Bearing in mind that this is the third time we have run through the Twelve Days of Christmas, tying up each gift with an antique, relic or objet d’art, it’s probably high time that we addressed the tenth day and the requisite pipers piping with at least some degree of accuracy !


Previously, we’ve used items which have illustrated, essentially, bagpipes or a regional variation thereof, whereas the original document on which the song is based shows nothing of the sort.


Instead, the original illustration shows two rows of pipers seated in something akin to church pews playing simple instruments which look more like recorders than anything involving bags of wind and a complicated array of unwieldy tubular appendages – most definitely neither bagpipes, gaitas or doedelzaks


As mentioned briefly yesterday with our drummer, they are armed with something known – generically – as fipple pipe, which is simply an instrument played by blowing down the end, rather than attacking it from the side like a classic, edge-blown flute of James Galway or Jasmine Choi vintage. Given the date in which the relevant image was published, we’re probably actually looking at what would have been called flageolets – so named because of their slender form and consequent similarity to a French bean pod.


So, we are forced to discard our previous examples, and find a new piper who’s playing something along the lines of the instrument described above. Fortunately, this gives us an opportunity to display the single most valuable item used thus far in any iteration of our seasonally desirable dozen – an engraved Georgian wine glass, decorated by a member of the incomparably skilled Beilby family, and sold for a sum in excess of £13,000.00 – probably not an item you’re likely to use for a quick glug of Blue Nun before consigning to the dishwasher…


The Beilby glass shows a typically bucolic mid 18th century scene of a boy shepherd, tending his (somewhat reduced) flock whilst leaning against a hurdle and playing a very simple end-blown pipe, with his dog looking on attentively. Said dog appears to be rapt by the no doubt rather high-pitched sound made by what is a very thin pipe indeed, but is presumably also very thankful that his master does not have something more closely resembling the flageolets – or recorders – as show in Mirth Without Mischief.


I have no doubt that many of you in your role of dutiful parents will have recently attended festive carol services or nativity plays, enthusiastically accompanied by troupes of junior recorder-playing musicians; for all the historical resonance of such performances, however, it does seem to the be case that such ensembles always have – how should we put it – a sound which is quite unmistakable – quick reprise of 'Little Donkey' to close, anyone ???


As you're here, why not take advantage of our Christmas Sale – select anything you want on the entire store, and use the code TWELVEDAYS in the shopping cart to get 12% off the marked price – the promotion runs until January 6th, so take your time and browse through the very many items we have listed.

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