Glasgow Pipers Tales


At the Whitsunday Head Court of 1574, the minstrels were retained , until 'The Summerhill' , by which was meant a court annually held, at a place so called, when the marches? of the towns property were subjected to review.There accordingly, on Sunday the 20th June 1574.

Archibald Bordland and Robert Duncan, are "admittit to be menstrals to the toun for this instant year,and to have frae ilk freeman allanerlie but meyt (i.e.without taking into account food given to them) twa schillings money at the least, with mair at the gevaris plesour"

In 1579 there is an entry of ten shillings "to the menstrals for their expenses to Hamilton siege". This was a meeting of the Reformers in which popular affection would be engaged at Glasgow, as its object was to destroy the last vestige of Mary Queen of Scots interest in Scotland.(i.e. Catholicism)

From the 16th century at least a drummer and piper were officially employed by the Burgh of Glasgow and provided with a uniform consisting of a livery of blue with crimson cloaks on which the towns arms were embroidered.These minstrels seem to have given fairly constant trouble [of what sort?] to their employers and injunctions are again and again recorded in the council minutes,[ can we obtain the minutes?} ordering them to refrain from misbehaviour of various kinds .

Sometimes they neglected their duties by going out of town to play at weddings and other festivities, and at home they were objectionable in various ways.They lived pretty much at large on the townsman, and were inclined to presume on their privileges. The citizens were only relieved of the duty of feeding the "menstralis" in 16O5, as amends for the levying of a tax of ten shillings each for payment to the causeway builders.

No dogs, boys, soliciting or complaints

The pipers had to be warned to take neither dog nor boy with them when they were entertaining to ordiner (diner), to refrain from soliciting silver from their hosts, and to make no complaints as to the fare. [What could it be?]

Extraordinair Drinking

They were to refrain from “extraordinair drinking” and to work twenty days at causewaying. This latter duty may only have involved playing to the townspeople who were - almost all - engaged in causwaying at this time.

The Last Town Piper in Glasgow

The last public piper in Glasgow was William Gunn, who published a book of pipe music. He died in 1876 at the age of 78 years.During his life he was well known in the east end of Glasgow and was engaged by the inhabitants of Bridgeton to play through the streets in the early morning,This was bef'ore Bridgeton was absorbed into the big city .Gunn was piper to the Glasgow Gaelic Club for a time and also kept a school for pipers. [more on Gunn! ]

William Gunn's pipe music book is the therefore only specific evidence of the repertoire of a Scottish Lowland town piper. [more!!!]


The presbytery of Glasgow statutes and ordains that if Mungo Craig shall "plays on his pypes on the Sonday fra the sun rysing till the sun going to in ony place within the bounds of this presbytery he Shall be summarly excommunicated"- likewise statutes, that upon the Sonday in the said tyme, nane give theme selfs to pastymes and profane games, within the said boundis, under the pain of censures of the kirk" — Miscellany of the Maitland Club p67 Edinburgh 1840)