replace with my subject

Having trouble reading this email? View it in your browser.

------Est. 1980 Piping Perfection------

click on the banner for our home page


 September 2022


Dear Piping Enthusiast,


There is only one way to start this Newsletter and that is with a salute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In addition to being a wonderful monarch and example to us all, she was also a staunch supporter of the Great Highland Bagpipe and all things Scottish. It is well known that Her Majesty started her day from 9.00 a.m. with her personal piper playing for 15 minutes within earshot of her bedroom window and the story goes that repeats of any tune were generally not welcome. She knew her music for sure.






Copy of this terrific painting is courtesy of Duncan Brown, artist and piper, showing Her Majesty the Queen and my friend P/M Jimmy Motherwell, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders - Queen's Piper 1998 to 2003



I hope you had an enjoyable piping season in the Northern Hemisphere - boy it disappeared quickly but the Southern Hemisphere will just be getting going – we missed all our friends from Oz, NZ and other countries at the Worlds.

Things are slowly getting back to normal here. The Worlds enjoyed glorious weather and our friends from Florida and the likes were probably feeling more at home than our local bands. We’re never happy (lol) but it’s a lot nicer than the usual dreich day. It seemed like a slightly subdued Worlds due to less bands especially from the Southern Hemisphere but totally understandable - Haste ye back!  I’m sure a plan is in place for 2023 and it will be great to welcome you all back again.


Yours aye,

James C. Begg

Piping Perfection


 Field Report 1 - The City Chambers, Glasgow


On the occasion of Piping Live!, I was pleased to receive my annual invitation to the Civic Reception at Glasgow’s City Chambers and was accompanied by my friend Michelle who enjoyed a piping day out. It is a really magnificent building in George Square, built in the Victorian style from 1882 and was actually inaugurated by Queen Victoria herself in 1888 – she may well have been on her way to or from Balmoral which as we know has been in the news recently with such sad news.

The reception was a great opportunity to meet people you don’t often get the chance to say hello to including a few from Edinburgh viz. Euan Anderson, Alan Forbes and Hugh Cheape.  Hugh was previously the curator at the Edinburgh National Museum and recounts many anecdotes and history. We discussed Iain Macdonald’s recent book “I piped, that she might dance” which is about Angus Mackay as the first Queen’s Piper to Queen Victoria. Hugh did the foreword to the book and of course it is of relevance in these times with the focus on the late Queen Elizabeth who continued the patronage of Queen’s pipers throughout her reign. It was also nice to catch up with the renowned photographer Derek Maxwell who was a great help in the creation of the web site.

After the formalities at the City Chambers, we adjourned to the Piping Live! marquee to hear some great piping. I enjoyed chatting with John Angus Smith, a gold medallist and the Uist and Barra convenor. He informed me the Uist will revert back to its usual slot in early March instead of later in the year.



Royal Report  - of Kings and Pipes


As we now have a new King, Charles III, I thought of the myriad number of tunes with reference to kings and monarchs -The Kings Taxes, My King has landed in Moidart and I got a Kiss of the King’s Hand. This latter piobaireachd, composed in 1651, was the result of King Charles II allowing

Patrick Mòr MacCrimmon to kiss his hand on the basis that Patrick Mòr was recognised for his brilliance on the pipes and was known as the Prince of Pipers.  Angus Mackay’s historical reference to the story behind the tune is concise and romantic in tone although a slightly differing version can be found in David Glen’s historical biography notes by “Fionn” - a first name of Irish/Scots origin but no mention of Fionn’s surname leaving me wondering who he was. Check out Roddy Macleod's interpretation and the music score of I got a Kiss of the King’s Hand by clicking here or on YouTube.

I’m sure someone will be using their creative talents in composing a tune for the new King.

Another King, Edward the VIII, was a keen player and composed the slow air Mallorca which you can find in The Queen’s Own Highlanders standard settings and the Seaforth Highlanders standard settings. As a youth, the prince became a proficient player of the highland bagpipe, being taught by William Ross and Henry Forsyth. He frequently, until his later years, played a tune round the table after dinner, sometimes wearing a white kilt.

In the 1990s, I had connections with Hector Russell Kiltmakers and at that time, I was actually working from their shop in Renfield Street, Glasgow. Their sister shop in Buchanan Street had a set of “The King’s Pipes” which I think were sold in the late 90s at auction for a rather modest few thousand pounds. They were in a traditional wooden box and the manager of the shop at that time used them as a footstool - a rather unbecoming and undistinguished use of a royal set of pipes. Perhaps it’s just as well they were sold and I wonder what became of them? I have kept the manager’s name confidential to ensure he isn’t transported to the Tower of London to await the same fate as William Wallace…….



Begg's   Bugle  


This month's blowout - Skins


We make sheepskin and cow hide pipe bags in vast quantities day in day out 365 days a year - yes really - it's 24/7 and quite a task. The sheepskin is the predominant choice for the top echelons of pipers. We also supply hundreds of cow hides which are great for the occasional player due to zero maintenance and to countries in Africa and elsewhere that have a climate that can get very hot.

What makes a good sheepskin bag? Well, it is essential to initially and thoroughly preselect skins to check for any holes, flaws, scars, injections and the like. A mistake at this point can be very costly.

Size at the selection stage is also crucial as we need approximately 8 sq. ft for a bag. This big boy in the pic is about 10 sq. ft and will be looking for a home with someone of great stature - perhaps a giant Highlander, a Viking, an All Black or a Texan Cowboy - who knows.

Pretty little lambs are not on our radar you may be pleased to hear. We also still deal in square feet and resisted the pressure previously brought to bear by the EU to go metric. Now that we are out of that organisation, I hear imperial measures may be making a come-back so it looks like we are ahead of the game!

It is very hard to get a completely flawless skin. Think of the human skin - we all have bits and bobs as we mature and the skin stretches and gets damaged as we live, work and play. It’s the same in a way with sheep.

In the pic, you can see an example of a flaw but fortunately it’s at the side and we can work in the body of the sheepskin and avoid the flaw. It would be a different ball game if the flaw was in the middle. The flaw also reduces the size of bag as the area is reduced. I hope you're now seeing some of the challenges. The skin also thins towards the belly with feel and judgment being the thing here.  A nice even skin is preferred and there being no point in the skin being thick in middle but thin at the edge. The neck of the sheepskin also thickens and this an area to watch. Having inspected the whole skin on both sides, it’s time to mark the bag and the seams at the edges whilst continually even now looking for flaws. The hair or inside which you don’t see in the finished article is the crucial part and has to be flawless.  The bag is cut accurately and halved, glued, pressed and readied for the seaming and hand stitching in the days ahead. A similar process applies to the cow hide albeit it's 5/6 times the size of our sheepskins - 50 sq. ft or more. Good skins and keen skin selection make my job down the line so much easier. You may get the impression I’m obsessed with skins and perhaps I am – and I have to be to deliver Begg quality consistently.


Watch out for more topics in future issue of the Begg Bugle.

On Offer - a blackwood practice chanter


This a used R G Lawrie chanter in pretty good shape dating from around the 1950s and has a good tone. It is all blackwood, with a nickel ferrule and synthetic sole. It has the original reed which works well and suits the instrument. Best offer over £55 secures. Contact James on or call 44(0)7906596927

 Stop Press - Currency

The mighty US Dollar is getting stronger by the day - and at the same time the pound Sterling is weak in its own right against both the dollar and the euro. The pound is now at a 37 year low against the dollar. This is a big deal and a major problem for UK imports but hey – it’s brilliant for exports! So, in just about every country outside of the UK, Begg bags, bagpipes, chanters, and maintenance materials are even better value for money these days than before so don’t delay – fill yer boots!



If you would like to report on any aspect of the Piping World from wherever you live, or if you would like to comment on any articles or issues, we'd be pleased to hear from you. Email to


Begg Bagpipes

The Chall Building Kirkintilloch G66 1QF United Kingdom

This email was sent to: