Gordon Mooney

Scottish Piper

Gordon James Mooney

Gordon James Mooney

Gordon Mooney has played the pipes since he was gobsmacked by the Highland bagpipes as a wee lad of seven, and discovered the world of grips, birls, torluaths, tachums, crunluaths and the piper's quest for T H E P E R F E C T R E E D. He has devoted many years to exploring, performing and recording the instruments and music of the Scottish Borders and has published several tune collections and tutors, including a musicological celebration of the Scottish Wedding.

He has been playing ‘The Devil’s Instrument’ for over 40 years but hasn’t entered into any pacts, as yet! He attributes his skill on the Highland, Lowland, Border and Northumbrian Bagpipes and the whistle solely to many years of dedication and practice. 

Gordon Mooney with his daughter Shona Mooney

Gordon Mooney with his daughter Shona Mooney

Gordon has been recognised as the foremost master of the Bellows blown bagpipes of Scotland and in the 1980’s led the revival in interest both in the bellows bagpipes and their music with his publications and recordings, particularly the influential and much praised album ‘O’er the Border.’ He has performed in many prestigious events and venues in Europe and North America and has taught and lectured to students of the bagpipe and Scottish music.

Gordon is widely recognised as an important figure at the forefront of The Cauld Wind (bellows blown) bagpipe revival.  On 'O'er The Border', his first album (released in 1989), he plays Border Bagpipes, Scottish Smallpipes and Northumbrian Smallpipes, solo and in combination with other instruments.

Reviews of O’er the Border

”The whole record has Appeal - with a big A - and is recommended to all those who get a thrill from the music of the Pipes”
“This collection of music of the Scottish borders is performed with a lilting beauty and the arrangement demonstrates the care that has gone into reproducing the tunes. Gordon demonstrates the amazing versatility of the pipes that left me suitably amazed. Accompanying this album is an absolutely fascinating booklet explaining the history of the playing and the songs”.

Gordon's knowledge of piping spans many centuries of music and lore and encompasses many styles. He is an erudite scholar of the music and an outstanding player. His books include, A Tutor for Cauld Wind Bagpipes, A Choice Collection of Tunes for the Lowland and Border Bagpipes, O’er the Border, and A Scottish Wedding.

Awards include Billboard Award 1993, and election as Fellow of Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He has dual EEC and Canadian Citizenship.

The revival of interest in the music of the Scottish Borders of the last few decades is due, in no small part, to the pioneering work of Gordon Mooney. Gordon was one of the founding members of the Lowland and Border Pipers' Society , which works hard to promote the playing of "Cauld Wind Pipes."

Gordon’s collections of Border music,‘O’ER THE BORDER’ and ‘CHOICEST TUNES,’ described as "seminal works which deserve a place in any bellows piper's library," have been republished this year by the Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society as GORDON MOONEY'S COLLECTIONS OF MUSIC FOR LOWLAND AND BORDER BAGPIPES. This 72-page combined collection, includes settings of 95 tunes and detailed historical notes. 

Born in 1951, Gordon grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland and started learning bagpipes in 1958 with Hance Gates, Pipe Major of Edinburgh City Police. After playing in Boys Brigade and Royal High School pipebands, he went on to study Town Planning at Dundee Art School.

While working in Edinburgh in 1975 he was drawn to the folk revival scene. At the Linlithgow Folk Club he met Jimmy Anderson of the Clutha and Rab Wallace of the Whistlebinkies, who were also members of the world champions Muirhead & Sons Pipe Band. Encouraged to join the band, Gordon spent a year in intense tuition with Pipe Sergeant Davy Hutton. After Muirheads disbanded, Gordon played with Kinneil Colliery pipeband and was for several years Town Piper of Linlithgow.

During the late 1970’s Gordon began researching Lowland piping music and instruments and took up the Northumbrian smallpipes. In 1981 with Mike Rowan, he formed the Lowland and Border Pipers Society and through contact with Northumbrian pipemaker Colin Ross, brought about the revival in playing and making of Scottish Smallpipes and Border pipes. The revival has been a world wide phenomenon giving work to many full time pipe makers and pleasure to thousands of players and lovers of Scottish music.

Gordon gave Hamish Moore copies of the tunes he had researched and which Hamish used on his album ‘Cauld Wind’. In 1983-84 Gordon published his collections of music for the Lowland and Border Bagpipes and a Tutor for the instruments in 1985.

In 1989 he produced the ground breaking and acclaimed album “O’er the Border” described as ‘Bordering on the sublime” by the Scotsman. His tutor for Northumbrian smallpipes was Joe Hutton, an inspiration to Gordon and so many others.

Gordon’s expressive and innovative playing has taken him to perform in Europe, North America and throughout the UK with the band O’er the Border and with his famous fiddle playing daughter Shona and as a duo with harpist and whistle player, Nancy Lyon.

Gordon has a deep knowledge of Scotland, having lived for 10 years in Linlithgow, 18 years in the Scottish Borders and 9 years in the Scottish Highlands based in Inverness. Now retired from a career in Town Planning and Building Conservation in Edinburgh, London & SE, Northumberland and the Scottish Highlands, he lives in Quebec and continues to perform, teach and make instruments.

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When Gordon is not performing, he is making Scottish small pipes and Northumbrian bagpipes and handsome blackwood whistles inlaid with silver Celtic rings, as in the photo below.

Blackwood whistles by Gordon Mooney

Blackwood whistles by Gordon Mooney


African Blackwood Scottish Smallpipes, and fine leather bags and bellows, handcrafted by Gordon Mooney