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Back Then: Fred Morrison pipes up for Gatherin' concert

Priceless instrument to thrill audience in the hands of world-famous musician

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 14/04/2015

World-renowned piper Fred Morrison will be calling the tune at the forthcoming Spring Gatherin’
World-renowned piper Fred Morrison will be calling the tune at the forthcoming Spring Gatherin’

A vintage set of bagpipes dating back 117 years will charm the audience at the closing concert of the Spring Gatherin' in the hands of renowned piper Fred Morrison.

Fred, a 51-year-old Glaswegian who modestly insists he is not entitled to call himself a world champion, inherited the rare pipes from his father, Fred Snr.

They were produced by the well-known bagpipe manufacturers Peter Henderson of Glasgow and are one of this talented musician's most cherished possessions.

"They make out with a rich and resonant sound," he explains.

"A sound that sweeps you back in time. You can imagine these bagpipes being played in my native city a century ago.

"My dad was a good piper and he loved and enjoyed these ancient pipes too.

"As a little lad I sat and listened to him playing and made up my mind to be a piper."

In fact Fred turned out to be the best around on the Highland bagpipes, but his mastery has expanded to encompass whistles, Scottish smallpipes, or reelpipes, and Irish uilleann pipes.

"I'm always referred to as the world champion," he explains, "but although I've won all the top championships the world thing isn't really correct - there is no world title in solo piping. It's in the band world you find world titles. I have never played in a band."

He was actually winning top prizes when still a schoolboy inspired by his dad, the Bothy Band and the Tannahill Weavers.

Fred's wife Deirdre is an accomplished fiddle player who often appears on stage with him.

His 13-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter are also follwing in their musical footsteps.

He designs reel pipes for the McCallum company in Kilmarnock and a set of modern pipes that he values and plays on stage too was produced by McCallum.

Fred, a man of many talents, writes bagpipe tunes and one that is a favourite with his fans is The Kansas City Hornpipe which he has actually played in Kansas.

"I was a guest artist at the Kansas Festival of Music and they loved the hornpipe that bears their name. Now I get invited back again and again," he said.

Apart from gracing the closing concert of the Spring Gatherin' on Sunday, April 26 (4pm) in the Ramada Plaza Hotel, Shaw's Bridge, Belfast, Fred will also be at a workshop and exhibition in the hotel the day before. Tickets at www.springgatherin.co.uk and www.belfasttickethub.com.

Glasgow bagpipe-maker boasts a reputation going back 150 years

Peter Henderson created one of the most famous bagpipe-makers in the world in 1868 in Glasgow. The company that bears his name still exists as part of the RG Hardie company and is still turning out pipe sets, each with a unique number and created using a mix of old and new techniques.

Henderson was born on November 14, 1851 at Inverkeithing, Fife, and became pipe major of the Glasgow Volunteers, winning major awards before going back to become a renowned maker of pipes. He wrote and published music including the Henderson Collection of 1888. He died in 1902, at 51. Henderson bagpipes are hand-crafted from African Blackwood and in demand all over the world from the RG Hardie company. Piping star Fred Morrison is a Henderson customer and has associations with that other maker of the instrument, McCallum Bagpipes of Kilmarnock, formed in 1998 by pals in the Glasgow Skye Association Band, Stuart McCallum and Kenny MacLeod. "We started in a shed of a timber yard with three people and now employ 34," says Stuart. "Most of our workers are experienced pipers and have made our company into a world leader."

Belfast Telegraph

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