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Dunbar

Below is a rare set of 1968 Dunbars, made from Maple chalice tops with no combing. Thanks to J.D. for the pictures!

Bass Drone Top

Maker's mark in the bass cord groove.

This is a set of Dunbar P3's made from Delrin(Polypenco). They are identical inside and out to Dunbar's blackwood pipes.

Another look at the P3

Comparing the DB2 Blackwood (Top), and the Poly P3 Poly below.

Jack Dunbar was born in Glasgow, Scotland on July 29, 1918 to very humble beginnings. The son of an engineer, Jack already had the mechanical skills ingrained in his genes from the start. Schooling in those days was not as important to that of securing a trade; something a young man could have with him for life.

Peter Henderson approached Jack in 1934, to take up the ancient craft of manufacturing the Great Highland Scottish Bagpipe. Eager to put a trade to his name, Jack sought out the necessary permission from his father and the apprenticeship began. Unfortunately, the tenure was cut short in 1940 when Jack was conscripted. He spent the next five years with the British Royal Corps of Signals-8th Army.

Upon his release from the Armed Services, Jack, along with Thomas Liddell and John Maitland started a new bagpipe manufacturing company called Piob Mhor Highland Industries (with backing of Charles Hepburn of Red Hackle Distilleries). Piob Mhor followed the Henderson bagpipe specifications and carried a full line of Scottish made bagpipe related goods. During this time, Piob Mhor hired Bob Hardie, who later went on to form his own very successful company. Piob Mhor also hired John Weatherstone who later went on to become PM of the renowned Red Hackle Pipe Band. By 1950, the partners decided to go in different directions.

With the severe downturn in the economy, Jack sought out the prosperity of a new land, Canada. Jack came to Canada in 1951, thinking that he had left the bagpipe making business for good. After performing a variety of careers including vacuum sales man, real estate agent, cook, pitch man, Jack finally settled with General Motors in St. Catharine’s.

During the early 1960s, it was necessary for many countries outside of the UK to send bagpipe repairs and alike back to Scotland. Because of the nature of the work, it was often pushed to the bottom of the order file. In 1966, while working at G.M. in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, Jack was approached by John Kirkwood (of John Kirkwood Highland Outfitters) to manage bagpipe repair work. Jack agreed and began doing these repairs in his basement during his spare time. Jacks biggest obstacle was securing the necessary tooling to apply his trade. Relying on his knowledge of machining and bagpipe making, Jack (along with some engineering assistance from some personal friends and who for obvious confidentiality reasons will remain anonymous) had the proper tools created for the various steps in manufacture and repair. Jack would then spend many countless hours, after his daily grind at G.M., held up in his small household workshop doing the repairs and working on fine-tuning his own products. The next hurdle to cross was raw materials. African Blackwood was tough to secure, in fact it took Jack over 12 months to get his first order of Blackwood logs delivered. Not to be deterred, Jack explored and pioneered the use of alternative materials. In 1968, Jack made several sets of pipes using impregnated maple. He tried other woods and plastics and eventually found favor in Delrin (Polypenco). Dunbar bagpipes are available today in either Imitation African Blackwood (Polypenco) or traditional African Blackwood.

By 1985, the hobby had turned into a full-time business, requiring Jack to retire from General Motors and focus entirely on the business full-time. Over the last 18 years, Jack transferred his knowledge down to the associates who work at Dunbar Bagpipes today. Thereby ensuring that the quality and craftsmanship is maintained to his exacting standards. Today, we are proud to say that during the past 17 years the company, on a year over year basis, has grown in sales, size and associates. However, it was obvious that a succession plan would be needed in order to ensure that the business live on. As such, Jack and his son Barry, brought Jacks daughter, Jacquie and son-in-law Rick Pettigrew into the business in 1997. During this time Rick was entrusted with the family secrets and has been running the business successfully with Jacquie ever since. After all, since Jack had literally worked for the past 70 years, he was owed some down time. And alas, true to Jacks word, he wanted the company to remain in the family and always bear the proud Scottish clan name Dunbar.

One Response to “Dunbar”

  1. Hello Mr. MacDonald:
    Great site you have here….very informative and entertaining!

    I live very close to the Dunbar workshop and consequently I am a fairly frequent visitor, but I would still go out of my way to purchase their products.

    I am of the firm belief that their drones are among the best being produced anywhere in the world today, and are every bit as full and rich in tone as any vintage Henderson, which makes complete sense given Jack’s apprenticeship history. The similarity of sound between their poly models and their blackwoods is virtually indistinguishable to my ear, and their poly drones settle remarkably quickly and remain stable. For any piper who finds him or herself having to play in conditions of extreme cold or heavy rain, the Dunbar poly pipes are an absolute must, as they are virtually indestructible and immune to the elements.
    Mitch McDowell

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