For an excellent history of piping on Tyneside, see Richard Heard’s website focusing on the J.W.Fenwick manuscripts – http://northshieldsnsp.co.uk/
The following history of the Society is largely a reproduction of the booklet which accompanied the Society’s gramophone record which was issued in 1988. The first section (up to 1976) was written by Ida Davison and published in Northumbriana and is used by permission. The later part was written by Steve Barwick. This history will be updated when time allows.
The present Society is the successor to the ‘Northumbrian Small Pipes Society’ which was started in December 1893, – “to encourage the art of playing the Northumbrian Small Pipes; to preserve the melodies peculiar to the English border, and to exhibit the musical pastimes of Sword Dancing, and the other traditional accompaniments of our Folk Music”. They published their proceedings until 1897, and continued competitions till 1899, but soon afterwards dissolved.
Interest in Northumbrian pipe playing had waxed and waned for at least a hundred and fifty years before this. Thomas Bewick, the engraver, at the end of the eighteenth century, wrote to a friend: “At one time I was afraid that these old tunes, and this ancient instrument, might from neglect of encouragement get out of use, and I did everything in my power to prevent this and to revive it, by urging Peacock to teach pupils to become masters of this kind of music; and I flatter myself my efforts were not lost.” John Peacock was a small pipes player, and the last of the Newcastle waits. It was he who persuaded the pipmaker John Dunn to make a set with four keys to it. He also produced a tune book.
The early part of the nineteenth century was dominated by the Reids of North Shields, (father and son) who were making beautiful sets of pipes with increasing number of keys, up to seventeen. These are still much sought after. However the number of players declined throughout the century.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century Dr. J. Collingwood Bruce, the antiquarian, gave a series of lectures on the pipes and pipe music, because of the fear that they would die out completely. He also (with John Stokoe) compiled the ‘Northumbrian Minstrelsy’, published by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1882.
After the break-up of the ‘Northumbrian Small Pipes Society’, piping was kept alive by the Duke of Northumberland, who still retained a piper in his service, and by families in which small pipe playing was a traditional art, e.g. the Cloughs of Newsham, and by players in districts where the love of pipe music had not given way to the attractions of more modern tunes and instruments.
About 1920, G.V.B. Charlton of the Hesleyside family, who had been a member of the previous Society, wrote many articles for the press, chiefly about the half-long pipes, which were then his main concern and particular interest. He also kept lists of pipers, and where sets of pipes were known to be. W.A. Cocks of Ryton also wrote articles and started a collection of bagpipes. He also made pipes.
These two, together with Edward Merrick, revived competitions; in Newcastle at the North of England Musical Tournament, and at agricultural and other shows in the county. James Spencer gave a silver cup to be competed for at the Bellingham Show (1921), and dies from which medals could be produced were given by many leading Northumbrian families.
The first meeting of the present Society was held on 5th October 1928. There were five people present, viz., Basil Alderson, William Miller, Vivian Fairbairn, William Kirton and Gilbert Askew. They had received three encouraging letters, from A. Shield, J.T. Dunn and J. Armstrong, and two apologies for absence, from J.K. Stanger and R. Douglas. This resolution was put before the meeting and accepted:
‘Resolved that a Society be here and now formed for the purpose of encouraging pipe playing, and the composition and collection of pipe music, with particular reference to the Northumbrian pipes; the policy of the Society to be directed on such lines as to be most encouraging and stimulating to the younger generation of pipers and beginners in pipe playing.’
A set of rules was drawn up, and officers appointed. It was decided to ask the Duke of Northumberland to be Patron, and G. V. B. Charlton to be President. Both accepted. W.A. Cocks (small pipes) and James Robertson (half-longs) were elected technical advisers. J.K. Stanger- who was pipe-major for the Medical School OTC band of half-long pipes, became chairman, G.H. Askew secretary, B. Alderson assistant secretary, and the committee consisted of W. Kirton, W. Miller, V. Fairbairn and A. Shield.
They were an active group, led by G.H. Askew and meeting in each other’s houses every fortnight. They distributed circulars to all known pipers and those interested in pipes, and enlisted the help of the Society of Antiquaries, who agreed to insert a notice in their proceedings. All the well-known names of pipers began to appear in the minutes of the Society; Tom Clough, W.A. Cocks, Jack Armstrong and many others.
Within six months, membership had grown considerably, arrangements had been made to hold meetings in the castle, and classes had been arranged for tuition on the half-long pipes for Grammar School OTC and Scout groups. These classes started at the castle in May 1929, with twenty pupils, but were discontinued in December 1930 because numbers had sadly deteriorated. Mr. Robertson presented a silver cup for the half-long class at competitions in Newcastle.
The Society also started a collection of music for a new tune book. Meetings started at the castle in April 1929, by kind permission of the Society of Antiquaries, and the first annual competition was held there in November. There were four classes: small pipes junior, small pipes senior, half-longs and Highland pipes. There were few entrants. The first Annual General Meeting was held there in January 1930, and the following Vice-Presidents were appointed: Miss Grace Gray (of Wark), James Hall (piper to the Duke), Anthony Charlton and T.W. Pigg. There were now 58 members. Fees were 2s. 6d (12.5p) for playing members, and 5s. (25p) for non-playing. There was a small surplus at the bank of £1 5s 6d. It was decided to send round a monthly circular of all piping news.
The President (G.V.B. Charlton) expressed great disappointment at the number of entrants to competitions both in Newcastle and at the country shows, and urged members to do something about it. This had some effect for at the second Newcastle competition there were six small pipes players and twelve on the half-longs. The Margaret Askew (mother of G. Askew) cup was presented for the senior small pipes competition. At the second annual meeting, K. Stanger resigned and R. R. Armstrong (father of Jack Armstrong) became chairman. There were now 90 members. Meetings were then held monthly.
It was decided to reprint the ‘Instruction book for the Northumbrian Small-Pipes by J. W. Fenwick’ first published by the earlier society. It was revised by W.A. Cooks and G. H. Askew. Mrs. Fenwick-Clennell provided the major portion of the funds required for this publication with a donation of £7.7.0d. One doesn’t know how many copies this procured but, a little later, the Society bought the printer’s remainders of 260 copies for £3! At the annual competitions in 1931, three members of the Clough family were prominent, Tom Clough being judge, Tom Clough junior winning the small pipes senior competition, and Henry (Tom’s father) with his son and grandson giving a demonstration afterwards.
In 1932 the papers of Joseph Crawhall were given to the Society, and were then handed to W.A. Cocks for safe keeping in his collection. They are now in the Bagpipe Museum. It was felt that there was not sufficient room at the castle for the annual competitions, so this year and until 1937 they took place at the Old Assembly Rooms, outside caterers providing refreshments. Also this year the Society published ‘A Bibliography of the Bagpipe’ by Gilbert Askew. Miss Joan Sharp, secretary of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, asked for pipers for a public demonstration to be given in Newcastle in January 1933. R. Mowat and G. Storey played the smallpipes and J. Dunn and G. Askew the half-long pipes. R.R. Armstrong resigned, and the new chairman was R.N. Mowat, who had been a prominent member of the old society, being then one of their best players. The Rev. J.P. Thornton presented a silver cup, and it was agreed that this should be competed for in the beginners small pipes class.
At the fifth annual meeting, membership stood at one hundred and twenty-one, seventy-one being playing members. During the year, the Society had published a monograph on ‘The Northumbrian Bagpipes; their development and makers’, by W.A. Cocks. The first of several radio broadcasts took place. Nine members performed and it was relayed from the castle.
It was the practice in these early years always to have a demonstration of pipe playing after the competitions. In 1935, after playing by T.W. Pigg, R.N. Mowat, and M. Hodgson, a demonstration of the playing of a ‘shepherd’s pipe’ was given by Miss Gladys Page Wood of the Pipers Guild. This was a simple pipe, and her playing was much appreciated.
‘The Northumbrian Pipers Society Tune Book’, edited by Gilbert Askew, was published in 1936. Mr. Mowat died this year and Jack Armstrong was elected to the Chair at the Annual Meeting in 1937. This was quite an eventful year, the Society obtaining permanent headquarters in the Morden Tower. A piano for it was provided by Esther McCracken, and the President supplied the furniture. The first meeting was rather a disaster because of a smoking chimney, but this difficulty was overcome, and all meetings, competitions, Annual Meetings etc. were held there, for many years to come. Members soon made themselves at home, for there were facilities for providing refreshments, and most meetings ended with dancing to the pipes.
In 1938 the Society published another booklet by Gilbert Askew, ‘The Medals of the Northumbrian Bagpipe.’ He left the district this year, and so resigned from the secretaryship, having occupied this position from the very beginning. W.A. Cocks also resigned from being technical adviser and treasurer, and became a Vice-President. L. Robson became secretary for one year, after which his son, L.G. Robson succeeded him. L. Robson senior did much work for the Society, serving as Vice-Chairman, or on the committee for many years. He paid the rent of the Morden Tower out of his own pocket. The Alnwick Branch of the Society was formed this year.
From this point and until the beginning of the war in September 1939, the Society organised many functions such as concerts and dances, at Bellingham, Cambo and Bolton. Members entertained the Lord Mayor (Ald. G Oliver) to a demonstration of the small pipes, half-longs and Highland pipes at the Morden Tower. There were reedmaking sessions. It was decided to start piping competitions at the Caistron (near Rothbury) sports. Lady Armstrong presented a silver cup for this, and it was well attended. At the last Annual General Meeting before the war, it was reported to have been a record year with membership up (though no numbers are recorded), meetings better attended, and finances more healthy than ever before. The concerts had proved very popular and lucrative.
During the war this prosperity naturally declined, many members serving in the armed forces. L.G. Robson joined the R.A.F and Miss Margery Bell became secretary (1941). The monthly meetings were continued, but competitions and other outside activities were suspended, petrol rationing and other war time austerities making travelling difficult. Apart from a few social evenings and reed making sessions, little could be done. Fees from members in the forces were suspended, and collections were made for them. The Alnwick Branch organized Troop and Red Cross concerts and dances.
At the June meeting in 1943 the death of the president G.V.B. Charlton, was announced. The chairman, (Jack Armstrong) played a lament, ‘The Flowers of the Forest’ in his memory. Discussions took place about a suitable memorial and it was finally decided to issue a new tune book. Subscriptions were collected for this and it was published as ‘The Charlton Memorial Tune Book’, edited by Alan Hall and W. J. Stafford, in 1957. Captain W.H. Charlton of Hesleyside became the second president.
After the war was over, a series of concerts was organised in order to boost the Charlton Memorial Fund. Esther McCracken wrote a play entitled ‘Cash or Kind’, which she gave to the Society. It was first performed by the Bellingham Women’s Institute where, it was reported, it was very good, but would have been improved with more piping. It was later performed at the Society’s concert in Newcastle, which proved very successful, and netted over £30 for the Fund. Competitions were resumed. Jack Armstrong resigned in 1946 due to pressure of work, though he continued to help the Society, giving talks and demonstrations, and providing music for the dances with his country dance band for many years to come. He was one of the best pipers of his day, and produced many sets of pipes, which are much prized today. He was made a Vice-President and Alan Hall became chairman.
Lady Trevelyan was unanimously elected president in 1947. She had been a very active member of the Society, attending many meetings, and was made a senior Vice-President after the death of G.V.B Charlton, being nominated as his successor. She led the ‘ad hoc’ committee for raising money for the Charlton Memorial Fund, and organized many concerts for this purpose.
Mrs. Sample of Bothal presented a silver cup to the Society in 1949, in memory of her son who was killed in the war. This is known as the John Sample Cup, and is competed for at the Alnwick competition in the open small pipes class. This year the Alnwick Branch organised a highly successful concert, which was the forerunner of the present annual “Alnwick Gathering”, for a long time one of the highlights of the piping year. A concert was held at Bellingham also, which proved very popular, and a branch was opened there, called The North Tyne and Redesdale Branch of the Northumbrian Pipers Society.
By the time the Society came of age (October 1949), it had recovered from the war. Membership now stood at ninety-eight members. The president started an annual outing to Wallington, and socials, dances and concerts featured in the programmes. The Christmas party had by now become a regular event. Ordinary meetings also became more interesting. The Annual General Meeting report for 1949 mentions ‘Mr. Jack Armstrong’s demonstration of reed making; Mr. Pagan from Glanton and friends demonstration on recorders; Mr. P. Kennedy’s talk and gramophone records of folk music; and Mr. T. Clough’s talk on traditional music and his masterly renderings of old airs. The rules were amended by W. Stafford. Jack Armstrong was congratulated on becoming Piper to the Duke.
After the war, there was a spell when the Morden tower fell into disrepair, and meetings were held in different rooms in the city. After repairs had been dealt with and a gas stove installed, a great cleaning and decorating programme was carried out by Ed. Robb, and his team (all members) in 1951. This was repeated in 1956 by Mr. and Mrs. Ord and friends. It appears to have been a combination of a series of break-ins, the cold, and difficulty in getting cleaners, which led the Society to relinquish the tenancy in 1960.
Alan Hall retired in 1951 and became a member of the Committee. W.B.(Basil) Clough took the chair. Social events continued to be very popular, and the president remarked in 1952 that ‘she had never been so conscious of the vitality of any society as this.’ A particularly popular event was the Ceilidh at the Crow’s Nest Hotel that year. However, interest in the ordinary monthly meetings was felt to be on the wane again, pipers not playing as much as they should. Professor Fisher Cassie gave an interesting talk on Sword Dancing, followed by demonstrations, at one of these meetings. Wilfred Hall left his set of pipes to the Society. These were put into playing order by F. Ord, and are now loaned to prospective pipers for six monthly periods. HMV re-produced the record of Tom Clough playing the small pipes. They were soon all sold.
W.J. Stafford became chairman in 1955. The financial situation was becoming increasingly disturbing, partly because the tune book was proving much more expensive than had been anticipated, so that the memorial fund would not cover it, and partly because the society was still paying rent for the Morden Tower and also renting rooms at the British Legion Club for ordinary meetings, while repairs to the Tower were carried out. Several members gave donations, and subscriptions were raised to 7s. 6d. (37.5p) for all members. The Bellingham branch closed this year (1955). There had been great difficulty in keeping it going so long.
It is interesting to note that there were still half-long players at this time. They held some of their own meetings in the Morden Tower and occasionally accompanied the dances. A half-long pipe band of four players was started in 1958 by Wallsend Boy Scouts. At the Annual General meeting in 1957, there was a reshuffle of officers. R.A.S. Cowper became chairman, Alan Hall secretary, and W.J. Stafford treasurer. Mrs. Margery McMitchell (Margery Bell) the retiring secretary, had held this office for sixteen years, and was warmly thanked for all the work she had done. She was presented with a specially bound copy of the Charlton Memorial Tune Book, signed by many members, and was made a Vice-President. P. Foreman, the retiring treasurer, resigned because of ill health. He had held the post for seven years and had been a very good friend of the Society, paying the insurance for cups etc. out of his own pocket. He continued his interest in the Society until his death in 1965.
The next year Colin Caisley became chairman for one year, after which R.A.S. Cowper resumed this office. J. Bryan became treasurer, also for one year, after which H. Oates held this position. The Morden Tower was again in bad repair, and there had been frequent break-ins of late. The Society felt a great need for a new meeting place. At the last meeting there, they had Francis McPeake as a guest, who played to them on his Uillean pipes.
Meetings were held in the library at the Black Gate from July 1959, and the annual concert was performed at the King’s Hall, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Competitions were held in the University music department (later the gymnasium) until 1971, and the Annual General Meeting in a committee room at the Literary and Philosophical Society from 1963 to 1969. The Christmas party was still a regular occurrence as was the summer visit to Wallington Hall. The Society also arranged two yearly functions, dances or ceilidhs, at various halls in the city and sometimes a buffet supper or other refreshments and ceilidhs at different inns in the district.
Alan Hall resigned in 1959. He had done much for the Society, having served on the committee, or as chairman, vice-chairman or secretary, continuously since 1941. Forster Charlton became secretary.
An exhibition of bagpipes was shown in the Black Gate Museum in April 1961, most of the sets being from the collection of W.A. Cocks. It was arranged by R.A.S. Cowper. The centenary celebrations of the Blaydon Races were held this year. Pipers were represented by F. Charlton and C. Caisley at the concert. H. Oates resigned and E.Young was elected treasurer in 1962 for one year, after which Colin Caisley took over. The booklet on ‘The Ducal Pipers at Alnwick Castle’ by R.A.S. Cowper was produced by the Society of Antiquaries in 1963, being the result of a talk given by him to that society. The Northumbrian Pipers’ Society bought copies for its members.
At the annual meeting in 1964 it was reported that members had played the pipes on radio and television at home and abroad and the pipes had been used as an accompaniment to folk song on gramophone records. Tape recordings had also been made available, to aid distant members. R.A.S. Cowper resigned and J. Bryan became chairman. Tom Clough died this year. He had been a Vice-President for many years and was an important member of the Society, being a most competent piper, and having judged the competitions in the early days of the Society. The first gramophone record of a small pipes player was one produced by Tom Clough. At this annual meeting it was learnt that Mr. J. Gibson of Gosforth had left the Society £105 in his will.
The death of the President, Mary, Lady Trevelyan, in 1966, was deeply regretted. It was reported that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find another who would be so actively interested in the Society, and so genuinely fond of the smallpipes. She had indeed done a great deal for the Society in its younger days and, until a few years before her death, had attended many ordinary and committee meetings. Her daughter, Patricia Jennings, plays the smallpipes and has served a term on the committee, and also as vice-chairman. The Rt. Hon. the Earl of Tankerville became the fourth President. He held this position until his death in 1971. During this time he entertained the Society on three different occasions at Chillingham, where we were taken to see the wild white cattle and spent delightful informal afternoons piping and dancing on the lawns beside the castle. Refreshments were provided and we were fortunate in having perfect weather for each visit.
The pipe-making instruction book ‘The Northumbrian Bagpipes’, by W.A. Cocks and J.F. Bryan was published in 1967. This contributed to an upsurge of interest in the pipes. Pipemaking classes were initiated by J. Bryan at Alnwick and others were started later, e.g. at Ponteland, Newcastle and Durham, as many more people started making their own sets. J. Bryan resigned from the chair in 1968 and was elected a Vice-President, while Colin Ross became the new chairman. A team of pipers and folk dancers, led by Forster Charlton, visited Czechoslovakia this year to perform at the Strakonice International Bagpipe Festival, and lantern slides of it were shown at one of the monthly meetings.
Another annual event was now introduced into the folk calendar. The Morpeth Gathering Committee asked for a representative from the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society, and it was agreed to send one, W.S. Butler being the first. Among other things there are piping competitions, and there is always some piping in the concert. T.W. (Billy) Pigg died in 1968. He had been a Vice-President of the Society since 1930, and had judged many of the competitions in both Alnwick and Newcastle. He was one of the best pipers of his day, and it was decided to present a silver cup in his memory. This is now competed for in the intermediate class competitions in Newcastle. A record of his playing was produced.
Colin Caisley resigned in 1969, having served on the committee continuously since 1948, and as chairman for one year. He was elected a Vice-President. He and his family, most of whom play the smallpipes have performed at many functions. He has done much to help beginners. J. Byrne became the new treasurer, and in the following year he was able to announce that the balance at the bank was better than ever before, over £600. 1970 seems to have been a turning point in our financial affairs, when income exceeded expenditure for the first time in many years. This was due largely to the sale of society publications and gramophone records.
In spite of this healthy state of affairs, attendance at the monthly meetings was falling off badly. It was felt that this was due to the coldness of the present quarters, with no facilities for providing refreshments. Meetings were held temporarily at the Friends Meeting House in Jesmond. Since 1969, the Society had been cooperating with the Newcastle Festival Committee. The ordinary meeting in October coincides with this event and is made an Open House day, when anyone interested in the pipes is welcomed. Usually a concert is arranged in the Guildhall, and one year the Lord Mayor asked for an official piper for the occasion. G. Atkinson, one of our best players, carried out this duty.
Forster Charlton resigned as secretary in 1970. He had done a great deal of work for the Society and continued to do so. He served on the committee from 1951, and as secretary from 1959. He was offered a vice- presidency, but refused, preferring more active work on the committee. He is now the vice-chairman. Mrs. C. Ross became the new secretary, and a new post, that of assistant secretary, was created and filled by Mrs. Alison Dickie. This year the Society was able to hire the Sallyport Tower for its monthly meetings. This proved most successful, attendances at ordinary meetings being greatly improved, and other functions were also held there, i.e. the Annual General Meeting, the Christmas party, and the competitions. This year, too, Mrs. McMitchell (Margery Bell who had been secretary for many years) died. Her husband presented a silver cup in her memory, to be known as the Margery Bell Cup. It is now competed for in the small-pipes duet class at the Newcastle competitions.
The ‘Northumbrian Pipers’ Tune Book’ was published in 1970, edited by Forster Charlton, Colin Ross and Roland Wright. J. Byrne retired in 1971, when A. Davison became treasurer for two years, after which W. Dickie took this office. Esther McCracken died this year. She had attended many meetings in the early days of the Society and was a Vice-President from 1954. Following the death of Lord Tankerville, Professor Fisher-Cassie was elected president in 1972, and invited members each year to a garden party at his house, first at Ponteland and then at Warkworth.
In 1973 the Bagpipe Museum at the Black Gate, Newcastle upon Tyne was opened, the basis of it being the collection of W. A. Cocks. It was arranged by R A S Cowper, who became the first curator of the Museum, and was made a Vice-President of the Society. Classes for beginners were started here at the end of 1973. Under the guidance of Colin Ross, the second Curator of the Museum, those who had made their own instruments were able to tune them and learn to play.
In 1974 Mr. Dickie became treasurer of the Society, and Bill Hedworth who had for many years provided reasonably priced sets of pipes was elected an honorary member. This year also saw the release of a record called ‘The Wild Hills of Wannie’. This was produced by Topic Records in conjunction with the Society using recordings which had been made over the previous few years. Forster Charlton’s sterling efforts on behalf of the Society in the production of the record were much praised. Various makers donated components for a set of pipes for the Society. These were assembled and the set was to be loaned to beginners.
1975 saw the republication of the Charlton Memorial Tune Book. David Burleigh presented a chanter for the Society Open Solo Class Winner. The Society began an association with the Red Cross Garden visits, in particular with Slaley Hall, whose water garden provided a lovely setting for playing for many years after. ‘The Northumbrian Bagpipes’ pipemaking book was republished in 1976. Anthony Robb became secretary of the Society and his wife Carole joined the Committee. Bill Hume presented a book known as the Sunderland Trophy for the winner of the Competition Class for Original variations on a Tune. Entries for the annual competitions were well up on previous years, and were heard by a capacity audience, which was most heartening. The Society rounded off the year by playing Christmas carols at the Central station for the Tyne Rail Music Festival.
In 1977 Roland Bibby was elected President, after the retirement of Professor W Fisher-Cassie from the post. In honour of his long years of service to the Society Professor Cassie was elected a vice-president. After much work by Forster Charlton, a new constitution was drafted and agreed, together with new rules. 1977 also saw the decision to republish the Peacock Collection of Tunes in facsimile form.
In 1978 the Alnwick Branch decided to form a new organisation ‘The Alnwick Pipers’ Society’. This has been a most successful Society, meeting in Alnwick once a month, and publishing its own books. Groups of players in Manchester and London began to hold regular meetings and this year also saw the election of four more honorary members: Jim Pallister, Josef Rezny, Alan Brown and David Burleigh. As this was the Society’s Golden Jubilee Year, a special concert was arranged in Newcastle Polytechnic. Jack Armstrong died this year; – his ill health had prevented him from playing for some years but he had maintained a keen and supportive interest in the instrument and its traditions.
1979 began with the founder members of the Society, Mr. K Stanger, Mr. W Kirton, Mr. V Fairbairn, and Grace Gray being elected honorary members. They were presented with gold-plated Society badges and illuminated certificates. Tom Matthews, now the Duke of Northumberland’s piper, was also made an honorary member. Mr. K Stanger agreed to present the plaid and brooch which are now competed for at the Society competitions for the winner of the Junior class. Mike Tickell and Richard Butler initiated a Pipers’ Night at Morpeth on the second Sunday of the month. A Merry Neet was also held after the Bellingham Show competitions, and later in the year a joint meeting between the Alnwick Pipers Society and the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society was very successful. The Charlton Memorial Tune Book was again reprinted and the Reed Making Pamphlet by George Wallace was distributed.
In 1980 Joe Hutton, Archie Dagg and Colin Ross were elected honorary members and Dave McQuade undertook a review of the membership list. The Society’s first Chairman, Kenneth Stanger died suddenly, sadly before he was able to present his trophy. In the last few years of his life he had re-established his connection with the Society and had attended many meetings. At the Annual General Meeting of 1980 Colin Ross, Forster Charlton, Jim Hall and Bill Dickie resigned as Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer respectively. All continued to maintain an active interest in the Society, Colin Ross in particular continues his sterling work and advice in making, tuning and maintaining the instrument. Forster Charlton steered the Society through the difficult years of the 1950s to its present healthy state, in particular drafting the Constitution and organising many Society concerts.
A new committee was elected with Ida Davison as Chairman, Richard Butler as Vice-Chairman, Mike Tickell as Administrative Secretary, Bill Roberts as Membership Secretary, Steve Barwick as Minute Secretary and Malcolm Binns as Treasurer.
In 1981, after much hard work by Bill Hume and Richard Butler, the Second Northumbrian Pipers’ Tune Book was published. A concert for the disabled was held in St. James and St. Basil’s Church in Newcastle. It was organised by Forster Charlton and Bob Reid in conjunction with the Red Cross. Later in the year the Society provided entertainment at a Craft Fair at the Guildhall and Bob Reid manned the publicity desk for the Society.
The Society this year made Alan Hall and Eric Young honorary members. The Society was invited to put on a concert at the Edinburgh Folk Festival at the end of March 1982, and this took place in the Bedlam Hall, and was a great success. Merry neets were arranged in Stamfordham, Durham and Traquair Fair. Dave McQuade. who was teaching pipemaking at Norton near Stockton on Tees, got a meeting going at Sedgefield, which later became Cleveland Branch. The Branch opened with Chris Almond as its Chairman, and regular meetings were held, on the second Wednesday of each month at the Golden Lion Inn, Sedgefield.
At the 1983 Annual General Meeting the death was announced of Mr. Ian Dickson. A Society member, and Secretary of the Alnwick Pipers’ Society, he had done much to foster good relations between the two Societies. Bill Hume was elected Vice-Chairman following Richard Butler’s resignation from the post. Denis Dunn and Brian Ward were elected honorary members.
Work on producing a duet book was begun, with a general request to Society members for duets. George Wallace’s reed making pamphlet was expanded to include contributions from Colin Ross and Dave Bailey and published as the Reedmaking Booklet. In 1984 the membership had risen to 349, meetings were well attended and Morpeth Pipers’ Nights and Ashington classes continued successfully. There were various classes for children started using a further 12 sets of simple pipes which had been assembled from components donated by many makers. The Cleveland Branch had been very active in its area and even outside it. Also in 1984, Kathryn Tickell became Piper to the Lord Mayor of Newcastle upon Tyne, the first person to hold this office for 150 years. Ida Davison retired as Chairman, leaving the Society in a better administrative state than it had been for some time, and she continued as Vice-chairman. Jim Todd became Chairman in her place. Mr. Somerford wrote offering a donation for a trophy ‘For pipers in Yorkshire’. A silver plated cup was bought and engraved with local views of Yorkshire and was to be competed for by ‘those born within or resident within the three old Ridings of Yorkshire’. This cup was competed for at Whitby Folk Festival and subsequently at Redcar and Holmfirth Folk festivals.
Jim Todd retired as Chairman at the 1985 AGM. Retirement away from the area prevented his continuing in the post and Dave Bailey was elected Chairman in his place. Ida Davison also retired away from the area and Bill Jones was elected Vice-Chairman in her place. Ann Sessoms became Secretary, and Geoff Carter, Treasurer. For their distinguished services Dave McQuade and Richard Butler were elected Vice-Presidents and Diana Blackett-Ord as an honorary member. It was with sadness that we heard of the death of Professor W Fisher-Cassie.
At the 1986 Annual General Meeting it was decided to start work on a new record. Jane Robson, together with pipers and other instrumentalists, had busked in the Tyneside Metro Monument Station during the Christmas period of 1985. This was most successful and a great deal of money had been earned for charity. For the efforts involved hearty congratulations were recorded at the 1986 AGM. Later in the year the annual concert was organized and compered by Neil Smith, and recorded by Radio Newcastle. The concert was broadcast a few weeks later on local radio. The Society published its Duet Book. Its quality is a credit to the editor, Neil Smith. A reprint of the First Tune Book was also necessary. During 1986 the Society of Antiquaries, to whom W A Cocks had left his collection of bagpipes, found itself unable to sustain the Bagpipe Museum at the Black Gate in Newcastle upon Tyne.
In 1987 Chris Calver took over as Chairman, and Steve Barwick became Vice-chairman. Negotiations between the Society of Antiquaries and Castle Morpeth Borough Council meant that a new Bagpipe Museum opened during the year at the Chantry. With much hard work and effort Ms Gillian Crawley and Anne Moore re-arranged and displayed the collection in time for the Museum to be opened by Princess Margaret in July 1987. The Society now holds a monthly maintenance class at the Museum. The Society concert this year was organised by Jane Robson who did a very professional job, providing a varied program which was well received by the capacity audience.
At the 1988 AGM Volker Heidemann was elected an honorary member and it was announced that an affiliation to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne meant that we could store our books, paper work, records and other Society artifacts in a safe and secure place. It would also be possible to hold committee meetings at their premises.
1988 was the Diamond Jubilee of the Society, celebration of this important year taking the form of a special concert after the Society competitions in October, the release of the record ‘New Horizons’, presentation of special prizes at the competitions, and a Jubilee issue of the magazine.