Belfast Telegraph

Music is a blast for Martin as he makes pipes out of war artillery

The uilleann pipes created by Martin Gallen
The uilleann pipes created by Martin Gallen
Martin Gallen and his homemade uilleann pipes

By Brendan McDaid

An architect whose livelihood was hit by the recession has carved out an unlikely niche for himself by making traditional Irish instruments – including one set made of First and Second World War artillery shells.

Martin Gallen ordered the brass artillery shells from a war memorabilia collector in England and is now waiting on a second World War II batch from Germany.

The Strabane man is currently working to transform the deadly weapons into ornate sets of uilleann pipes.

"These things are huge. They are 2.5 to 3 inch in diameter and lives were ended by them, people mangled, villages were destroyed, so it is nice to turn that around a bit."

Martin (37) had carved out an impressive career as an architect before the economic downturn saw the brakes being slapped on construction.

As the work dried up and with nothing to lose, Martin found himself drawn to an early boyhood passion.

"I have always been interested in the pipes, probably since I was about seven or eight.

"I was lucky enough later on to find a man who lives a couple of hundred yards up the road and he started teaching me.

"I fell in with a couple of pipe-makers and it turns out it was cheaper to make the pipes yourself. I started learning them about three-and-a-half years ago and I have been making them for about two years."

Now Martin wouldn't go back to his old job. He said: "I could be doing what I am doing all day now and I never look at the clock once. It's very challenging but very enjoyable."

Martin has set up his own website on

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph