Sabbath Breaking Pipers Tales

YULE - June 6th 1596 J. Menteyth, piper,at the Mill of Keir was summoned to compear,"to anser for playing in the kirk yaird of Lecross to certain person is thair conveinit on that day callit of awld Yule day whairby superstitione is menteinit as at mair length is conteinit in ye said summonds". John compeirit and confessit playing"ye said day on A.Mitchell’s grein besyd ye said kirk to certain personis wha dancit thair"

He was ordered to make public repentance on the next

"Sonday in his own parish kirk of Dumblane and the next Sonday there after in the kirk of Lecross. J .McW. in Stirling is becum cawtionar and surity that the said J .M. saIl abstein in tymes coming fra all playing on ye Sabbath, Yull day, Pasch day and the dayis callit of awld Sanctis days except at a Nobil mans tabill. Under the paine £10

On March 23rd 1608 John Menteyth confessed to playing "to certaine danceris on ye Sabbat day"



In the years 1591 and 1593 George Bennet, piper in the Water of Leith and James Brakenrig, engaged to abstain from playing on the bagpipe on Sunday. In 1595 and 1596, Thomas Cairns, following the same vocation there, besides others, fell under censure for playing and dancing on Sunday. William Aikin in Braid, also pledged himself "never to prophane the Sabbath in playing with his pipes’. Richard Watsone, piper in the Water of Leith, was threatened with censure in 16O6; and in 1624, James Clark was fined 20s for "having ane pyper playing into his hous in tyme of sermon upon the Lord his Sabboth".

(From St.Cuthberts Kirk Session Register quoted on page 35 Musical Memoirs of Scotland)

In 1628 William Wallace, pyper, not the hero, was sentenced by the kirk-session of St. Cuthberts,"to stand one day on the pillar, and thairefter to remove furth of the paroche, ay and till he be ane renewit man of his maneris; and to get leif of the presbyterie to retourne, after they see amendiment in his 1yf and conversatioun"

(p 37 Musical Memoirs)

Galloway 17th century

In Galloway is the Gout Well of Larg, of which they tell this story: how that a piper stole away the offering; but when he was drinking the ale which he intended to pay for with the money he had taken away, the gout as they say , seized on him, of which he could not be cured but at that well having first restored the money he had former1y taken away.

Sympson-Description of Galloway 1684- p31 (quoted p37 Musical Memoirs) -

Elgin - Guising August 4th 1605

"If any man or woman be convict in the like monstrous behaviour in tyme coming., to vit, either men dansing in wemennis apparell, or wemen in mennis apparell, or yitt gif wemen be fund dancing publictlie throw the streittis maskit and disagysitt in sic wanton and unchaste forme, in cumpanie with men, that the doaris sall pay a pecuniall penaltie to the puir, according to the modification or the session, as also mak thair publict repentance on the stuill, for the first fault, and for the second fault, mak thair publict repentance in sack cloth.


The presbytery of' Glasgow statutes and ordains that if Mungo Craig shall "playe 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 summarily excommunicated". Lykewise 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)

Longforgan. 17th century – Who Pays Me?

Longforgan is a small sleepy village about five miles from Dundee on the Perth road. In the late 17th century it seems to have boasted a town's piper. His name was Patrick Morton and was summoned before the Kirk Session of Longforgan for drunkenness, and for speaking in the church in time of worship through his sleep.

The session had to summon him three times before he roused himself to appear, but finally he ‘compeared and willingly humbled himself before ye session for his fault in crying out "Who pays me" in time of Sermon". The poor piper was possibly musing on the old proverb ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune" however the Session called the tune on this occasion but demanded no payment, for the piper was "absolv'd".

(The Parish of Longforgan, Rev Adam Philip 1926 p180)