Despite its Irish roots, three in every four uilleann pipe sets manufactured are made overseas, leaving fewer than 20 makers working in Ireland today, traditional musician Seán Potts told the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Sport, Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs.
Many of the world’s leading manufacturers are in countries such as the US, Britain, France, Canada and Germany, meaning Irish players have to wait up to seven years to get their hands on a full set of their own, he said.
Potts, a founding member of The Chieftains and a famous tin-whistle player, said while there was a growing number of students, there wasn’t an adequate supply of the instrument.
“It’s great to see the students coming at 13 and 14 years old but they have to wait then for the pipes . . . I will guarantee you that a lot of them will go off the boil.”
Potts is honorary president of Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU), a voluntary organisation for preserving the music of the uilleann pipes founded in 1970.
The history of bagpipes in Ireland dates back to at least the 11th century, while the uilleann pipes emerged here in the 18th century. Unlike other pipes the uilleann pipes are filled by a bellows instead of a blowpipe and have a melody pipe capable of two octaves.
According to NPU, demand for the pipes is so great there is a backlog valued at €7 million. This could be taken advantage of by new makers, should the Government invest in training them.
Urgent plea for more uilleann pipe makers - The Irish Times - Thu, Oct 14, 2010