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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PIPER, n. Also pyper. Sc. usages: 1. As in Eng., specif. one who plays the bagpipes (Sc. 1825 Jam.). Gen.Sc. In the Highlands of Scotland each clan chief had his personal piper, a leading member of his household who accompanied him on his journeys and played on formal and informal occasions (see 1730 quot.). In the Lowlands many burghs also had an official piper.Abd. 1701 R. Dinnie Birse (1865) 143:
The presbytries act against pypers and abuses committed at pennie bridals, latewaks, and infares.
Bnff. 1714 Ann. Bnff (S.C.) I. 184:
12s. Sc. given to James Raney at his engagement to be an officer and piper to the burgh.
Sc. 1716 R. Wodrow Corresp. (1843) II. 146:
When Argyle's Highlanders entered Perth and Dundee, they entered in three companies, and every company had their distinct pipers.
Highl. c.1730 E. Burt Letters (1815) II. 148:
The piper . . . as an officer of the household. In the morning, while the chief is dressing, he walks backward and forward, close under the window without doors, playing on his bagpipe with a most upright attitude and majestic stride. It is a proverb in Scotland, viz. The stately step of a piper. When required, he plays at meals, and in an evening is to divert the guests with his music, when the chief has company with him: his attendance in a journey, or at a visit, I have mentioned before.
Sc. 1773 Boswell Journal (1936) 265:
There was a college for the bagpipe in Skye kept by the MacCrimmons, the hereditary pipers of the Laird of MacLeod.
Sc. 1776 D. Herd Sc. Songs II. 72:
Piper, quoth Meg, hae you your bags? Or is your drone in order? I'm a piper to my trade, My name is Rob the Ranter.
Sc. 1824 Scott Redgauntlet Letter xi.:
MacCallum brought a pair of pipes might have served the piper of Donald of the Isles.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped xxv.:
Have ye music, as folk say? Are ye a bit of a piper?
Arg. 1896 N. Munro Lost Pibroch 3:
To the make of a piper go seven years of his own learning and seven generations before.
Sc. 1901 W. L. Manson Highl. Bagpipe 276:
After the death of the last MacCrimmon piper in 1822 no one was left to maintain the traditions of the hereditary pipers.
Sc. 1927 C. A. Malcolm Piper in Peace and War 4:
Scottish regiments have had pipers as a rule from their formation, but for many years they were not recognised by the War Office.
Sc. 1937 Scotsman (19 July):
The degree of skill and training required before a man becomes a piper is very great.

Combs. and phrs.: (1) (as) fou as a piper, extremely drunk, “as drunk as a lord” Gen.Sc. Cf. Eng. “drunk as a piper”, id., and Fiddler, 3. (1); (2) lucky piper, a euphemism for the Devil. See Lucky; (3) piper-faced, pale, delicate-looking, having an unhealthy appearance (Rxb. 1913 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 47), from the belief that piping is bad for the lungs; (4) piper (-pitch)-fou, = (1). See also Bitch-fou; (5) piper's bidding, a belated, last-minute invitation (Ork., n.Sc., Ags., w.Lth., wm.Sc., Wgt. 1965). Cf. Fiddler, 3. (3) and Biddin; (6) piper's co(i)g, the customary drink of whisky or the like presented to a piper after a performance. See Cog, n.1; (7) piper's croft, see 1802 quot. under (11); (8) piper's invite, = (5) (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.); (9) piper's news, stale or out-of-date news, “a twice-told tale, information which is already known to the recipient” (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1913 Trans. Hawick Arch. Soc. 47). Gen.Sc. See also Fiddler, 3.; (10) sergeant-piper, the official Army title of a regimental pipe-major; (11) toun piper, the official piper of a town.(1) Ayr. 1822 Galt Provost xxix.:
They thought it no disgrace to fill themselves as fou as pipers.
Ags. 1833 J. Sands Poems 130:
Ben he brought ilk friend and neeper, And filled them fou as ony piper.
(3) Lnk. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 148:
Their piper fac'd fingers are not for hard labour.
(4) Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 41:
E'en when I drank till I was piper fu'.
m.Sc. 1838 A. Rodger Poems 123:
Trunk aff your coot glasses — ay — ane, twa, nor tree. But oich! teukit care, no pe piper pitch fou.
(5) Slk. 1847 W. Crozier Cottage Muse 64:
Says I, I'll gang, suppose I had But piper's bidding.
(6) s.Sc. 1836 Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 37:
[He] was well supplied with the “piper's coig”, a girded vessel of jolly good ale, that lay beside him and was ever and anon filled.
(9) Sc. 1813 Dunlop Papers (1953) III. 183:
As you hear often from Greenock . . . I am afraid all that I have told you is piper's news.
Sc. 1832 Scott in Memories (Skene 1909) 202:
It is piper's news to tell of the splendid beauties of . . . the Channel of Malta.
Sc. 1851 Tait's Mag. (Aug.) 460:
That's piper's news and o'er a' the country.
Sc. 1901 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 2) III. 61:
“Piper's News” meant passing off an old story as new. In old days, men unfit to earn a living travelled from house to house begging; some played on the pipes, and related many wonderful events that had happened, and all the local gossip.
Sh. 1922 J. Inkster Mansie's Röd 43:
Tell wis suntin' we dünna ken. Yon's piper's news.
m.Sc. 1930 J. Buchan Castle Gay v.:
It was piper's news I was giving him, for he had had the same instructions already.
(10) Sc. 1927 C. A. Malcolm Piper in Peace & War 14:
Before a piper can become a pipe-major — “sergeant-piper” is the official rank — he must satisfy the authorities of his ability as a composer, and a player of pibrochs, marches, and strathspeys.
(11) Rxb. 1700 Ann. Hawick (Wilson 1850) 108:
The town's piper, for his nicht revelling, on going on the fair nicht playing with the great pipe thro the haill toun, is fined £100 Scots.
Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy I. c.:
The town-pipers received a livery and salary from the community to which they belonged; and in some burghs they had a small allotment of land called the Piper's Croft.
Abd. 1868 G. Macdonald R. Falconer i. ix.:
And he was toon-piper forby, jist like you.

2. On a spinning top: the fourth groove, counting upwards from the point, into which the starting string was wound.Abd. c.1900:
The names of the grooves ran according to the following rhyme: — “Laird, Lord, Lily, Leaf, Piper, Drummer, Hangman, Thief.”

3. An unsplit haddock half-dried (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Mry. Abd., c.1935 Fishery Board Gl.; ne.Sc. 1965). Cf. Pipe, n., 6.Sc. 1837 M. Dods Manual 164:
Rizzared haddocks, which in Scotland are often called pipers.
ne.Sc. 1909 C. F. Frere Cookery Bk. Lady Clark 109:
“Pipers” are small haddock. Clean and scale them, hang them in the air for 2 or 3 days, not too much in the sun; they require a little salt.

4. The sea-urchin, Echinus cidaris (Sh. 1809 A. Edmonston State Zetland II. 320. 1866 Edm. Gl., 1932 J. Saxby Trad. Lore 203).

5. The crane-fly or daddy-long-legs, one of the family Tipulidae (Abd. 1825 Jam., Abd. c.1890). Also Johnny-piper, id. (Fif. c.1930).

6. The dandelion, Taraxacum officinale (Mry. 1921 T.S.D.C., Mry. 1965).

7. A marble made of pipe-clay (Bnff. 1965).Abd. 1904 Wkly. Free Press (9 April):
The marbles made of “grey beard pigs” were and still are designated “piggers” and those of pipeclay “pipers”.

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"Piper n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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