Video/Gallery: Bagpipes are like Marmite and Man U - you love them or hate them

Ipswich Piping Society.Pictured is Alex Carruthers (right).

Ipswich Piping Society.Pictured is Alex Carruthers (right). - Credit: Archant

AS the peace of an Ipswich spring evening drifted into place the drone of the bagpipe drifted over Bolton Lane.

Like Marmite, Manchester United and Maggie Thatcher, the bagpipes are something you either love or hate.

But the pipes are undeniably evocative of the Celtic world and the Celtic musical tradition and their haunting sound can often be moving and stirring.

And for the Ipswich Piping Society the instrument is a passion.

Founded seven years ago and with 14 members, the group meets in St Margaret’s Church Hall every Monday night.

Rod Caird is the society’s secretary. Originally from Dundee, he first played the pipes as a 13-year-old schoolboy.

He said: “We are always on the look out for new members and people who want to learn to play the pipes. We offer free tuition for new members and the subs are only £3 a week.”

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“I think the music is very nice and the pipes represent a really interesting culture that is often under promoted and misunderstood.”

Chairman David Gillingwater said the society often raises funds for charity. It recently raised more then £300 for Comic Relief.

He added: “I’ve been playing for about seven years. I’ve got no Scottish blood, but my wife is Scottish.

“I have always loved the pipes and I always wanted to learn to play them. I thought you had to be Scottish, but of course you don’t. They create a very evocative sound.”

Played by blowing air through a valved tube into a cow or sheepskin sac, the pipes require quite a bit of effort to play. There are just nine notes – played on a reeded melody pipe called a chanter – and the drones emit the long penetrating notes often associated with the instrument.

David said: “They can be hard work to play, but you get lots of satisfaction when you play well. They are very resonant of the Gaelic culture and one of the aims of the society is to take pipe music to the people of Suffolk.

Many of the society members are jobbing pipers employed to play at events such as weddings and funerals and special events like Burns Night as well as annual events such as Henley fete and Helmingham Hall classic car show.

Graham Macausland, originally from Glasgow, said: “They are gorgeous. I have been playing the pipes for about six years, so not too long. I came to the society to improve, as I realised I needed some proper tuition to get better.”

The 57-year-old of Bacton, near Stowmarket, said the bagpipes are difficult to tune as they stay in tune for only a short period.

He added: “I have lived in England for 43 years and the pipes are a way of keeping a connection with Scotland. I go there every year for the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow.

“The pipes are easy to learn at first but there are a lot of intricacies to good playing which can be difficult.”

So what are they like to play?

After a lot of huffing and puffing, all I managed was a short squeak, but with practice I’m told it gets easier.