Uilleann Pipes

uilleann pipesUilleann pipes is the correct name of the Irish domestic pipes, a name which, by a strange Anglicized corruption, was for a century written ‘Union.’

The Uilleann pipes are to be identified with the ‘woollen’ bagpipes of Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice), but the etymology is from the Irish uilleann – the elbow, inasmuch as the wind is supplied by a bellows acted on by the elbow, whereas the Irish Pion Mor (or Warpipe) is blown by the mouth.

For long, the name was supposed to be derived from the period of the Union between England and Ireland (1800), but there are numerous references to players on the ‘Union pipes’ between the years 1750 and 1780.

From 1890 the Anglicized term was gradually given up, and the correct name Uilleann was generally adopted.

At the close of the 18th century uilleann pipes came into vogue, but the instrument was much improved in the 18th century, and Burney praised it highly in 1780.

Uilleann pipes were made in Dublin, Belfast, and Cork, and there were Piper’s Clubs in each of the cities.