Great Highland Bagpipe is well travelled

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 April, 2010, 12:00am

The bagpipe is native to Scotland and has achieved widespread recognition through its usage in the British military and in pipe bands throughout the world.

Its first use was in Scotland around AD1400. The earliest references to Scottish bagpipes are in a military context. The Great Highland Bagpipe became established in the British military and is prominent today, but other bagpipe traditions throughout Europe, from Spain to Russia, almost universally went into decline by the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

During the expansion of the British Empire, spearheaded by military forces, the Great Highland Bagpipe was diffused and has become well-known worldwide.

This surge in popularity was boosted by large numbers of pipers trained for military service in the two world wars. The surge coincided with a decline in the popularity of many traditional forms of bagpipe throughout Europe, which began to be displaced by instruments from the classical tradition and later by the gramophone and radio.

In Britain and Commonwealth nations such as Canada and New Zealand, the bagpipe is commonly used in the military and is often played in formal ceremonies.

Foreign militaries patterned after the British Army have also taken the Highland bagpipe into use, including Uganda, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Oman. Police forces in Scotland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the US also adopted the tradition.