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Irish Pipers
About Irish Piping
  Ireland has a long and glorious history of piping. Ireland had a piping tradition that went back hundreds of years before oppression  and a changing society forced the pipes to become almost extinct. Pipers became a rare sight except for those that agreed to play for the army of the English. The founding of the Gaelic League in the late 1800's and their promoting a turn away from the society of the English and a return to a more Gaelic way of life included a return to piping. The League's promotion of Irish sports, arts, language and culture had a large impact on the Irish citizen. The return to the pipes as a gaelic instrument was seen as not just cultural but patriotic as well. Soon pipers and pipe bands began to appear everywhere in the early 1900's. The British viewed them as Nationalist and began to raid their practice halls and confiscate their instruments. This is recorded in the histories of bands like St.Laurence O'Toole and Black Raven and others. The Cork Volunteers (IRA) had their own pipe band. The Volunteers played only the two droned Irish warpipe. This was the instrument promoted by the Gaelic League and was quite popular with players who were in the Nationalist movement. They also favored a saffron kilt. Many members of these bands and from the Volunteers would go on to be pipers in the army of the "Free State" under its first General Michael Collins. Today the Defence Forces of the Republic of Ireland feature excellent pipers and drummers in its bands. The early army pipers played both two and three droned sets. Today the army has standardized the instrument to a three droned Highland pipe.
     In forming pipers in its Irish regiments the British had adopted the saffron kilt and the two droned pipe to underscore its Irish identity. They would use the two droned pipe until 1968 when they too went to a three droned set.
As you will see in the photo galleries on this site some Irish still  play a classic two droned set.
    The two droned warpipe played a great role during the war of independence. One example according to the writer Ulick O"Connor, took place on March 19,1921. Tom Barry's Volunteer Brigade engaged a detachment of Auxiliaries at Kilmichael on the road between Macroom and Dunmanway. Throught the fighting a member of the Cork Volunteer Pipe Band played his two droned pipe walking up and down playing Irish war tunes to encourage the men.
    The cruel oppression of Ireland by the British included pipers and pipe bands. Most bands had been the subject of raids, beatings and the theft or destruction of its instruments. From the history of the Black Raven Pipe Band comes this example:
"The Black and Tans brought more than the their share of trouble and finally in November 1917 on the night John (Rover) McCann and Joe Sherlock were shot they raided the band room which was then in the Foresters’ Hall (the old Billiard Club). They took those instruments, which had not already been hidden, and also the Black Raven Flag."
From the history of the St.Laurence O'Toole pipe band comes this example:
"In 1918,the HQ of the band in Seville Place,Dublin were acquired by the band.
During the Irish War of Independence 1918-1922,the HQ was attacked by the military on numerous occasions.
Furnishings,fireplaces,etc. were ripped out and thrown out into the street. During the Great Strike of 1913 in Dublin ( wherein the Irish Trade Union movement had its origins ) the band was set upon by mounted police in Lombard Street while leading a contingent of workers on a protest rally to Liberty Hall ( Union HQ ).
Some of the band members were injured and their instruments smashed."
      From the Thomas Davis Pipe Band in Co Cork comes this information on a part of their uniform:
"A  set of Tara brooches was acquired from a Cork business which had been destroyed in the sacking of the city by British forces in 1920."
   From the Youghal Pipe Band in Co Cork founded in 1914,comes this bit:
 "The Band’s early years were trouble some, at the time it was well known that some Members were in the I.R.A. and because of this the Band Hall was raided on many occasions by the British Forces, at the time the Pipes and Drums had to be shifted from house to house because if they were found the British Forces would burn them out on the main road."
Below is a photo of the Tans stealing a pipe bands instruments after a raid on Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. On this raid the furnishings of the hall were smashed anything of value was stolen by the Tans. Note the position of the Tan's rifle. It was not uncommon for them to shoot innocent people in raids including women .The original photo is owned by Hulton Getty.

   Today a large percent of the bands are competition oriented. Still many are not interested in competitions but play their share of local parades, commerations and civic events.
    The bands and pipers of the Defence Forces are often seen on television and do many public performances all around Ireland and anywhere in the world that the Forces are deployed on UN Peacekeeping duty.
     Today Irish piping is not only alive and well, but bigger and better than ever.