumbrian Smallpipes. He lived and worked at first in Newcastle upon Tyne, but moved later to the nearby town of North Shields at the mouth of the Tyne, probably in 1802. The Reids were a family with a long-standing connection to piping; Robert’s father Robert Reed, a cabinet maker, had been a player of the Northumbrian big-pipes, and an associate of James Allan, his son Robert was described later by James Fenwick as a beautiful player as well as maker of smallpipes, while Robert’s son James (1814–1874) joined his father in the business. Robert died in North Shields on the 13th or 14th of January 1837, and his death notice in the Newcastle Journal referred to him as a “piper, and as a maker of such instruments is known from the peer to the peasant, for the quality of their tone, and elegance of finish”. He is buried in the graveyard of Christ Church, North Shields.
Its estimated that perhaps seventy sets of his pipes exist, and occasionally I’m asked to fettle a set. The set I’m working on at the moment is a lovely three drone set, and the chanter has seven keys. One of the first jobs is to clean it up. Over the years dirt accumulates in the bore and around the keys. Eventually, this builds up and effects the sound and mechanics of the set.
Thankfully, it’s quite easy to remove it with tissue paper and cotton buds. The amount shown in the photograph is just from a few of the keys.
In the Base of the Chanter was a short dowel plug. A plug is often inserted in the chanter to help eradicate random harmonics which can affect the tuning. Now, most of these are plugs made from cotton wool so it was interesting to see one made from wood.
I still have a lot of work to do on these pipes so will update with progress as the work continues.
For more information on Northumbrian Pipes contact Kim@northumbrianpipes.co.uk