Bagpipes and Its Association with The Rich History of Ireland – Celtic Instruments

While most people think that the bagpipes are purely a Scottish folk instrument, the beautiful pipes have a significant part in the Celtic culture as well. In history, the Celtic lands were spread throughout Europe. Therefore, there has been a mix of the Celtic tribes with the Scottish highlands. There is a considerable possibility that the Celtic tribes that migrated across the Irish borders to the Scottish side might have first been the ones to bring the bagpipes to Scotland. The existence of the bagpipes in different parts of Europe only stands to solidify the theory that the bagpipes were transported from Ireland. The bagpipes were used during the Rennaissance era and throughout rural Europe. They were used by the military bands and were used for dances and court entertainment.

In ceremonies in many parts of Europe and Ireland, the bagpipes play a vital role. Festivals and weddings are incomplete without a rendition from the bagpipes. In all the Commonwealth Nations, the bagpipes are used for several ceremonies and celebratory events. Most often, it is not a tradition adopted by everyone but by the people who are part of the Celtic heritage or have some Scottish/Irish background.

There are two major types of Celtic bagpipes are associated with the Celts. They are:

  • Great Highland Bagpipes, and
  • Uilleann Bagpipes

The Great Highland Bagpipes

These bagpipes are very predominantly used in Scottland are one of the most famous bagpipes. They have blow-stick, different reeds, and drones. The music is emitted through the drones, and the main bag fills with air. When played the right way, the music is said to bring out unique images of Scotish heritage.

The Irish Uilleann Bagpipes

The truly Irish bagpipe is the Uilleann. They were known as the Union Pipes by the English. Unlike a single blow-stick with the Highland Bagpipe, the Uilleann has several bellows that are inflated and wrap around the waist. The bellows relieve the player from needing to blow through the blow-stick and into a bag. Using the bellows, air is contained and can be played while singing too. A truly unique feature when compared to the highland bagpipe.

Members of the Sheila Tully School of Irish Dance perform Saturday, March 17, 2007, during the 52nd Annual Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

The Attire When Playing the Bagpipes

There is a unique attire that the player will need to conform with when playing the bagpipes. The costume consists of a tall hat which is covered in ostrich features. They wear a jacket that is formal and with a tartan put over one of their shoulders. The kilt is also worn when playing. A belt called the sporran which is a pouch made of horse hair is used to hold up the kilt. Long socks and black shoes covered with spats and high gaiters complete the dress. The last and the most significant part of the piper is that they would require to carry a small dagger called the Skeandhus. The knife should be inserted on the top of the socks on their right leg. The significance is the small weapon that most highlanders would carry to help protect themselves from attacks. The cost of a costume that is purely Celtic bagpipe-worthy is roughly $2000.