This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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The Piper and the Auld Brig o'Earn

05 April 2013

What makes Scotland such an inspiration to artists, poets, and of course, photographers? Is it the rugged wild landscape? The colorful eccentric people? The brilliant  balmy weather? I think it is the evocative sound that accompanies any view of Scotland — the mellifluous voice of the bagpipes played by a Highland Piper.

This photograph has a caption, A Highland Piper, 524, with the initials AI, and may resemble a postcard, but is actually a large format  photo (8"x 5.25") mounted on an old album page of  heavy card.

I believe he is a pipe major of the Gordon Highlanders, as his sporran has the same black tassels on white as the pipers of that Scottish regiment. 

I have been unable to identify the photographer, but the number with the initials AI would likely be the mark of a large studio that produced picturesque photos for the tourists.

The same piper shows up in a sepia photo postcard published by Raphael Tuck's Postcards in 1906, but without the AI. It must have been popular and was printed again in the 1920s in a colorized painting for Tuck's Scottish Life Oilette Series, which had a set of six scenes of Scotland. 


As a bonus, pasted on the back of the album page with the piper's photo were two artistic landscapes of Scotland. The largest photo (8"x 5.25") shows two ruined arches of a medieval bridge and is captioned The Auld Brig o'Earn, 184.  J.V. This photographer was easier to find, as his collection is in the digital archives of the University of St. Andrew. The Auld Brig o'Earn was taken by James Valentine (1815-1879) sometime around 1878 and shows the Old Bridge across the River Earn. The bridge was built in 1330, and had become a ruin by 1592. A Scottish village still carries the name  Bridge of Earn  but has lost the tourist traffic as the old bridge was demolished in 1976.

Unfortunately the second landscape photo was cut, but the caption was saved. Birnam Falls, 426. J.V.  This is another photo from James Valentine, who was one of those prolific photographers responsible for thousands of beautiful photographs of Scotland. Many of these artful images were turned into postcards by his publishing company, but in the decades before postcards, I believe they produced these as souvenir photos for visitors who wanted to remember wild Britain.

All three photographs are very nicely made and carefully cut and mounted to the board, so I think they were all printed at the same time. As the piper major's photo is at least earlier that 1906, and these date from 1878, I think he was likely photographed in the 1880s -1890s.

So where is this lovely pool of water? Only about 18 miles to the north of the Auld Brig o'Earn. Another early Scottish photographer, George Washington Wilson, set his camera up on the same rock as Valentine and captured a nearly identical mist of the Birnam waterfall.

Handbook for Travellers in Scotland, 1906

Birnam Falls, by George Washington Wilson
Source: National Galleries Scotland


by J. K. Annand

The hielant piper in his braws

Heedrom hodrom hi

Pluffs his rosie cheeks and blaws

Heedrom hodrom hielantman.

He gie's his oxtered bag a squeeze

Heedrom hodrom hi

And oot the bonnie music flees

Heedrom hodrom hielantman.

Fingers on the chanter prancin

Heedrom hodrom hi

Gar a bodie's feet gae dancin

Heedrom hodrom hielantman.

Some can pipe and some can sing

Heedrom hodrom hi

But I can dance the Hielant Fling

Heedrom hodrom hielantman.

Now let's have some Hielant music while you re-read that poem out loud.

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The is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where you will never ruin your weekend.


Wendy said...

All these pictures of Birnam Falls have distracted me and I'm hearing those great lines from Macbeth.

I'm always drawn to old stone bridges. They make me appreciate how smart people have always been to engineer something like that without benefit of the technology we now have.

Lovely's Blot said...

Great research and some interesting pics.

Little Nell said...

Interesting to see the two versions of the piper picture to compare. I think I recognised some words in the poem but I'll have to confess I skipped the video this time Mike, as the bagpipes are not my favourite sound.

barbara and nancy said...

Oh that poor piper. He really had problems with the wind, didn't he. Not his, but the natural wind. It almost distracted from his playing.
No, I didn't read the poem out loud. But I did read it along with the music. Very nice post.

Brett Payne said...

I was very surprised to learn this week - if I recall correctly, from the TV programme QI with Stephen Fry - that the Scottish kilt is of relatively recent origin, having only been invented in the 19th Century.

James Valentine and GW Wilson were indeed prolific, and their multitude of views cover Derbyshire too. It's interesting to see how particular images pop up again and again in postcards, sometimes precisely the same photograph, republished decades later. Some years ago I compiled a series of photographic views of a particular Derby scene, showing how things had changed over a period of more than 160 years.

Titania said...

I like everything about the scots, I think I have somewhere a plaid skirt, especially like "The drunk Scotsman...beautiful old photographs.

Sharon said...

I always loved the sound of the bagpipes but now unfortunately they remind me of the death of a good family friend.

Mrs J (as we called her)was proud of her Scottish origins and had requested that the bagpipes be played at her funeral. Now every time I hear them, I associate them with dying and grief.

Boobook said...

A lovely post this week.

Postcardy said...

It is interesting to see how closely the color postcard matches the sepia photo. I loved the language in the poem.

Kathy Morales said...

Those falls look as though they would be a sight to see - and hear! The young piper did a fine job standing out in the wind.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Enjoyed seeing the kilted pipers, as well as the ruin from the bridge. After the Romans were in Britain, their influence in architecture and engineering continued.

Bob Scotney said...

As a St Andrews graduate I should check out their digital archive; thanks for reminding me. I got used to the sound of the bagpipes except for those practising in a Hall of Residence!


That boy looked out-of-wind,
even if there was plenty to go around.
Lovely cards!!
Pity the bridge was demolished.
Too hazardous, I warrant?...

Tattered and Lost said...

"The brilliant balmy weather?" What time of year were you there? I was freezing both in the late spring, early summer, and late summer. I had a picnic in new snow in June. I bought sweaters and more sweaters while there. I missed the balmy part. Or did you mean barmy?
That I'll give you.

I actually had to pull over off the road on my way to Skye to get out of the car and look around and cry because it was so astoundingly beautiful.

Kristin said...

I wonder why kilts were brought in in the 1800s.

Wish I could see/hear the waterfall.


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