September 4, 2005


A Passion for the Pipes (Brendan Cooney, 9/04/05, Valley News)

South Royalton -- People use their basements for all kinds of things, but few use them as productively as Michael Mac Harg of South Royalton.

Mac Harg says he has made about 30,000 bagpipe bags over the past 30 years, laboring away in two cramped rooms neatly lined with tools, slabs of cow leather and pieces of African blackwood. The floor is slick with shavings and dust from the wood he lathes and bores into pipes.

The first 15,000 bags he sewed by hand, before he started machine-sewing them and riveting the cowhide pieces together.

Mac Harg once made seven bags in a day, he said. He worked so hard that it took a toll on his body. “It wrecked my hands and shoulders,” he said. “I had shoulder surgery.”

Mac Harg also crafts the pipes that attach to the bags, although the complete instrument takes a bit longer to make. Eighty hours, that is, “if nothing goes wrong. And something always goes wrong, because you're working with natural materials, and there's always defects (in the wood) -- knots, cracks, splits.”

Through his company, The Wee Piper, Mac Harg has sold bags and bagpipes to people all over the world, from a 6-year-old girl in New Hampshire to bagpipe players in Japan and South Africa.

Of the world's 110 kinds of bagpipes known to Mac Harg, he makes 30. Prices range from $450 to $6,000. He said he makes about 24 a year, although he declined to talk about his revenues.

While there are a couple dozen other bagpipe-makers in the United States, no one makes such a wide range of bagpipes, he said. “There isn't another company in the world that does what I do,” he said.

Of course, South Royalton's main claim to fame is that it's the "only town in America with a Law School but without a traffic light" and it also happens to be where I met The Wife.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 4, 2005 10:58 PM

"only town in America with a Law School but without a traffic light"

Further proof that there are way too many law schools in the country.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 4, 2005 11:27 PM

Always nice to read about Flatlanders producing more than kids who murder liberal college professors.

Posted by: ghostcat at September 5, 2005 12:06 AM

Hey, I thought OJ would only enter VT at the head of a panzer division. Or so he claimed.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 5, 2005 12:49 AM

That's just during the Tunbridge World's Fair ... coming up in a mere two weeks!

Posted by: ghostcat at September 5, 2005 1:49 AM

A gentleman was once defined as one who knows how to play the bagpipes, but doesn't.

Posted by: Peter B at September 5, 2005 4:51 AM

Skirting issues, most likely.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 5, 2005 5:43 AM


You ever try getting into Law School with a 2.3 GPA after the Market crashes?

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2005 7:53 AM

Years ago we went to a meeting of the clans, I think it was called, at Fort Ticonderoga in New York State. It was great fun and although none of us have Scottish heritage, we felt like one of them.

At the end of the afternoon, after the games and the conpetitons were over, each clan dressed in their traditional tartans, marched down a small rise towards the bowl where everyone was gathered, playing their bagpipes for all they were worth.

What a sight, what a sound. There wasn't a dry eye to be seen.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 5, 2005 10:36 AM

Neither man not beast has ever created, nor ever will create again, a sound more abominable than that of the bagpipes.

The only thing worse than a Scotsman playing the bagpipes, is two of the buggers.

Posted by: Brit at September 5, 2005 11:58 AM

It's like the bagpiper is squeezing an overstuffed bag of cats to death. The sound is why only P.D.Q.Bach ever wrote classical music pieces that call for them, and even he limited their solo use.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 5, 2005 12:06 PM

Bagpipes -- always makes me think of that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he's burrowing through the ground and accidently ends up in Scotland. He sees a kilt-wearing scotsman marching along playing bagpipes, exclaims "that sweet old lady's being attacked by a horrible monster!!", and proceeds to tear the pipes to shreds. Whereupon the Scotsman challenges him to a game of golf.

Posted by: Twn at September 5, 2005 12:41 PM

erp: How much Hagis did they make you eat? Do you know what goes into hagis?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 5, 2005 5:00 PM

"If you have to ask, you don't want to know." And that applies to more than just haggis.

(Between this posting and the breakfast posting, I wondered when haggis would finally make its appearance...)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 5, 2005 10:45 PM

What are you talking about? Wild haggis are small furry mammals that live in the Highlands.

They've got one leg shorter than the other to help them scuttle along steep hills.

Posted by: Brit at September 6, 2005 3:56 AM