From 1872 to 2000 and beyond…
Built in 1872 by the architects Douglas and Sellers, the Old Cowcaddens Church terminates in the vista of Hope Street as it rises dramatically from the Clyde to Cowcaddens ridge.
Regarded as an Italianate church with a decidedly Tuscan tower, it also has a mixture of Greek elements with a simple pedimented facade onto what is now Cowcaddens Road. To the sides, the clerestory glazing is referred to as “a la” Alexander Thomson and some think the Church has design echoes of Thomsons work at the Caledonian Road Church built in 1856 and also St Vincent Street Free Church which Thomson built in 1858. This comparison is not so much a matter of scale and vigour, but instead the presence of temple frontage coupled to a side campanile.
The three stained glass windows that can be seen above the main entrance of the building were commissioned by the National Piping Centre from John K. Clark. Find out more about these beautiful windows here.
In 1843, the main event of the 19th century took place in the form of the disruption of 1843, from which about a third of the Church of Scotland left to form the Free Church, followed in 1847 by the formation of the United Presbyterians by those previously seceded from the Established Church. This brought an era of rapid building as each of the three Churches provided for itself, often in competition with the others.
The Free Church was the most restrained architecturally, by the 1870’s, however, French Gothic had become the popular style in Glasgow and it was Sellers who kept most literally to the French model, particularly in the Belmont “saint chapelle”. His adoption of the quite severe simplicity of McPhater Street with its Florentine Classicism may have been created by the restraints of placing the building in an already developed area. Galleries, as shown on this church on three sides, were favoured by the Free Church and in this building were most elegantly handled. When built, the church had seating for over 1,000. It was designed specifically for its time as accommodating a congregation to whom preaching was the main function. The layout reflects this with its lack of significant form in any chancel and the predominance of the pulpit and the gospel lecturn over any specific provision of an altar. This is a church in which communion was not a significant and as dominant a part of the service as the sermon.
The building is built of a cream sandstone laid in ashlar. It looks refreshingly sharp now cleaned. The campanile is rather squat, it would have had greater impact if a truly Tuscan tower had been built in this location. The main front is delicately handled, its pedemented entablature holds firmly the composition with a strong central door and side doors set in channeled pilastered quoins. Though Greek in proportion, the pedement is supported by Tuscan columns and pilasters, to give the illusion of a classic temple sitting on a strong rusticated base. It is from this design motif that the squatness of the tower is probably derived rather than from any overriding desire to dominate what was then a dense tenemantal inner city. The main roof of the church is slated, the tower has deeply consoled eaves and a Roman styled piend roof.
The National Piping Centre opened after extensive renovation in 1996, with an official Royal Opening in January 1996 by our Patron Patron HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, KG, KT, GCB. The founders of the organisation are Sir Brian Ivory, CBE, FRSE, Lady Ivory, DL and Sandy Grant Gordon, CBE.
See and Hear the Heritage of the Great Highland Bagpipe at the National Piping Centre.
Our Museum is now open again after a period of refurbishment. The changes aren't quite complete, so entry is free until the end of February 2019 whilst we get everything finalised.
The Museum of Piping at The National Piping Centre holds three hundred years of piping heritage. The themed display focuses on the Scottish tradition, with bagpipes thought to date back to the 18th century from Lochaweside in Argyll, as well as a set said to have been taken to Austria by an expatriate Highlander in the 18th century.
The pipes of John MacColl are an outstanding feature of the central display cases, as well as original manuscript, and many of his competition medals, including his Highland Society of London gold medal for piobaireachd. The family of the famous John Ban MacKenzie also feature, with various chanters and other artefacts associated with that piping dynasty.
Small pipes from the Northumbrian tradition are also on display, as are a set of reel pipes by the 19th century pipe maker William Gunn. The display also demonstrates pipe making, as well as the printing of bagpipe music.
Instruments from the European bagpipe tradition are also to be seen, with examples of Polish, Hungarian, Spanish and Italian bagpipes.
An insight into the competition tradition of the Highland bagpipe in the 20th century completes the collection, with the Silver Chanter, competed for by elite piobaireachd players every year on display. The medals of one of the outstanding players of the 20th century, Pipe Major Robert Reid, can also be seen.
As well as all this, there is the opportunity for you to try out the bagpipes as part of your visit.
Monday-Thursday: 9am - 7pm
Friday: 9am - 5pm
Saturday: 9am - noon
Concessions (Senior Citizens, U16 and Students) £2.50
If you would like to tour the Museum of Piping as a journalist, or use it for filming, please see our Media Enquiries information.
Visiting the Museum
Whilst visiting the Museum of Piping, you can take the opportunity to play the bagpipes for yourself. We have chanters and pipes available so as part of your visit, you can have a truly Scottish experience. To find out more go to our Meet the Piper page.
If you want to bring a larger, organised group, we would be delighted to organise a bespoke event. Please see more information on our Try the Bagpipes page.
Noting the Tradition
The National Piping Centre received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to undertake an oral history project called “Noting The Tradition”. This involved undertaking oral history interviews with people who have been involved in piping at all levels and all over Scotland in the past 50 years.
The National Piping Centre Principal, Roddy MacLeod, commented, “This is an exciting project which will add to the historical and heritage resources available to researchers and members of the public interested in the history of piping. It also offers the opportunity to become involved in the creation of an important and lasting resource telling the story of Scotland’s iconic instrument, the Great Highland Bagpipe. We hope that you will be inspired to join us in this vital heritage work.”
To hear the interviews that were conducted and find out more about the project visit here.
Dr Flora MacAulay’s Photographs
Dr Flora MacAulay was brought up and educated in Wales to a Welsh mother and Hebridean father whose family were from the Islands of Benbecula and Lewis. Named after her paternal grandmother, Flora MacEachen, she came from a family of doctors and was one of the first female orthopaedic surgeons ever to qualify in the 1940’s. After some time practicing in Truro, she spent most of her life practicing as a GP in Carradale, Kintyre and on locum in the Western Isles. Her hobbies included tennis and photography but her passion was the Great Highland Bagpipe. She was a well known and loved figure around the Highland Games circuit and took many photographs of the great players of the day and the beautiful settings in which they competed. She attended the Northern Meetings and Argyllshire Gathering every year since the Second World War missing them only once in her later years when she was too ill to attend. She died in Campbeltown, Argyll in 1994 and was immortalized in the Jig written by Allan MacDonald, Dr Flora MacAulay of Carradale. With thanks to Allan MacDonald and Angela MacEachen for background information.