Dunfermline Pipers Tales

Dunfermline Burgh Records 1503 - The quilk day the borcht funde be Andro Piper upon Rob Purrock, teucheing and vrangis stublyn of him and brekkin of his pipe. It wes funde of avale therfor the sade Robert was amerciat and dome given thereapon

A town piper was appointed in Dunfermline on the 15th January 1700 (Burgh Records) where "The said day the counsell elected John Bell to be their pyper." On the 11th August 1701 the duties of the pyper and drummer are elaborated:

“The said day the Counsell statute and ordained that in all time coming after the day heirof, the pyper go throu the toun precisely by six at night, and the drum at sevin a cloak; thereafter that the bell ring at eight and ten at night ,both summer and winter; and that the drum go by four in the morning, that the bell ring at five o cloak and ye pyper do againe at six, and ordained this form to be observed punctually in all time coming. “

( The curfew bell of Dunfermline continued to be rung until Local Government Reform in 1975 )

The piper and drummer did not attend their duties conscientiously for in 1727 they were dismissed. ‘The Council considering that ye drummer and ye pyper were very negligent in their office, and went rarely through ye toun not withstanding seavral reproofs, thairfor deprived them both of their offices."

The Council of Dunfermline had one last attempt to secure a musician to waken them in the morning. On 24th July 1727-"The said day ye counsell agreed that ye toun shall have no pyper,but a hautboy (oboe) in place thereof , and elected William Ferguson to be ye touns hautboy. And that he have three pounds sterling of yearly cellary to commence fra ye 24th day of June last. "

The wise councillors were obviously unaware that the hautboy or classical oboe was perfected and derived from the bagpipe chanter by a French bagpipe maker Jean Hotteterre.


Before leaving Dunfermline it is worth diverting to consider one of the most eccentric characters who might be loosely called a piper. David Hatton, was universally known as "Fluteorum" after a strange, musical instument, which he spent twenty years perfecting.The fluteorum was a cross between a bellows bagpipe, an organ and a flute. Crowds of people came to see and hear the wonderful instrument.

Hatton was a weaver/grocer in Pittencreiff Street, and afterwards he went to the Cross Wynd.. Amongst other things he exhibited in his shop was his coffin. He charged visitors one penny if they merely wished to see it, but twopence for those who wanted to see how well it fitted him. This last trick backfired on him when some local lads put the lid on and fastened if down for a while with Hatton inside. He never again ventured to show himself in his coffin after being released. He also worked for some time on a flying machine but need-less-to-say this came to nothing. Perhaps his greatest triumph was his mouse mill. ln the newspapers of the day there was published the following account of;-

Hatton's Mouse Mills.

Mr Hatton, of Dunfermline, has had two mice constantly employed in the manufacture of sewing thread for upwards of twelve months; and, that the curious may be entertained with a fair statement of facts, I hope you will give a place to the following description, ,which is by no means exaggerated, as I have often seen his mouse thread-mills, and thoroughly understand the amusing operation. The mouse thread-mill is so constructed that the common house mouse is enabled to make atonement to society for past offences by twisting, turning, and reeling from 100 to 120 threads per day (Sundays not excepted !) of I the same length and equal with the enclosed hank, which I send as a specimen of their work for the inspection of the curious. To complete their task, the little pedestrians have to run 10 and a half miles. This journey is performed with ease every day.An ordinary mouse weighs only about half an ounce. A half-penny worth of oatmeal, at 15d. per peck, serves one of these treadmill culprits for the long period of five weeks. In that time it makes-110 threads per day being the average-3850threads of 25 inches, which is very near nine lengths of the standard reel. A penny is paid here to women for every cut made in the ordinary way. At this rate, a mouse earns 9d. every five weeks which is just one farthing per day, or 7s. 6d. per annum. Take 6d. off for board, and allow 1s. for machinery, there will arise 6s. of clear profit from every mouse yearly. The last time I was in company with the mouse employer, he told me he is going to make application to the heritors for a lease of an old, empty house - the Auld Kirk-in Dunfermline, the dimensions of which are 100 feet by 50, and 50 feet in height, which, at a moderate calculation, will hold 10,000 mouse-mills,-sufficient room being left for the keepers and some hundreds of spectators. Allowing £200 for rent and taskmasters, and .£500 for the interest of £10,000 to erect machinery, there ,will be a balance of £2500 per annum. This, sir, you will say, is projecting with a vengeance, but it would surely be preferable, to the great South Sea speculation.

David Hatton left Dunfermline in 1829 for Orr Bridge, where he kept a small grocery store, along with his miscellaneous collection of curious odds and ends. He had two large whale's jaw-bones placed over his door, which formed a sort of archway to the entrance of his strange dwelling. He had great crowds of visitors, coming from all quarters. For the benefit of the poor, he kept a charity box to receive donations from visitors. This box was opened once a week, then, stepping upon a platform at his door, he blew a trumpet blast! inviting all beggars and, tramps to. come forth and receive their share of the week’s contributions. Reminiscences of Dunfermline, Alexander Stewart 1886

A NEW MUSICAL INSTRUMENT Called by FRIEND HATTON, the Inventor, a CHAMBER FLUTE-ORUM for sacred music or slow songs.

RESPECTED FRIEND,-About twenty years ago, love and music had much more impression on me than they can possibly have now, when forty revolving years cry aloud, in the language of the soundest philosophy, that life's meridian is already past; I say, twenty years ago when traversing the fields, with my flute, one blowy summer's evening, I accidentally turned the mouth-hole to the wind, I raised my fingers, and the wild tones came forth like the sound of the Eolian harp. Transported with the discovery, I thought, if the rude blast of the field can produce this effect, surely some thing may be invented to blow, and then I shall be enabled to accompany it with the voice, This idea laid the foundation (I may freely aver), for ten thousand experiments, and it is only about twelve months since I was convinced that I could make no further improvements. The instrument pleases me weIl, and has met with the approbation of many hundreds of visitors. It has two German flutes; the one sounds the key note of the tune; and the other plays the ‘female' octave; they are blown with bellows, as represented in the plate. When accompanied with the voice they produce melody and a kind of harmony that yields general satisfaction. Perhap some of thy Theological readers may infer, that I profess to be a Quaker, a departure from the ancient ritual has actually taken place with the followers of the venerable William Penn, (for the old light Friends it is well known, condemn every kind of music both sacred and profane.) I consider myself as doing nothing than justice to that respectable, body of, Christians, when I inform thy numerous readers that I never had, nor yet have, any connection with the Society of Friends, and I do, and will, bear testimony that, in this town, that part of the community commonly called Quakers, strictly walk in the footsteps of George Fox; except that one or two of them occasionally wear pantaloons, which, may be considered as a falling off by some rigid critics; I profess to be a light Quaker, and like other polemics, have hammered out a string of sentiments for myself, but as thy pages are no vehicle for such, I forbear to mention them. -

I am busy, at present, making experiments on the celebrated ancient Water Clock - a mixture of castor oil and spirit of turpentine I find to be the liquid best calculated for the purpose. I have likewise altered its mode of movement from the plan of antiquity - I call it Pousie Nancey's Clock; for, although it should go a few minutes wrong in 24 hours, beggars are not like days dargmen, compelled to commence labour exactly to a minute: beside at a splore, or when a row takes place, it can suffer little injury, having neither wheel, pinion, nor pendulum, and being hermetically sealed the dust from the mealy bags can do no harm.

The other three articles mentioned in my former letter, and Pousie Nanney likewise, shall all be descibed in due time.

Meantime, friend, I bid thee


DAVID HATTON. Dunfermline, 25th day of sixth month, 1824.

Explanation of the Engraving-

No. I, is a German flute, of the ordinary size, which plays the tune, the fingers operating in the ordinary way.

No 2 is a large C flute, which sounds the key note of the tune, the tone being altered with corks which fit the finger holes and the mouth hole of it is shut and opened by a lever valve moved by the thumb of the left hand.

No 3 The bellows that fills No 4 which is an air cistern; the air being pressed up the two air pipes by the pressure of the left arm. No 5 is a chest for holding music books..No 6 is a table for the book. No 7 is the lap frame upon which the whole apparatus is erected

From The Glasgow Mechanics magazine 31st July 1824.