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.



by Brian McCandless


Nowadays, the name of Gordon Mooney is synonymous with Lowland and Border piping, for he has been instrumental in the revival of the traditional repertoire and art form peculiar to the Lowland and Border bagpipes.

He is a founder and former Chairman of the Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society, he has released three recordings with Lowland pipes and Scottish smallpipes, he has written a tutor for the Lowland pipes, and he has collected and arranged a notable body of traditional Lowland music for the pipes, some of it known to have been performed on pipes, some of it deserving to be played on the pipes.

Born in Edinburgh in 1951, by 1958 he was already studying Highland bagpipes under Pipe Major Hance Gates of the Edinburgh Police Pipe Band. His interest in the bellows pipes of Scotland would appear to have been sparked by his exposure to a session of Northumbrian pipers playing at the Newcastleton Folk Festival in 1976, not an unpleasant way to fall into the small-piping world.

He had already played a bit of Highland pipes, and shortly after that festival he acquired a set of Northumbrian pipes. He joined the Muirhead Pipe Band in the late 1970s and met fellow band members Rab Wallace and Jimmy Anderson who were (and are) Scottish bellows pipe players in folk music bands. The difficulty in procuring a set of Lowland pipes caused Gordon to study a bit of wood working so that he could build a set from plans he had found (in Cock’s and Bryan’s book on Northumbrian pipes, as I recall).

Gordon Mooney as sketched by W. Richmond Johnston, North Hero, Vermont, 1990

Gordon Mooney as sketched by W. Richmond Johnston, North Hero, Vermont, 1990


Gordon Mooney, O’er the Border-Music of the Scottish Borders Played on the Cauld Wind Pipes, Temple Records, 1989.

With this album, Gordon Mooney has brilliantly executed a musical montage of Lowland and Northumbrian pipering that weaves through three hundred years of piping tradition.

From the light­ hearted “High Road to Linton” set through the winnowing “Bonnie Milldams of Norham” to the wildly inspiring title track we are magically transported across the sea to the windswept Border country.

This timely and priceless collection sets the Lowland pipes in their traditional context both as a solo instrument and as accompaniment to the sad, beautiful songs of an earlier time.

Gordon is accompanied on various tracks by his wife,  Barbara on Flute and Bassoon, Nigel Richard on Mandola, Robin Morton on Bodhran, Brian Miller on Guitar and Mandolin, Alan Reid on vocals and keyboard, Douglas Pincock on whistle and flute, Jo Miller on vocal, and Charlie Soane on fiddle. The pipes Gordon uses on the album are Scottish smallpipes in D by Colin Ross, Scottish smallpipes in A by Robbie Greensitt, Northumbrian smallpipes in D by David Burleigh, Northumbrian smallpipes in F by Gordon Mooney, and Border pipes in Bb by Gordon Mooney.

All of the music presented is traditional. Many of the tunes may be found in Gordon’s “Collections of the Choisest Scots Music…” and in his “Tutor for the Cauld Wind Pipes”. Side A opens with a solo set of three old tunes on the Border pipes in A, two reels (“Willie Allan’s Fancy” and “Jimmy Allan’s Fancy”) and a 9/8 jig (“Wee Totum Fogg”).

Two hornpipes follow, played on the Scottish smallpipes in D, accompanied by flute and whistle. A song, “The Twa Corbies”, pitches the Scottish smallpipes playing in Em with the beautiful voice of Jo Miller and harmony vocals by Alan Reid. The song is framed by the haunting “The Bonnie Milldams of Norham” and “The Last Cradle Song”, performed in set with the bouncy reel, “Duns Dings A”’. The side ends with a spectacular arrangement of “O’er the Border” recalling the days of armed raids by the Border reivers.

Side B again features a solo piping performance, but this time with Border pipes in Bb playing a set dedicated to the old droving trade and framed at beginning and end with the reel “The Highway to Linton”. After a set of ballad airs, Barbara Mooney’s Bassoon is effectively combined with the Northumbrian smallpipes on the air to the song “Willie’s Drowned in Yarrow.” Next, the song “Lord Randal” which was mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in his “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border” is performed with the singing of Jo Miller, Northumbrian smallpipes, and keyboards. Two sets using the Scottish smallpipes finish the side with plenty of old Border tunes.

The album contains a superb booklet describing the music of the Borders, collectors of Border music, Border bagpipes, and each of the tunes and songs in considerable detail. For the enthusiast of Border music and history, this album is a uniquely enjoyable experience.

Write to Gordon Mooney



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



Review of gordon Mooney bagpipes by Alec MacLean

Review of gordon Mooney bagpipes by Alec MacLean







As he began playing these more and more, it became apparent that many of the old traditional Northumbrian tunes he had learned on his Northumbrian pipes couId be played on the Lowland pipe chanter, occasionally requiring an additional note above which Gordon achieved by adding a “high-B” key to his chanter.

He undertook an intense interest in this aspect of his piping – that is, in researching old Lowland tunes which could be played the Lowland pipe. By the early 1980’s, he had built up a significant number of tunes, which Ied him in 1982 to publish Volume I of A Collection of the Choicest Scots Tunes for the Lowland and Border Bagpipe.

Volume II followed in 1983, and now, both collections have been consolidated into one volume. It was during this period that the Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society was founded. By 1985 Gordon had written a tutor (with yet more tunes in it) for the Lowland bagpipes in what was a bold step for the otherwise shy and reserved man from (then) Linlithgow. Two cassettes also emerged from the Saydisc label, “The Border Reiver,” with strictly Border pipes and Scottish smallpipes, and “? in the Tail”, with arranged Scottish and Northumbrian music played by ‘B and the Drones’.

Thus in just a few years, Gordon had pulled together the elements necessary for the revival of an historically defunct instrument – he had made an instrument, collected the music, wrote a tutor, and recorded his interpretation of the music.

During this period of the mid·1980’s, North American pipers began seeking out Gordon, desperate for copies of his books and tapes and curious about “the man with the tunes.”.He did much to promote Lowland piping within the North American piping community by attending the 1990 and 1991 Northumbrian Pipers’ Convention in Vermont, where he spoke on the history of Lowland pipes and demonstrated various aspects of his Lowland pipe style and technique.

He is pictured on the facing page playing at North Hero in 1990 (Sketch by W. Richmond Johnston).

In 1989 he released an album, “0’er the Border”, along with his wife, Barbara, Nigel Richard, Jo Miller, Dougie Pincock, Alan Reid, Brian Miller, and Charlie Soane. The album is an effective and evocative interpretation of Lowland Scottish music, built around the music of the Border region of Scotland. More recently, in Jedburgh, he co-organized an exhibit of Lowland bagpipes and a Collogue of Lowland pipers, and this year he began a Traditional Music mail order company specializing in piping music and literature. We look forward to more of Gordon’s music and words and his return to North Hero. —Brian McCandless


Gordon Mooney CD’s

Temple Records

The Session.org

Muse article

O’er The Border

Scotsman article

Independent article

Academic extract

All Celtic Music

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